FACTS/FLUKES: J.D. Martinez, Voit, Boyd, J. Castro, Workman

JDM struggling vRHP... At this time last year, J.D. Martinez (OF, BOS) was coming off two monster seasons, so despite his excellent 4-category contributions in 2019, one could almost forgive owners if they were disappointed. Is there any reason to hope for a return to past heights?

Year  AB   HR xHR   BA XBA  OPS  bb ct  Eye HctX  H%  GB LD FB   PX xPX HRF  QBaB
====  ===  == ===  === === ====  == ==  === ====  ==  == == ==  === === ===  ====
2015  596  38  49  282 265  879   8 70  .30  131  34  34 22 43  175 182  21   ABa
2016  460  22  33  307 271  908   9 72  .38  120  38  42 21 36  152 144  18   ACa
2017  432  45  46  303 305 1066  11 70  .41  140  33  38 19 43  224 190  34   ABb
2018  569  43  49  330 298 1031  11 74  .47  123  38  43 23 34  178 148  29   ACa
2019  575  36  38  304 281  939  11 76  .52  121  35  43 22 35  131 127  23   ACa

While still excellent, his bat isn't as powerful as it used to be:

  • PX and xPX fell significantly for the 2nd straight year, as he hit fewer hard-hit fly balls.
  • GB/FB ratio remained right around average, not optimal for a power hitter.
  • On the plus side, his plate skills have enjoyed a gradual improvement and bb%, ct%, and Eye were all above average.

QBaB scores tell the story:

  • the first "A" tells us he still creams the ball, supporting HctX
  • the middle "C" says he's doesn't lift it, thus the average G/F ratio
  • the final "a" says he is consistent, supporting higher H%

Martinez struggled in particular against RHP in 2019, his PX dropping below 100 after averaging 176 for the previous five seasons. RHP didn't attack him especially differently in 2019, but he fared significantly worse against all types of pitches from them. Consider the previous three seasons vRHP:

       ----- SLG vR by pitch ----
Year   4-seam    Slider    Sinker
====   ======    ======    ======
2017    .888      .535      .479
2018    .739      .473      .610
2019    .478      .410      .421

Now at age 32, the most likely explanation is that he is simply a little slower vRHP than he used to be. 2019 is the new baseline until he proves otherwise, which is right where is current projection lies.

 

A good hitter, just not special... Luke Voit (1B/DH, NYY) looked great for half a season, but an August lost to injury sandwiched by a bad July and September may have you doubting his prognosis. What can his underlying skill metrics tell us?

Year    PA  HR xHR   BA XBA OBA  BB CT Eye  HctX  H%  GB LD FB   PX XPX HRF  QBaB
=====  ===  == ===  === === ===  == == ===  ====  ==  == == ==  === === ===  ====
2016^  524  15  --  259     318  11 81 .45        29             82
2017*  415  14   5  268 261 320   7 76 .32   126  32  48 18 34  116 116  14   ACa
2018*  458  25  16  276 274 347  10 73 .40   126  32  35 28 37  141 141  41   ABa
2019   510  21  25  263 246 378  14 67 .50    90  35  40 26 35  120 118  21   BCb
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1H     349  17  19  280 262 393  14 69 .54    93  35  39 27 34  129 118  24   BCb
2H     161   4   7  228 208 348  14 62 .42    84  34  42 23 36   97 118  13   BCc
^ MLEs
* contains MLEs
xHR is MLB only
Though the surface numbers remained good, particularly in the first half, there is a mix between positives and yellow flags. The warning signs first:
  • Contact rate dropped by 6 points, continuing a 3-year trend
  • Hard contact sagged to subpar, after two straight seasons well above average.
  • An elevated hit rate boosted his first half BA, which xBA tells us he didn't deserve

And the good:

