FACTS/FLUKES: Hamels, K. Marte, Peraza, Woodruff, B. Dozier

Hamels displaying strong skills … Things weren’t going well for Cole Hamels (LHP, CHC) prior to his July 27, 2018 trade from the Rangers to the Cubs, as he followed a disappointing 2017 campaign with a 4.72 ERA through his first 114 IP of 2018. However, he has pitched much better since joining the Cubs, sporting a 2.36 ERA in 76 IP over the remainder of 2018 and a 3.38 ERA in 43 IP thus far in 2019. What's behind the resurgence?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ========  ==-==  ====  ===
2014  205  2.46  3.20  2.6  8.7  3.4  61%  13%  46/22/31  30/81    8%  111   
2015  212  3.65  3.39  2.6  9.1  3.5  61%  14%  48/21/31  30/72   12%  119
2016  201  3.32  3.81  3.5  9.0  2.6  57%  13%  50/20/31  31/79   14%   96
2017  148  4.20  4.59  3.2  6.4  2.0  56%  10%  48/19/34  26/68   12%   54
2018  191  3.78  3.79  3.1  8.9  2.9  60%  12%  45/23/32  30/76   17%  100
2019   43  3.38  3.41  3.0  9.3  3.1  61%  12%  56/16/28  27/74   16%  121

His skills are as good as ever:

  • He has induced lots of groundballs with his change-up (70% GB%), curve (71% GB%) and sinker (83% GB%) in 2019. The significant overall jump in GB%, if it holds, should help him keep the home runs in check.
  • The aforementioned change-up has also garnered a whopping 28.5% SwK, making it an elite offering. There’s nothing to suggest he can’t keep the strikeouts coming at his current pace.
  • With a MLB average FpK, look for his Ctl to stay in that same 3.0-3.2 range.
  • His 2019 xERA and BPV further illustrate this is the best we’ve seen from Hamels since 2015.

As BaseballHQ.com’s Brian Rudd noted back in January, Hamels has said that his mechanics were out of whack following a 2017 oblique injury and it wasn’t until he got to Chicago that the issues were ironed out. Hamels has also changed his pitch mix since joining the Cubs last summer, including increasing his four-seam fastball usage by 19 percentage points, primarily at the expense of a bad sinker. The 35-year-old appears poised to make a run at a near-3.50 ERA, provided he can stay healthy (“D” health grade in the 2019 Baseball Forecaster).

 

Marte powers up … Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF, ARI) owned a measly .216/.273/.309 slash line with 1 HR and 1 SB in 194 AB through the end of May 2018, but he was a different player once the calendar turned to June, as he slashed .285/.365/.512 with 13 HR and 5 SB over his final 326 AB. He has started off 2019 in fine fashion, batting .255 with 9 HR and 3 SB in 141 AB. How are the underlying skills?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA/xBA    vR   bb/ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX/PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  =========  ====  ======  ========  ==  ===========  ====  ======= 
2015* 487   4/24  .279/.266  .780   7/84   52/22/26  33    82/66/45     4%  150/23%
2016* 465   1/13  .254/.253  .651   4/82   52/22/26  31    71/47/41     1%  126/16%
2017* 534   9/ 8  .277/.273  .748   8/86   45/21/34  31    98/76/77     8%  155/ 7%
2018  520  14/ 6  .260/.285  .651   9/85   51/20/29  28   113/93/84    11%  149/ 5%
2019  141   9/ 3  .255/.284  .805   9/79   45/18/37  26  123/132/142   22%  123/ 9%
*Includes MLEs

The power gains are intriguing:

  • Concurrent significant increases in xPX, FB%, Pull% (up 7% to 44%) and Statcast measured barrel% (up 5% to 10%) back the HR output. If they hold, he could wind up with 25-30 HR.
  • His ct% has slipped a bit, but it’s still in good shape, especially in today’s game. Meanwhile, xBA shows BA shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Interestingly, the drop in ct% has come entirely against right-handed pitching. After struggling vs. RHP in 2018, Marte has traded contact for power and produced improved results (ct% down 11 percentage points; PX nearly doubled to 123).
  • After back-to-back years of dwindling SBO, he has been slightly more aggressive in putting his good speed to use in 2019. A return to double-digit SB seems likely.

Marte’s new approach has worked well, as he has added power and flyballs while maintaining an above-average ct% and solid batting average. The fantasy baseball world has been waiting for him to produce a 20-SB season, but absent more green lights, that doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Nevertheless, if the 25-year-old can hang on to most of these gains, a breakout year should be forthcoming.

 

Joining the flyball revolution a bad move for Peraza … Jose Peraza (2B/SS, CIN) enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, tallying nearly $30 R$ while batting .288 with 14 HR and 23 SB in 632 AB. While it’s still very early in 2019, things have gotten off to a rough start, as evidenced by a .196 BA, 2 HR and 4 SB in 112 AB. What’s going on here?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX  PX/xPX  Spd/SBO  SB%
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ======  =======  ===
2016* 529   5/30  .292  .268   5    85  43/28/29  34   73    52/55  144/32%  63%
2017  487   5/23  .259  .248   4    86  47/22/31  29   74    33/43  150/24%  74%
2018  632  14/23  .288  .269   4    88  37/26/38  31   96    70/57  114/18%  79%
2019  112   2/ 4  .196  .194   4    79  36/15/49  23   65    46/48  119/27%  67%
*Includes MLEs

Peraza is in need of a course correction:

  • Chasing outside the zone more often (37%; MLB average: 28%) and making far less contact on the pitches he has chased (down 10 percentage points from 2018) has led to a sharp increase in strikeouts.
  • HctX indicates the quality of his contact has also deteriorated. He has always had subpar exit velocity, but according to Statcast, it has dipped 1.1 mph from 2018 to 82.8 mph, which ranks in the bottom 4% of MLB. Additionally, his HH% has fallen from an already poor 23.6% to a pitiful 16.3%, which puts him in the bottom 1% of MLB.
  • Though the jump to double-digit HR in 2018 was nice to see, his lack of power (see puny xPX) makes the extreme flyball approach he has displayed so far in 2019 a losing proposition.
  • The wheels are still intact and he’s been running more when on base. The problem is he is currently tied for the 2nd worst OBP among qualified 2019 MLB batters.

