FACTS/FLUKES: Freeman, D. Robertson, Voit, Kuhl, L. Thomas

Where are Freeman’s HR? … After signing a six-year, $162 million contract with the Dodgers on March 18, Freddie Freeman (1B, LA) has had a mildly disappointing season, by his standard. Though he has been swiping bases at a higher rate than in the past, his HR tally is far from his usual pace. What happened to the power?

Year   PA  HR    BA/xBA  bb%/ct% GB/LD/FB  h% HctX   PX/xPX HR/F Brl%   SB/SBO/SB%
====  ===  ==  ========= ======= ========  == ====  ======= ==== ====  ===========      
2018  707  23  .309/.290  11/79  36/32/31  36  121  119/123  15%   9%  10/ 7%/ 77%
2019  692  38  .295/.296  13/79  38/28/34  32  128  127/133  24%  13%   6/ 5%/ 67%
2020  262  13  .341/.326  17/83  32/31/37  37  146  162/143  20%  15%   2/ 2%/100%
2021  695  31  .300/.285  12/82  43/24/33  32  129  104/115  19%  12%   8/ 5%/ 73%
2022  291   6  .291/.280  11/82  39/26/35  34  118  105/135   8%  10%   6/ 8%/100%

The power metrics aren’t that different from recent years:

  • Freeman’s xPX is better than 2021 and the xPX/PX gap indicates he has been harmed by some bad HR/F luck. It’s also worth noting that he possesses a lifetime 17% HR/F. Expect positive regression there.
  • Plate skills are in great shape and he’s still making plenty of hard contact (HctX) so another near-.300 BA seems likely.
  • He’s certainly not the fleetest of foot, but he picks his spots well and he’s been a little more active on the basepaths in 2022. He’s a good bet to post his second double-digit SB season and could wind up with a new career high.

Freeman’s first season with the Dodgers hasn’t gone quite as well as hoped. While the HR aren’t at his typical level, the rest of his numbers have been and he’s chipped in a few more SB than expected, so he has still provided lots of value. It just hasn’t been in line with his 18 ADP. The skills suggest that with some positive HR/F regression, the 32-year-old should put up his “normal” production over the rest of the season.


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Robertson turns back the clock … David Robertson (RHP, CHC) missed nearly the entire 2019 season with an elbow injury that ultimately required August 2019 Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2020 season. After logging a 4.50 ERA in 12 IP with the Rays in 2021, he agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million pact with the Cubs in March 2022. Through 25 IP, he has a 1.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 8 SV. What’s behind his resurgence?

Year  IP   ERA/xERA   BB%/K%  xBB%  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  HR/F   Vel  BPV
====  ==  =========  =======  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ====  ===
2017  68  1.84/2.74   9%/37%    7%  17%  47/16/37  23/85   12%  91.6  176
2018  70  3.23/3.22   9%/32%    9%  14%  45/17/37  27/72   12%  92.3  144
2019   7  5.40/7.45  18%/18%   12%  11%  33/24/43  35/77   11%  91.7  -62
2020  -----------------DID NOT PITCH: TOMMY JOHN SURGERY-----------------
2021  12  4.50/3.31   8%/32%    8%  10%  40/27/33  34/69   20%  92.0  153
2022  25  1.82/3.08  13%/34%    8%  15%  54/12/35  24/88   11%  93.1  127

A strong collection of skills:

  • Robertson’s SwK% has been higher just once in his career and it largely backs his 94th percentile K%.
  • His velocity is at a career high.
  • His GB% is also at a career high. That helps him work out of jams and keep the ball in the yard.
  • He has been aided by a fortuitous blend of H%/S% and HR/F.
  • An excessive BB% is troublesome, but xBB% hints at possible upside. If it materializes, it could soften some of the ERA regression implied by xERA.

Robertson’s performance so far in 2022 has looked similar to 2017. The 37-year-old’s three-pitch mix of cutter/slider/curve (usage: 54%, 22%, 24%, respectively) has served him well. The slider and curve have each garnered an elite SwK% and GB% (slider: 22% SwK%, 63% GB%; curve: 26% SwK%, 86% GB%). While we can’t ignore his age and injury history, there is a lot to like in his 2022 skills.

 

Contact issues and injuries continue to plague Voit … Injuries shelved Luke Voit (1B, SD) for 101 days in 2021, as he finished the season with a .239 batting average and 11 HR in 241 PA with the Yankees. He signed a one-year, $5.45 million contract with the Padres in March and has again missed time due to injury (biceps) on his way to a .245 batting average and 9 HR in 211 PA. How are the skills holding up?

