FACTS/FLUKES: Machado, Pollock, Davis, Hader, Alcantara

A disappointing Padre debut for Machado... Manny Machado (3B, SD) signed a massive 10-year deal with the Padres this past off-season, but hasn't quite produced at the same level as he had in 2018, as both his batting average and stolen bases have fallen off. What has been the problem, and can he fully recover?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%/ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  =======  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  ======
2015  633  35/20  .286  .279   10/82   44/18/38  30   119  127/122   18%  113/15%
2016  640  37/0   .294  .283    7/81   37/20/43  31   117  136/118   17%  111/2%
2017  630  33/9   .259  .266    7/82   42/16/42  27   131  112/131   15%  108/9%
2018  632  37/14  .297  .281   10/84   40/18/42  31   119  128/115   16%  109/9%
2019  448  26/4   .263  .254    9/77   42/17/41  29   113  106/119   18%  111/4%

The drop in contact rate is one thing that really stands out:

  • Machado had the highest contact rate of his career in 2018, but the pendulum has swung the other way in 2019, as this marks the lowest contact rate of his career. 
  • He's still making hard contact at an above-average rate, but less so than usual. His Statcast data shows that he's in the 71st percentile in Hard Hit % in 2019, after ranking in the 94th percentile or better the past two seasons.
  • He consistently shows good speed, but his stolen base totals have really bounced around the past several seasons. He hasn't had the green light in San Diego, as he's been successful four times in five tries, and it's doubtful he'll make a significant contribution on the bases the rest of the way.
  • Machado has pretty dramatic home/road splits, as he has hit .293/.370/.516 in road games, but just .233/.300/.439 at home. It appears hit rate deserves most of the blame for the gap, as he has a 33% hit rate on the road, and 24% at home. 

Machado remains extremely durable, and his power skills, while down slightly this season, remain pretty consistent, and have him headed toward another season finishing with a mid-thirties homer total. He isn't running much at all this year, and a jump in strikeouts has hurt him in the batting average department. Therefore, Machado won't be matching his big 2018 season, but is still right on pace for a repeat of 2017, minus a few steals, and his track record says he could get the contact rate and BA back up in the not too distant future. 

 

Pollock heating up after another extended absence... A.J. Pollock (OF, LA) continues to have difficulty staying on the field, as he missed about 10 weeks of the 2019 season due to an elbow infection. He was off to a rough start before heading to the injured list at the end of April, but has been performing at a high level since his return, hitting .293/.353/.573 in 75 second half at-bats. How do the skills look overall?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%/ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  =======  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  =======
2015  609  20/39  .315  .299    8/85   50/21/29  34   128  111/99    13%  128/26%
2016   41   2/4   .244  .209   11/80   42/9/48   26    89   71/119   13%  122/31%
2017  425  14/20  .266  .299    8/83   45/23/32  29   118  113/111   12%  124/27%
2018  413  21/13  .257  .265    7/76   42/19/38  29   124  132/146   17%  124/17%
2019  178   8/2   .253  .251    7/77   47/18/35  29   105   90/74    16%  106/7%

Pollock's skills are down across the board in 2019.

  • Both his contact rate and line drive rate fell off in 2018, and neither have rebounded here in 2019. Even during his improved second half, they are just 76% and 19%, respectively, and it's not even clear at this point if he's an asset in the batting average category.
  • He's not making as much quality contact as usual. In addition to the dips in our power metrics above, his 5.0% Barrel % is his lowest in the Statcast era, and his xSlg of .383 is way down, as it had settled in the .460's in each of his last three 400-plus AB seasons.
  • After running wild (9 SB in 150 AB) in the first half of 2018, Pollock tallied just four steals in 263 at-bats in the second half, with a seven percent SBO. He hasn't been active on the base paths in 2019, and though the speed is still above average, his age and injury history say maybe we should forget about double-digit steals.

Pollock has been on a little roll lately, but his skills have shown some deterioration, as his quality of contact is down, he's not running as fast or as often, and his contact rate is well below his career norm for the second straight year. Granted, this year's injury seems a little fluky, and perhaps deserves much, or at least part of, the blame for his sub-.500 OPS in April. That being said, Pollock just hasn't been able to stay healthy, his days of double-digit steals may be behind him, and he's not likely to provide a huge BA boost, either. Ride him for the stretch run, as he's likely to provide value, but it may be time to stop dreaming on his upside.

 

Davis getting the job done... J.D. Davis (OF, NYM) has been a pleasant surprise in 2019, as a change of scenery has done wonders for his fantasy prospects, just as the Baseball Forecaster suggested. Is his newfound success sustainable?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%/ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f  Spd
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  =======  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===
2016* 485  20/1   .241   N/A    7/66      N/A    32   N/A  140  N/A   N/A   80
2017^ 474  24/5   .232  .252    6/69   60/16/23  28   111  125  125   40%   73
2018^ 436  13/2   .250  .248    7/74   50/22/28  31    89   94   71    5%   85
2019  283  14/1   .307  .285    9/77   49/24/27  36   113  112  101   23%  106
*MLEs
^Includes MLEs

Davis is showing much-improved skills:

  • This is the third straight season in which we've seen improvement of three percentage points or more in his contact rate, and his line drive rate is up as well. His hit rate looks a little lucky, but xBA and his Statcast xBA of .319 show he's deserved a strong mark, and may continue to help owners in the category.
  • He doesn't hit a lot of fly balls, which puts a cap on his power upside. However, he is making much better contact than he did in 2018, and by Statcast measures, ranks in the 93rd percentile or better in Hard Hit %, exit velocity, xwOBA, and xSLG, along with his 100th percentile XBA.
  • He finished with five or six steals three times between 2014-17, but has just two steals in three attempts in 497 career major league plate appearances. It appears he'll continue to be a non-factor on the bases.