  • xPX indicates that when he did hit the ball hard, it tended to be in the air. xHR validates his HR/F rate 
  • Walk rate surged and took Eye with it to career highs; walk rate persisted even in second half slide.
Despite his flagging contact rate, his walk rate will give him an OBP floor which is good in OBP leagues and should lead to scoring runs. But whither the power? Digging deeper, we can see the source of his struggles were two-fold. First, consider his performance against breaking pitches (data from Brooks Baseball):
        % of all    Whiffs/    Whiffs/
Year     pitches     Pitch      Swing
====    ========    =======    =======
2017      31.3%       18.6%     37.5%
2018      32.6%       16.3%     37.4%
2019      35.9%       21.6%     46.7%
Pitchers have found his weakness in 2019, and they exploited it. Secondly, consider his batted ball profile vs. four-seam fastballs:
Year     Pitches  GB  LD  FB    HR/(FB+LD)    ISO
====     =======  ==  ==  ==    ==========   ====
2017       168    25  41  31        9%       .250
2018       256    15  35  44       30%       .519
2019       746    25  33  37        7%       .190

Those last two columns are difficult to interpret without context, so let's provide some: against four-seamers, a pretty good hitter named Mike Trout has managed 15% HR/(FB+LD), with a .257 ISO. Aaron Judge is 24% and .351. With that in mind, it certainly looks like 2018 was an extreme power outlier for Voit.  

Given this history, his age (29 in 2020), and batted ball profile, we should expect only above-average power with mediocre BA, which is not particularly special from 1B.

 

He has the pieces... Matt Boyd (LHP, DET) made a lot of people look smart in the first half of 2019, with a big spike in Ks and sub-4.00 ERA. Things went south in the second half as his ERA and WHIP ballooned. Which one is the real Matt Boyd?

Year   IP   ERA xERA   WHP xWHP  H% S%  GB FB  Ctl  Dom Cmd Ball SwK  Vel HRF  BPV
====  ===  ==== ====  ==== ====  == ==  == ==  === ==== === ==== === ==== ===  ===
2015   57  7.53 5.13  1.59 1.38  31 58  32 52  3.1  6.8 2.2  38   9  91.1  18   47
2016   97  4.53 4.63  1.29 1.31  29 71  38 45  2.7  7.6 2.8  34  10  91.2  13   80
2017  135  5.27 5.17  1.56 1.43  34 68  38 40  3.5  7.3 2.1  36  10  92.0  11   53
2018  170  4.39 4.55  1.16 1.26  27 67  29 50  2.7  8.4 3.1  37  11  90.4  11   85
2019  185  4.56 3.90  1.23 1.12  33 71  36 45  2.4 11.6 4.8  34  15  92.0  18  156
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1H    102  3.72 3.58  1.09 1.05  32 73  36 43  1.8 11.4 6.5  33  14  91.6  15  172
2H     84  5.59 4.29  1.40 1.20  34 68  35 47  3.2 11.7 3.6  35  15  92.5  21  137

Fortunately, the first-half success is closer to his true talent level:

  • Boyd endured the triple whammy in the second half: high H% and HR/FB, and low strand rate, causing the aforementioned trouble with both ERA and WHIP.
  • His K/9 remained strong all season, and was fully supported by a healthy SwK%.
  • Though bb/9 spiked in 2nd half, Ball% didn't move much and remained consistent with an above-average walk rate.

Due to his fly ball tendency, his outcomes will always be subject to the whims of fate. When gopheritis strikes, his ERA will suffer. Fortunately, his excellent Dom and above average Ctl give him a decent floor. If you can stomach the occasional blow-up, he should be good for another sub-4.00 ERA with lots of Ks.

 

A bit of power, at a cost... On the surface, Jason Castro (C, LAA) had his best season yet in 2019, delivering useful value in deep leagues to owners who probably didn't have to invest much. Is this a late-career breakout?

