Pod’s Picks June Update: First Base

Today I continue on updating my Pod’s Picks, comparing my rank versus the other three RotoGraphers. We moved on to the first basemen this time, of which the consensus rankings were published two weeks ago. I’ll generally only consider those first baseman I ranked within the top 20 for the bullish category and those the rest of the crew ranked in the top 20 for the bearish category.

Bullish

Matt Adams

My Rank: 16 | Their Rank: 22

Matt Adams‘ .363 wOBA is almost identical to his .365 mark last year, but the shape of his performance has been completely different. He has swung significantly more often and made better contact, which has resulted in fewer strikeouts. That improvement, along with a ridiculous .386 BABIP, has led to a batting average well above .300, which is highly unlikely to last. We didn’t expect Adams to be a strong source of batting average value, but instead be a prototypical left-handed slugger. Unfortunately, his HR/FB rate has surprisingly slipped below 10% and his ISO is a rather meh .174. Although his batted ball distance has declined, it hasn’t been such a precipitous drop that would lead to his HR/FB rate mark more than halving. I think his batting average is going to come down, but a power rebound is going to offset it.

Brandon Moss

My Rank: 9 | Their Rank: 12

This is a question of how much to weigh the first two and a half months of his plate discipline improvements. He’s swinging at balls outside the zone less frequently, making better overall contact and swinging and missing less often. All that has led to a much improved contact rate, which has been his biggest weakness at the plate. But really, the majority of his strikeouts didn’t pile up until he joined the Athletics, and that coincided with a huge spike in power. Now, he’s been able to recapture his better contact ability from many seasons ago, but still maintain his massive power. Since he’s an extreme fly ball hitter, he doesn’t even need a 20%+ HR/FB rate to sock well over 30 homers.

But the best news? He’s actually starting against southpaws now and has been for weeks. If he’s no longer a strict platoon player, that will boost all his counting stats. And although it’s a small sample, he’s actually crushed lefties this year to the tune of a .425 wOBA, so he should continue to start against them, at least until his .440 BABIP comes crashing down.

Bearish

Justin Morneau

My Rank: 26 | Their Rank: 16

So all it took was a move to Coors Field for Morneau to find the fountain of youth? I don’t think so. Though his .207 ISO and 16.4% HR/FB rate would suggest that Morneau is as healthy as ever and taking advantage of the thin air in Denver, his batted ball distance suggest something different. That marks sits at just 270 feet, which ranks 232nd in baseball. Last year, his distance was virtually identical, yet his HR/FB rate failed to even breach the 10% plateau. Remember, the thin air of Coors is already accounted for in the distance since the ball travels further, so he doesn’t get any bonus points that the distance number isn’t capturing. Aside from the worry that his HR/FB drops, his fly ball rate is sitting at a career low.

Victor Martinez

My Rank: 19 | Their Rank: 9

A lot of teams are going to win their leagues because of V-Mart. Are we really weighing two and a half months over an entire career history for a 35-year-old? That’s right, he’s already 35 and currently posting a .400+ wOBA for the first time in his career. His batted ball distance is the exact same as last year, yet his HR/FB rate has nearly tripled. There’s simply no way you can bet on this power surge to last, and that’s what has fueled his insane performance thus far.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


22 Responses to “Pod’s Picks June Update: First Base”

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  1. Pat says:

    Pod, it appears you were really off on your prognostications this year especially conspidering your poor tout wars showing. What will you do different next year to try to right the ship?

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  2. Bubba says:

    Even if Victor Martinez’s power drops, he still looks great. His .333 AVG is driven by only a .301 BABIP, which is actually below his career average.

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  3. Nick says:

    “His [V-Mart] batted ball distance is the exact same as last year” How do you figure? Not a huge difference but going from 285 to 295 is an increase. He’s also hitting more FB than he did last year.

    Like someone else mentioned, there’s a lot to like even if a power regression is coming. Good lineup, poor pitching in the AL Central (Twins, White Sox and Royals all bottom 10 in SIERA with Twins and White Sox being 2 worst in all MLB) and he never strikes out.

