Magazine Content

By the Numbers

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

After covering the luckiest players of 2018 last week, this season’s final installment of By the Numbers focuses on the players who suffered through the worst fortune. Owners who had their seasons ruined by multiple players on this list should feel a little better once they find out that their struggles were caused by bad luck more often than skill deficiencies. Further, these players could be undervalued in 2019 drafts.
 
Gary Sanchez, Catcher (Yankees): If Sanchez had not missed so much time due to injury, his .196 BABIP would be far-and-away the worst mark among qualified hitters. The slugger is currently hitting .182, making him one of this season’s biggest busts. But owners who reach a little deeper into his portfolio see that he has improved his plate discipline (0.47 BB:K ratio) and fly-ball rate (42.3 percent) this year. Making some improvements on his 34.5 percent hard-contact rate (which isn’t a terrible mark) and his 14.5 percent line-drive rate will get him back on track in a hurry.
 
Jay Bruce, OF/1B (Mets): Injuries were the biggest cause for Bruce’s struggles this year, but he failed to be a productive asset even when in the lineup (.226 average, nine homers, 36 RBIs across 339 at-bats). But the expected statistics from Statcast show that he should be batting .265, and his lowly 8.2 percent HR/FB rate explains his power woes. The slugger could get back to a 30-homer pace next year simply by staying healthy and repeating the 47.4 percent fly-ball rate from his abbreviated 2018 season. Overall, Bruce is a fine late-round target next spring.
 
Brian Dozier, Second baseman (Dodgers): Dozier has hit the usual daily-double of bad luck, enduring diminished marks in BABIP (.243) and HR/FB rate (10.9 percent). His drops were not skill-related, as his plate discipline has not changed, his fly-ball rate is as strong as ever and his hard-contact rate is currently at a career high. Already a pull-happy hitter, Dozier hasn’t trended any further in that direction this year. Some owners will want to stay away from a middle infielder who is coming off a down year and is heading into his age-32 season, but a simple luck correction could lead to a bounce-back year.
 
Kole Calhoun, Outfielder (Angels): Calhoun was mostly a first-half flop, as he hit .187 with a .556 OPS prior to the All-Star break. But his overall luck this season has been bad, as he has endured a .241 BABIP and is batting .207 despite owing an expected batting average of .265. A look at his deeper stats reveals some really exciting metrics for someone finishing up a disappointing year, as his 44.7 percent hard-contact rate and 21.6 percent line-drive rate rank among the league leaders. Those who picked up Calhoun this summer made a smart move, and he should be a desirable late-round target next spring.
 
Carlos Santana, First baseman (Phillies): Santana is currently sporting the lowest BABIP (.230) of any qualified hitter, making him an easy target for this list. As a slow-footed player who maintains a low line-drive rate and pulls the ball often, the veteran is not built for good fortune. Nevertheless, his BABIP this year is much lower than his career mark, and there is nothing in his batted-ball tendencies to promote such a drop. Owners should feel comfortable projecting Santana to boost his year-over-year batting average by about 30 points.
 
Kendrys Morales, First baseman (Blue Jays): Statcast has labelled the hard-hitting Morales as one of this season’s unluckiest hitters, assigning him an expected batting average that is 46 points higher than his actual mark and a .586 expected slugging percentage that beats his actual mark by 145 points. A close look at his batted-ball data quickly reveals why the slow-footed veteran should have better fortune, as he uses all fields and regularly stings the ball (40.8 percent hard-contact rate). Morales also improved his plate discipline this year and could be setting things up for a surprisingly strong 2019 season.
 
Nick Pivetta, Starter (Phillies): Pivetta should be a stud fantasy starter, as his 3.9 K:BB ratio is the type of mark that is posted by high-end mixed-league hurlers. But his ratios have been more mediocre than expected, as he has been dragged down by a .326 BABIP. It isn’t as though opposing hitters are teeing off on the right-hander, as his rates of hard contact, line drives and fly balls are all average or better. Those who targeted Pivetta as a breakout candidate this year would be wise to stick to their guns next season.
 
Marco Gonzales, Starter (Mariners): Like Pivetta, Gonzales has been unable to post impressive fantasy stats despite dominating the strike zone (4.5 K:BB ratio). The left-hander has dealt with one of the highest BABIPs of any qualified hurler (.322), which mostly explains the gap between his 4.12 ERA and his 3.49 FIP. Additionally, Gonzales has posted a lowly 71.5 percent strand rate, which is much lower than the expected mark for someone who can dominate the strike zone. Although he still needs to make strides at limiting line drives, Gonzales has the potential to take another step forward next year.
 
Zack Godley, Starter (Diamondbacks): Godley has been one of this season’s biggest disappointments among the starter pool, posting a 4.75 ERA after being tabbed in the first half of 2018 drafts. The main culprit behind his lackluster season is a 67.8 percent strand rate that is one of the worst marks of any qualified hurler. Moreover, most of the names near Godley’s on this key metric are lackluster starters who don’t own anything similar to his 3.86 FIP. A simple luck change with runners on base will help Godley immensely next year, although his overall value will remain down until he returns his hard-contact rate and line-drive rate to his pre-2018 levels.


Source URL: https://www.nbcsports.com/edge/premium/baseball/draft-guide/article/magazine-content/numbers-24