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Daily Notes: Most Improved Hitters So Far, Per ZiPS

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. Most Improved Hitters So Far, Per ZiPS
2. Today’s Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Most Improved Hitters So Far, Per ZiPS
As the reader will know, we carry a tidy collection of projection systems here at the site — of which two now, Steamer and ZiPS, are updated daily with constantly changing rest-of-season and overall total projections. Together, the two systems provide important data for our new Standings tool. Another use is to see which players’ season performances to date have most altered their rest-of-season projections.

This week, in the Notes, we’re considering those hitters and pitchers whose projections have most improved. Yesterday, we looked at the most improved hitters according to Steamer — where “most improved” was defined as “greatest increase in wOBA projection.” Below are the most improved hitters, except now according to ZiPS.

Note: because the final preseason edition of ZiPS is released relatively early, there are a number of players originally projected with one team but now playing with, and being projected for, another. The change in teams also means a change in park effects, and therefore a change in raw wOBA. As such, I omitted from my search any player who might be subject to this effect. That stated, Mike Carp (97 wRC+ preseason, 110 wRC+ rest-of-season) and Vernon Wells (97 wRC+ preseason, 107 wRC+ rest-of-season) deserve recognition.

5. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay
ZiPS (Pre): 538 PA, .263/.355/.486 (.289 BABIP), .358 wOBA, 132 wRC+
ZiPS (RoS): 431 PA, .276/.365/.508 (.306 BABIP), .373 wOBA, 140 wRC+
Notes: Speaking anecdotally, at least, ZiPS appears to be more aggressive than Steamer in terms of integrating recent performances into its rest-of-season projections. By way of example, the player (Josh Donaldson) occupying the fifth spot on the Steamer version of this list from yesterday has been assigned only a 10-point improvement in his rest-of-season wOBA projection and four-point improvement in wRC+. Longoria, meanwhile, has posted 15- and eight-point improvements, respectively.

4. Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee
ZiPS (Pre): 535 PA, .278/.325/.402 (.314 BABIP), .315 wOBA, 96 wRC+
ZiPS (RoS): 430 PA, .293/.339/.434 (.327 BABIP), .334 wOBA, 106 wRC+
Notes: Segura and teammate Carlos Gomez (below) are the only two players to appear among the five most improved hitters on both the Steamer and ZiPS lists — not surprising, that, in light of the fact that they were first and second (in that order) on the Steamer list. As with Steamer, ZiPS sees probable new true-talent levels both in BABIP and home-run rate for Segura.

3. Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore
ZiPS (Pre): 560 PA, .252/.305/.450 (.327 BABIP), .323 wOBA, 100 wRC+
ZiPS (RoS): 439 PA, .262/.322/.483 (.332 BABIP), .343 wOBA, 112 wRC+
Notes: While the early home runs gained considerable attention, Davis has demonstrated improvements in most facets of his offensive game this season relative to his previously established levels. He’s also walking more (13.1% this season, 7.1% career), striking out less (24.8%, 30.5%), and posting a higher BABIP (.354, .337). His rest-of-season ZiPS projection suggests probable gains in all three categories.

2. Nick Punto, IF, Los Angeles NL
ZiPS (Pre): 227 PA, .232/.320/.309 (.286 BABIP), .283 wOBA, 79 wRC+
ZiPS (RoS): 191 PA, .254/.344/.336 (.315 BABIP), .306 wOBA, 92 wRC+
Notes: Punto, 35, is by far the oldest player on either this or the Steamer version of the most-improved-hitter lists. And it makes sense that such lists would be occupied by younger players: aging curves are an integral component in any reasonable projection algorithm. Does ZiPS’ more aggressive approach with Punto represent a more aggressive approach with veteran/older players overall? Perhaps. And, in fact, Dave Cameron guessed in February that ZiPS might use a flatter aging curve than Steamer. In that same piece, though, Cameron also (and rightly) warned against drawing conclusions about which of the two systems is more “right” based on just a few examples.

1. Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee
ZiPS (Pre): 410 PA, .249/.300/.418 (.296 BABIP), .311 wOBA, 93 wRC+
ZiPS (RoS): 342 PA, .273/.321/.461 (.323 BABIP), .338 wOBA, 109 wRC+
Notes: If the reader is interested in identifying a consensus most-improved hitter a month-and-a-half into the season, Gomez is likely that hitter. Second on the Steamer version of this list yesterday, Gomez is regarded by ZiPS as the most improved hitter overall. Notably, ZiPS sees little improvement in what has been regarded as one of Gomez’s weaknesses — namely, control of the strike zone. Gomez’s rest-of-season projected walk and strikeout rates (5.2% and 21.9%, respectively) are very similar to his preseason projected rates (5.4% and 22.4%). The difference for Gomez is in BABIP (.296 preseason, .323 rest-of-season) and home-run rate (3.2% preseason and 3.5% rest-of-season), with an emphasis on the former.

Today’s Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
Seattle at New York AL | 19:05 ET
Even as this game allows the home audience a better-than-average outfield camera angle of talented right-hander Felix Hernandez (58.2 IP, 67 xFIP-, 1.9 WAR), it also facilitates another opportunity to monitor CC Sabathia‘s (53.0 IP, 98 xFIP-, 0.9 WAR) velocity. Through eight starts, Sabathia’s fastball has averaged just 90.1 mph — or, over 2 mph slower than his full-season average in 2012.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Seattle Radio.

Texas at Oakland | 22:05 ET ***MLB.TV Free Game***
Fortunately, today’s free game is also one of its most promising in terms of expected watchability. Of some interest, specifically, is Texas starter Derek Holland (49.2 IP, 82 xFIP-, 1.8 WAR). Holland is currently at least one standard deviation better than the league-average starting pitcher by xFIP (3.28), swinging-strike rate (10.6%), overall strike rate (67.1%), and average fastball velocity (93.4 mph).

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Texas Radio.

Today’s Complete Schedule
Here’s the complete schedule for all of today’s games, with our very proprietary watchability (NERD) scores for each one. Pitching probables and game times aggregated from MLB.com and RotoWire. The average NERD Game Score for today is 5.1.

Note: the following table is entirely sortable.


Away SP Tm. Gm. Tm. SP   Home Time
Scott Kazmir CLE 9 9 6 1 4 PHI Jon. Pettibone 19:05
Kyle Lohse MIL 6 7 4 7 1 PIT Jeff Locke 19:05
Andrew Cashner SD 6 5 5 7 2 BAL Chris Tillman 19:05
Felix Hernandez SEA 9 5 7 5 5 NYA CC Sabathia 19:05
Barry Zito SF 2 6 5 5 8 TOR R.A. Dickey 19:07
Lucas Harrell HOU 1 5 4 8 5 DET Doug Fister 19:08
John Lackey BOS 7 9 6 8 4 TB Matt Moore 19:10
Homer Bailey CIN 9 4 5 0 3 MIA Ricky Nolasco 19:10
Jeff Francis COL 4 6 4 4 4 CHN Carl. Villanueva 20:05
Jake Peavy CHA 8 0 4 4 1 MIN Kevin Correia 20:10
Dillon Gee NYN 2 7 5 2 7 STL John Gast* 20:15
Julio Teheran ATL 6 9 6 4 6 AZ Patrick Corbin 21:40
Jeremy Guthrie KC 4 7 4 4 2 LAA Jason Vargas 22:05
Derek Holland TEX 9 4 7 6 7 OAK Bartolo Colon 22:05
Dan Haren WAS 4 2 5 2 9 LAN Clay. Kershaw 22:10

To learn how Pitcher and Team NERD Scores are calculated, click here.
To learn how Game NERD Scores are calculated, click here.
* = Fewer than 20 IP, NERD at discretion of very handsome author.