Davis's surprising productivity at the plate, along with his defensive versatility, have helped him take full advantage of his opportunity, and become a key part of the Mets lineup. His contact rate trend is very encouraging, and even more impressive is the amount of hard contact he's been making. Davis doesn't hit enough fly balls at this point to get to 30 home runs in a full season, and his batting average probably won't stay above .300. However, his success is mostly supported by his skills, so he should continue to put up solid numbers, and a launch angle bump could get his power to the next level.

 

Does Hader have a home run problem?... Josh Hader (LHP, MIL) has been dominant once again, striking out 103 batters in just 55.2 IP. However, he has been repeatedly bitten by the long ball, serving up 13 already, four more than all of 2018. Is this likely to be an ongoing problem for Hader, or just a small sample blip?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel  FB%  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ====  ===  =====  ====  ===
2016* 126  4.01  3.52  3.9  10.1  2.6  N/A  N/A   N/A  42%  34/70   N/A  104  
2017^ 100  3.96  4.12  4.6  10.1  2.2  59%  18%  94.3  51%  26/77    9%   67
2018   81  2.43  2.37  3.3  15.8  4.8  60%  20%  94.5  48%  24/77   15%  202
2019   56  2.91  2.57  2.4  16.7  6.9  65%  24%  95.5  59%  24/84   24%  235  

Hader has pretty much been a three-true-outcomes pitcher:

  • He relies very heavily on his fastball, but has cut down a little bit lately, from 90% usage through June 27 to 81% in 15 subsequent appearances. It's a pitch that has induced whiffs at a 25% rate in 2019, while his second pitch, a slider, has a 24% SwK, though they are down to 17% and 14%, respectively, in his last five outings.
  • He had a fly ball tilt the past two seasons, but has the second-highest fly ball rate in the league in 2019 (Min. 40 IP). He has been hurt by an inflated home run per fly ball rate, especially in the second half, when it is up to 35%, but home runs are likely to continue to be an issue for him going forward.
  • When batters make contact, they hit the ball hard, as Hader ranks in the 4th percentile in exit velocity and 2nd percentile in Hard Hit % this season, quite a drop-off from 84th and 77th percentiles, respectively, in 2018. 
  • He has once again made strides with his Ctl, which is supported by a strong FpK this season.

Hader continues to get a crazy amount of swings and misses, despite relying very heavily on his fastball. However, opposing batters have been making hard contact against him on a consistent basis, which has led to a troubling 2.1 hr/9. Some poor luck has contributed to Hader's recent struggles, but he has been getting knocked around on the first pitch of at-bats (four of his last six home runs allowed were on 0-0 count), and he has also failed to miss quite as many bats during that time. Hader should continue to rack up plenty of strikeouts, and the hard contact against him probably won't stay this high, but the ugly batted ball data indicates the home run issues haven't been a total fluke, and probably aren't going to completely go away.

 

Way too many walks for Alcantara... Sandy Alcantara (RHP, MIA) has had his ups and downs in his first full season in a big league rotation. He managed to post a 3.86 ERA across 16 first half starts, but has struggled to the tune of a 5.85 mark in seven second half outings. Let's check in on his skills.

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel    G/L/F   H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===  
2017* 134  5.20  5.23  4.0  6.7  1.7  N/A  N/A  98.3     N/A    33/69   N/A   41
2018* 151  4.13  3.93  3.6  6.3  1.7  61%  11%  95.5  48/16/36  29/70    9%   57
2019  136  4.44  5.48  4.3  6.6  1.5  59%  12%  95.4  43/20/37  29/72   10%   23
*Includes MLEs

Alcantara's poor Cmd is a red flag:

  • Walks have been an issue in the past, and he's walked 11% of batters faced in 2019. His poor FpK confirms that his Ctl is going to remain a problem area for him.
  • He's once again not getting many strikeouts, whiffing just 17% of the batters he's faced this season. He has bumped up his SwK, though, and it is 14% or higher on three of his four primary pitches (sinker, change, slider), so an uptick in strikeouts could be coming soon.
  • About two-thirds of balls in play against his sinker are on the ground, but his overall batted ball profile is right around league average. He has done a decent job of limiting hard contact (34.9% Hard% per FanGraphs), but has been a little lucky that more fly balls haven't cleared the fence.

Alcantara is the owner of a pretty uninspiring skill-set right now, as he's not striking batters out at a very high rate, and he's surrendering too many free passes. There is at least some reason for optimism that he'll bump up his Dom in the near future, but the 23-year-old has plenty of work to do before he becomes a viable mixed league option. Alcantara's ERA is more likely to continue going up than down from this point forward.


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