Peraza’s decision to join the flyball revolution makes no sense as it stifles his best asset (speed) and puts greater emphasis on the biggest weakness (lack of power). Chasing more pitches outside the zone has led to more strikeouts, diminished quality of contact, a lower BA/OBP and fewer chances to utilize his aforementioned wheels. The 25-year-old’s track record of elite ct% gives hope that he can right the ship on that front, but he’ll also need to restore his previous line-drive swing in order to deliver the type of production many expected heading into 2019.

 

Can Woodruff stick as a starter? … Brandon Woodruff (RHP, MIL) spent 2018 going back and forth from Triple-A to the majors, finishing the year with a 3.61 ERA in 42 IP with Milwaukee. He earned a spot in the 2019 Opening Day starting rotation and owns a 4.25 ERA through 42 IP. How are things under the hood?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2016# 114  4.52  3.53  2.7   8.5  3.2     N/A    33/64   N/A  N/A  N/A  105
2017+  75  4.57   N/A  2.9   7.1  2.5     N/A    33/71   N/A  N/A  N/A   60
17MLB  43  4.81  4.59  2.9   6.7  2.3  47/19/34  30/65   11%  62%   9%   66
2018+  72  4.15   N/A  3.8   7.0  1.8     N/A    31/74   N/A  N/A  N/A   52
18MLB  42  3.61  3.32  3.0  10.0  3.4  53/18/29  31/72   12%  56%  11%  130
2019   42  4.25  3.35  2.6  11.5  4.5  38/28/34  39/70   11%  59%  13%  154
#Double-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs

There is a lot to like in this skill set:

  • Woodruff’s 2018 MLB Dom far outpaced his MLEs and most of the strikeouts came in a relief role—11.5 Dom in relief and 7.5 Dom as a starter—so there was reason to wonder if he could maintain such an impressive mark in a full-time starter. He has quieted doubters by posting an elite SwK and even better Dom thus far in 2019.
  • A well below-average FpK called into question his 2018 Ctl, but he has done a better job of getting ahead in the count and pounding the strike zone in 2019 (Ball% down 2 percentages points from 2018).
  • He has typically had a groundball lean throughout his professional career, reaching a new high in GB% in 2018, but opposing batters have been able to lift the ball in 2019, as his launch angle allowed has gone from 5.3% in 2018 to 14.3% in 2019.
  • A bloated H% has been the root of most of his troubles. The wide xERA/ERA gap and sparkling BPV imply better days are likely ahead.

This is an important year for Woodruff, as it will go a long way toward determining whether or not his long term role will be in the starting rotation or the bullpen. The 26-year-old’s performance thus far has certainly been encouraging, including the fact that he has been able to sustain 2018’s 1 mph velocity uptick (95.5 mph). Woodruff possesses tantalizing upside, but it’s worth noting that 11 of the 13 HR he has allowed in the majors have come at home, so it might be best to bench him for home starts against lefty-laden lineups for the time being.

 

Can Dozier rebound? … After putting together tremendous seasons in 2016 and 2017, Brian Dozier (2B, WAS) was a major disappointment in 2018, batting .215 with 21 HR and 12 SB. It was revealed in mid-September that he had been playing through a bone bruise in his right knee, so it was fair to assume injury played a role in 2018 and that a presumably healthy Dozier was a good candidate to bounce back in 2019. With a putrid .196 BA, 5 HR and 1 SB through 112 AB, is there still reason for optimism?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  =======
2014  598  23/21  .242  .257   13   78  37/20/43  27    95  124/97    11%  102/16%
2015  628  28/12  .236  .261    9   76  33/23/44  27   100  138/129   13%  102/12%
2016  615  42/18  .268  .276    9   78  36/16/48  28   109  159/137   18%  123/14%
2017  617  34/16  .269  .264   11   77  38/19/43  30   106  124/138   17%  116/13%
2018  553  21/12  .215  .240   11   77  39/17/44  24   105  107/112   11%   92/11%
2019  112   5/ 1  .196  .200   12   68  45/14/41  24    91   87/129   16%   92/ 6%

It’s too early to give up on Dozier, but there are worrisome signs:

  • Heading into 2019, Dozier’s worst ct% in any given season was 76% and his worst xBA was .234, back in 2015 and 2012, respectively. Though his h% is low (27% career h%), it’s tough to see him posting a batting average better than .240 with his current skills.
  • The power (xPX) and FB% are still sufficient for him to hit another 15-20 HR over the rest of 2019.
  • His Spd hasn’t recovered from the 2018 decline and he hasn’t been as active on the basepaths, so it’s possible he could fall just short of double-digit SB.

According to Statcast, Dozier’s Chase% has shrunk from 23% in 2018 to 16%, but his Chase Contact% has plummeted from 65% to 47% (MLB average: 60%) and his Zone Contact% has fallen by roughly 5 percentage points to 79% (MLB average: 83%). Dave Roberts, who was his manager at the time, reportedly suggested last September that Dozier’s hitting mechanics may have gotten out of whack from trying to play through pain. While it’s certainly possible that Dozier is an adjustment away from getting back on track, we wouldn’t bet on him exceeding a .230 BA with an additional 15-20 HR and 5-8 SB over the remainder of 2019.


Click here to subscribe

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