Is A.J. Pollock Really This Good?

A.J. Pollock is, at the moment, one of the best fantasy outfielders in major league baseball.  He’s 4th according to the ESPN player rater but since most of you and I don’t REALLY know what that means, let’s say it a different way.  He is one of only four players with at least a .290 AVG, 10 HR, and 15 SB.  Still, whenever I talk with anyone about Pollock’s performance, the consensus opinion on him is more of a resonating question: “Is A.J. Pollock really this good?”  Let’s attempt to answer that.  Dating back to the beginning of 2014,  Pollock has played in 161 games.  We could round that up to 162 games, especially since players rarely play every single game of a season, and call it a full season, but I’m going to go the extra mile here and pull the last game from his 2013 campaign to have a constant 162 games for this exercise.  The stat line he has produced is impressive.

 

G   PA   H   AB   R   2B   3B   HR   RBI   SB   BB   K  HBP   SF   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
162   657   181   603   99   37   8   18    67   33   46  103    3    4 .300 .351 .477 .827

Let’s lower the bar a little bit so that we can find more players in THIS search: how many other players over their last 162 games have hit at the very minimum: .290, 90 R, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 25 SB?  The answer is 1, and that man is Starling Marte.

  G   PA   H   AB   R   2B   3B   HR   RBI   SB   BB   K   HBP   SF   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
  162   652   181   596   90   36    3    22   88   33   36   148     16    2   .304   .358   .485   .843

I’m not sure if that makes Marte a fair comparison.  We can compare them, but Marte delivers more line drives and raw power than Pollock does.  Marte, despite having a paltry 19.3% FB rate, has averaged 312 feet on his fly balls this year, 4th best in the majors, allowing him him to post an absurd 29.5% HR/FB rate – and we’re not even ready to get into park factors yet.  Pollock is just a bit more refined than Marte, posting a better BB rate and K rate than Marte has, by, obviously, swinging at better pitches to hit.

2015   BB%     K%     OSWING%     ZSWING%     SWING%     CONTACT%
  Pollock     7.4   15.6        31.2        59.1      44.3        82.7
  Marte   5.3   24.1        38.9        77.8      56.8        74.5

Pollock, too, has a fine average fly ball distance.  It’s 295 (a number he’s increased each year), which is good for 39th overall, smack dab in between Adam LaRoche to the north and Nolan Arenado to the south.  But Pollock has also been incrementally improving his BB/K ratio over the last three years, bringing it from 0.40 to 0.47 this year.  It could be as simple as that – a good player that has made strides in his approach at the plate, but I can’t just leave it at that.  Despite these improvements, albeit, very small ones, his batted ball profile looks right around league average.

 

2015   LD%    GB%    FB%    IFFB%    HR/FB    IFH%    BUH%    PULL    CENT    OPPO    SOFT    MED 
Pollock 19.4 51.4 29.1 12.3 13.5 10.5 100 36.7 36.3 27.0 17.4 50.2
League AVG 20.9 45.4 33.6 9.4 10.7 6.7 24.3 39.0 35.6 25.5 18.6 52.9

Pollock is fast, so hitting a lot of ground balls works in his favor.  He’s been able to have higher than average IFH and BUH percentages in each of the last three years because of his speed.  However, despite being a below average line drive hitter this year, and throughout his career, he is less susceptible to BABIP fluctuations than other high frequency GB hitters like Alcides Escobar, Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura, because Pollock produces a hard hit rate higher than the league average – he is an authoritative hitter.  Curious though, that with his below average LD rate, this is the case.  So his hard hit% is driven by either hard contact on fly balls or ground balls relative to league average.  Since he has an IFFB% above league average I’m going to predict that he’s a high authority GB hitter.  There’s logic in that, right?

 

  2015   GB   AVG     HARD  GB   PULL GB      CENT GB     OPPO GB     FB AVG     HARD FB     PULL FB     CENT FB     OPPO FB  
  Pollock    0.301   23.1   46.9   41.3   11.9   0.234   35.8   19.8   34.6   45.7
League AVG   0.234   17.1   52.9   34.1   13.1   0.223   36.2   22.2   38.0   39.8

He’s right at about league average for hard hit fly balls, but he does seem to have a hard hit ground ball percentage markedly higher than league average.  In fact, his 23.1% hard hit GB rate is 18th best in the league.  The 17 players in front of him have combined for an average line of:

    2015   H   AB     R     HR     RBI     SB     AVG     LD%     GB%     FB%     HARD%  
  Top 17     84   300   41    13     45     3    .280    20.4    44.5    35.1      33.7
  Pollock     100   334   58    11     42    19    .299    19.4    51.4    29.1      32.4

The list also includes names like Tulo, Miguel Cabrera, Posey, Pederson, Upton, Donaldson, Trout, Jose Abreu, and Yoenis Cespedes.  It’s guys that we generally perceive to be hard contact hitters, or I guess, more specifically, power hitters.  But he’s 18th on the list and produced a quality hard hit ground ball rate last year, too.

But, he still has a league average hard hit fly ball rate and a below average line drive rate.  These are reflected in his numbers compared to the league.