Year   AB  HR xHR   BA XBA OPS  BB CT  Eye HctX  H%  GB LD FB   PX XPX  HRF  QBaB
====  ===  == ===  === === ===  == ==  === ====  ==  == == ==  === ===  ===  ====
2015  337  11  10  211 229 648   9 66  .29   90  28  37 24 38  124 121   13   CBa
2016  329  11  14  210 222 684  12 63  .37   90  30  46 20 34  124 102   16   CCb
2017  356  10  11  242 242 720  11 70  .42  102  32  42 25 33  101 112   12   CCb
2018   63   1  1   143 194 495  12 59  .35   80  22  42 26 32   84 111    8   CDc
2019  237  13  17  232 228 767  12 63  .38  112  31  36 25 39  125 177   22   ACb
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1H    129   8  11  233 252 782  10 71  .38  121  26  34 23 43  127 173   20   ABb
2H    108   5   6  231 198 747  15 53  .37  102  38  40 28 33  121 183   26   BCa

While there were some positive changes, there is a good chance this was his career year:

  • XPX outstripped PX by quite a bit, and xHR agrees that he deserved better power outcomes.
  • His Eye is merely passable, because his excellent walk rate is paired with a horrible contact rate (and obviously the high walk rate will give him a nice OBP boost).
  • The QBaB scores capture the change to his batted ball profile: more hard contact and more fly balls; however those fly balls didn't last beyond the first half.

He seems to have adopted an all-or-nothing approach. When he hits the ball, he hits it hard. But that only worked for half a season, and in the second half his contact rate plummeted, and he didn't find the sweet spot as often. Batted ball profile doesn't matter much if you can't put the ball in play.

Going forward, his defense behind the plate, paired with the fact that he hits left-handed, will likely continue to get him 250-300 AB a year. If a part-time catcher with above-average power but a terrible BA is something that will help you, Castro should deliver for cheap (current ADP 416).

 

Just enough to close... Brandon Workman (RHP, BOS) was the guy that finally emerged in Boston's 'pen in 2019, taking over in late summer thanks to his great ERA & WHIP and lots of strikeouts, too. What dangers lurk beneath those shiny surface stats?

Yr  IP  S+H   ERA xERA   WHP xWHP  H% S%  GB FB  Ctl  Dom Ball SwK  Vel   HRF  BPV
==  ==  ===  ==== ====  ==== ====  == ==  == ==  === ==== ==== ===  ====  ===  ===
17  40   4   3.18 4.06  1.21 1.25  29 83  43 38  2.5  8.4  35   11  92.3  17   105
18  41   7   3.27 4.19  1.21 1.36  26 80  45 38  3.5  8.1  39   11  91.3  14    74
19  72  31   1.88 3.23  1.03 1.36  22 81  51 29  5.7 13.1  40   13  92.9   3   112
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1H  37  15   1.70 3.51  1.03 1.45  18 84  50 32  6.3 12.9  40   13  92.6   5    89
2H  35  16   2.08 2.95  1.04 1.27  27 78  52 25  4.9 13.2  40   13  93.2   0   135

Well, there is actually a lot to like, but there is also a big red flag: 

  • His newfound Dom is high enough to help mitigate other issues, but his SwK doesn't fully support it, and so there could be some pullback.
  • Ground ball rate north of 50% also helps to establish a floor, and can help explain why he was able to limit HR.
  • The red flag is that walk rate; and the accompanying Ball% is among the bottom 5% of the league.

Throwing that many pitches out of the zone is going to catch up to him from time to time, especially if the league is able to recognize them and lay off. In addition, although he limited HR in 2019, research has shown again and again that this is not a repeatable skill for pitchers. The most likely outcome is a league-average HR/FB rate going forward. That said, a league average HR/FB rate would have meant only six HR allowed last year instead of one, which would have still be excellent. It's likely he will can successful with this skill set, but losing much from either Dom or GB rate will move him from the good side of marginal to the bad. Bid with caution, and watch the skills carefully as the season unrolls.

 

Note: For full explanation of batter QBaB scores, refer to this recent research piece.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.