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    • The leaderboard I checked yesterday showed an identical distance. Not sure where you’re looking. And how is that situation any different than what we knew in the preseason and incorporated into the projections (and therefore rankings)?

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      • Nick says:

        I didn’t realize this but on baseballheatmaps (where I got the distance info), they split a hitter based on the side of the plate from which they hit. So switch hitters like V-Mart actually have 2 separate distances. Hitting LH, he has an 11 ft increase in distance vs 2013(from 283 to 294) and a 2 ft decrease while hitting RH (285 to 283).

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      • Nick says:

        He was dreadful for the first two months of 2013 (52 WRC+ in April; 55 in May). Wondering how much that weighed into the projections for this year and if you think those poor results had anything to do with him missing all of 2012?

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  4. Mike Wimmer says:

    I think Morneau will regress some, but ranking him 26th is probably a little harsh. I still prefer him over Mauer who looks completely lost.

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  5. Derek says:

    Not sure where you got Morneau’s batted-ball distance. His HR+FB distance at baseballheatmaps is 287.15 feet, which is #82 in baseball and a big improvement over the 270.35 he put up in 2013. Come to think of it, you might have accidentally been looking at his 2013 HR+FB distance instead of 2014. What’s hurting Morneau in 2014 is that his GB% has really jumped compared to prior years(career 40.9% –> 50.9%), which limits the utility of his improved power.

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    • Emcee Peepants says:

      I think you’re right, it looks like the looked at 2013 instead of this year. However, Morneau is still tough to figure out this season, despite the solid batted ball distance. If you looked just at his batted ball breakdown and plate discipline numbers, you would assume he is having a terrible year:

      LD% 18.1, career 19.3
      GB% 50.7, career 40.9
      FB% 31.2, career 39.8
      IFFB%, 14.9, career 10.0
      o-swing 40.6 (8th in MLB), career 32.4
      Z-swing 81.3 (1st in MLB), career 72.6
      swing 57.2 (4th in MLB), career 50.8
      BB% 4.2 (15th lowest in MLB), career 9.2

      I’m cherry picking a little, b/c most of his contact numbers are career highs and his K% would be a career low, but he has generally exchanged a solid approach for an ultra aggressive one that results in a lot of ground balls and infield flies. That is not a great recipe for sustained success. It seems like like, particularly on FBs, where he is hitting 77 points above league average.

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  6. Cason Jolette says:

    Mike, need your advise. Shallow league, owner is looking to trade Kipnis for a starter. Already tried Samardzija and was rejected. Shooting for Kazmir next. Wouldyou trade any of these starters for Kipnis: Cobb, Bailey, Fister, Kluber, SSamardzija, Ventura, Kazmir, Keuchel. I would be dropping A. Hill for Heaney most likely.

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    • Are you looking for Pike Modhorzer? I’d trade all of them for Kipnis, considering he’s a top 2 2nd baseman in my mind. League must be awfully shallow to drop Hill. But if you’re picking up a rookie pitcher, then I’m confused.

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      • Cason Jolette says:

        10 team shallow big money league

        C Perez 1B Pujols 2B Hill 3B Encarnacion SS Segura OF Jones OF Marte OF Werth UTL Rizzo BN K. Davis

        SP Cobb, Bailey, Fister, Samardzija, Kluber, Kazmir, Ventura, Keuchel
        RP: Robertson, Cishek, Krod, Allen

        So yeah, if I trade for Kipnis, a substantial upgrade over Hill, I wouldn’t carry him as a bench bat. I would likely drop him for another starter with the likes of Heaney, Bauer, Gausman, and McHugh available among others.

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  7. Lanidrac says:

    Your faith in Adams showing a power rebound would’ve been more impressive had you posted this article three days ago rather than just after he hit a homer in each of his last three games.

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  8. tipsymcstaggers says:

    So, is Morneau’s distance just completely wrong? Kinda invalidates the whole blurb on him, no?

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