  2015     LD%     LD AVG     GB%     GB AVG     FB%     FB AVG  
  Pollock     19.4     0.667   51.4     0.301   29.1     0.234
  League     20.9     0.684   45.4     0.234   33.6     0.223

Lastly, he plays in Chase Field, which, throughout its history, has been a hitters park.  From 2008-2014 it had an adjusted park factor of +111.  For right handed hitters (and left handed hitters) like A.J. Pollock, it has had only positive affects, but this table is solely for righties:

  HR     3B     2B     1B     AVG     OBP     SLG     R  
  1.09   1.45   1.14   1.00    1.04    1.03    1.07   1.11

Put Pollock in a neutral park and his numbers for the last 162 games would theoretically look like this:

  G   PA   H   AB   R   2B   3B   HR   RBI   SB   BB   K   HBP   SF   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
162   657   174  603   89   33    6    17    60   31   46   103     3    4   .288   .340   .448 .788

I was kind of hoping to see more signs that Pollock is experiencing more luck.  Not because I don’t like Pollock, I love him as a baseball player and I’m sure he’s a fine person, but because of the questions regarding the sustainability of his play in the first half of the 2015 season by many of my peers.  The answer to, “is he really this good”, is that he is pretty darn close and I can see him performing to any of the projection systems’ expectations the rest of the way (ZiPS, Steamer, or Depth Charts).  He should experience some fluctuation in BABIP because of his GB rate, but so far he really hasn’t – and again that’s partially due to the authority with which he hits them.

In terms of finding a player closest in comparison to Pollock, Marte might be a pretty decent choice.  If I can just brainstorm using the cloud technique, I would probably have, with A.J. Pollock’s name in the middle: Starling Marte, Jason Heyward, Christian Yelich, Charlie Blackmon, Brett Gardner, and Lorenzo Cain as smaller clouds extending off the big, middle cloud.  Here are stats based on the last 162 games played.

 

PLAYER   PA   H   AB   R   HR   RBI   SB   BB   K   HBP   SF   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
Yelich   709   181   628   91    9    56   22   75   155      4    1   .288   .367   .390   .757
Cain   641  180   592   91   11   66  39   37  128      8    4  .304   .351   .448   .799
Heyward   636   163   576   76   12   60  22   51   96      4    4   .283  .343  .403  .746
Blackmon   698   179   628   87   18   66   36   41  123    19    5  .285  .345  .436  .781
Gardner   707   162   611 108   21   72  22   70  147     6    6  .265  .343  .458  .801
Marte  652   181   596   90   22   88  33   36 148    16    2  .304  .358  .485  .843

 

This group kind of works as a spectrum.  I see the players on the extreme north and south columns least like Pollock and the players in the middle most like Pollock.  There is no one player to compare A.J. Pollock with that is playing currently, although Mitch Webster would be a pretty good historical comparison using his ages 26 – 28 seasons.

Mitch Webster ages 26-28 162 G AVG:

  G   PA   H   AB   R   HR   RBI   SB   BB   K   HBP   SF   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
  162   656   165   580   94    15    60   36   62   87      5    5   .283   .354   .441   .795

Probably too high of a walk rate, but that looks pretty good.

The average season of the group above would look like this:

  G   PA   H   AB   R   HR   RBI   SB   BB   K   HBP   SF   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
  162   674   174   605   91    16    68   29   52   133     10    4   .288   .352   .437   .789

A little too high of a K rate, but that also looks pretty good.

And finally A.J. Pollock ages 25-27 162 G AVG

  G   PA   H   AB   R   HR   RBI   SB   BB   K   HBP   SF   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
  162   618   163   567   89    15     57   25    43   101      3    3   .287   .339   .449   .788

In conclusion, A.J. Pollock is very close to this good if he’s not actually THIS GOOD and I think these players are pretty good comparisons.  And hopefully Pollock has more long lasting success than Mitch Webster.  In a time when speed/power combo players are in decline, what Pollock is doing is clearly elite in that sense.  What I really would like to see would be the history of authoritative ground ball hitters with good speed who have played in parks that have buoyed their power numbers.  Unfortunately, I don’t have access to batted ball profiles for hitters throughout history – how many Pollocks does it take to gather that information?



Print This Post

Mark also writes for Beyond the Box Score Send him bat flip gifs and follow him @NtflixnRichHill Instagram Markd1414

newest oldest most voted
TennesseeRudy
Guest
TennesseeRudy

Great article. Pollock is a player that is very balanced in his skills and slightly above average in many areas. We didn’t even talk about how he plays a great defensive CF position too. Pollock should be able to hang around those skills through his prime years if healthy. I would like to see him evolve a little more with his power and plate discipline. A little improvement in both those areas would take him to another level. 300/370/500 with 30 SB’s would be awesome to see.

PatrickBrewer93
Member
PatrickBrewer93

Awesome work man. It’s amazing to see how good Pollock has been. I think he is really just entering his prime at 27 and could be even better going forward. Also under team control until 2019. With both Goldschmidt and Pollock the D’backs have a lot to build around.

MRD
Guest
MRD

Great article, just one question. How’d you pull out the Mitch Webster comparison?
That sure puts it into context.

Suzanne
Guest
Suzanne

So well analyzed and then synthesized…even i understood it. Good, clear and concise writing that was well supported.
nice work.