Year   PA    BA/xBA   HR  bb%/ct%  HctX  h%  GB/LD/FB  HR/F  Brl%  PX/xPX
====  ===  =========  ==  =======  ====  ==  ========  ====  ====  =======
2017* 415  .268/.261  14   7%/76%   126  32  48/18/34   14%   10%  116/142
2018* 458  .276/.274  25  10%/73%   126  32  35/28/37   41%   20%  141/158
2019  510  .263/.245  21  14%/67%    90  35  40/26/35   21%   13%  120/118
2020  234  .277/.283  22   7%/75%   125  27  41/20/39   35%   13%  167/134         
2021  292  .249/.233  15   8%/65%    99  31  40/20/40   20%   16%  142/144
2022  211  .245/.243   9  11%/63%   104  34  41/25/35   22%   15%  156/126
*Includes MLEs

Pretty much the same: power, walks, and lots of strikeouts:

  • The PX/xPX gap suggests a little good HR/F fortune. That has masked a slight reduction in FB%. But Brl% confirms he’s striking the ball very well.
  • It’s safe to say the ct% spike from the abbreviated 2020 season was an anomaly. His 2021-22 ct% caps his BA upside at around .250.
  • He’s still drawing walks at an above-average rate, which gives his OBP a boost.

At this point, we have a good idea of what to expect from Voit. The 31-year-old owns 25+ HR potential, but the severe ct% woes mean that power will come with a .240-ish BA. While that’s useful, it’s not exactly rare, and the “F” health grade in the 2022 Baseball Forecaster adds risk.

 

Kuhl cools after a strong April … Chad Kuhl (RHP, COL) inked a one-year, $3 million contract with the Rockies in March 2022 after the Pirates non-tendered him last November. He got off to a great start with the Rockies, sporting a 1.90 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 24 IP during April, but has a 4.76 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in 39.2 IP since then. How are the underlying skills?

Year   IP   ERA/xERA   BB%/K%  xBB%  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  HR/F   Vel  BPV
====  ===  =========  =======  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ====  ===
2017  157  4.35/4.65  11%/21%    9%  10%  42/23/35  32/72   11%  95.5   55
2018   85  4.55/4.45   9%/22%   10%  10%  36/26/37  32/73   15%  95.4   74
2019   --------------------DID NOT PITCH: TJS-----------------------------
2020   46  4.27/4.95  14%/22%   12%  10%  43/22/35  24/75   19%  93.9   28
2021   80  4.82/4.66  12%/21%   12%  11%  44/21/35  28/71   17%  94.2   46
2022   63  3.69/4.93  10%/18%    9%  11%  38/25/37  31/76    8%  92.8   38

Not very good:

  • His velocity is down 1.4 mph overall from 2021. 
  • A BB% in the 29th percentile is especially bad when your home park is Coors Field. His xBB% hints at the potential to be a tick closer to MLB average (8% BB% for qualified starting pitchers), but his track record urges skepticism.
  • His K% ranks in the 20th percentile, but SwK% suggests a little better (22% xK%).
  • He’s had some good fortune when it comes to S% and HR/F (lifetime: 13% HR/F).

Kuhl has changed his pitch mix to a blend reminiscent of the abbreviated 2020 season, scaling back four-seam fastball usage, leaning heavily on a sinker/slider combo (40%/38% usage) and throwing the curve, change-up, and four-seamer 11%, 7%, and 4%, respectively. The goal would seem to be to try to induce more groundballs, but it hasn’t come to fruition as his launch angle allowed has actually gone up from 12% in 2021 to 15% in 2022. His sinker has garnered just a 40% GB% so far in 2022. At first glance, one might view Kuhl as a possible matchups play away from Coors, but he has been better at home than on the road in 2022 (home: 3.29 ERA, 11% K-BB%, 1.21 WHIP in 27.1 IP; away: 4.00 ERA, 6% K-BB%, 1.58 WHIP in 36 IP), so we’d recommend avoiding him.

 

Thomas bears watching … A strong September 2021 that included a .277 BA, 7 HR and 3 SB earned Lane Thomas (OF, WAS) a spot on some preseason 2022 sleeper lists. However, his production has been lackluster thus far. Is there reason for optimism?

Year   PA  HR/SB    BA/xBA  bb%/ct% GB/LD/FB  h% HctX   PX/xPX HR/F Brl%  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  ========= ======= ========  == ====  ======= ==== ====  =======
2019* 333  11/10  .239/.251   8/68  47/27/27  31  102  105/114  50%  13%  136/24%
2020   40   1/ 0  .111/.187  10/64  39/13/48  14   67  100/ 93   9%   4%  103/ 0%
2021* 399  11/ 8  .235/.232  11/70  42/19/39  31  122  110/124  11%   7%  131/14%
2022  211   7/ 1  .232/.232   8/72  44/17/39  29   82  107/106  13%   7%  124/ 2% 

Yes, cautious optimism:

  • His ct% has held firm, but HctX is down significantly from 2021, capping his BA upside. 
  • Though his xPX is down a bit from 2021, it’s mainly due to a horrid April (51/59 PX/xPX), as he has sported an xPX of 148 in May and 102 in June. His HH% is in the 64th percentile in 2022, but the GB% is too high.
  • He possesses good wheels (91st percentile sprint speed), but his activity on the basepaths has nearly vanished. 

After a chilly April (.200 BA, 0 HR, .496 OPS, 63% ct% in 65 PA), he has since warmed up, especially in June (.299 BA, 4 HR, .902 OPS, 78% ct% in 74 PA). The 26-year-old has flashed intriguing skills at times at the MLB level, but aside from September 2021, has been unable to put it all together. Though he's worth keeping an eye on, he's much less interesting if the SB don't return. 


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