Strikeouts, Stabilization and Surprising Swings

You’ll hear us talk about statistical stabilization here, and link to pieces like Russell Carleton’s or Derek Carty’s. The basic idea is that there are thresholds at which a stat moves into a decent sample and becomes more meaningful.

Maybe you’ll come away thinking that we’ve said that ‘x stat is stable so that’s what you’ll get the rest of the way,’ and if so, that’s on us. That’s not what stabilization means in this context.

What it means is that the r-squared number that correlates a player’s past stats with his future stats in that category has passed .50. That’s a mouthful, here’s another try: if you were to try and predict future work in a category, you’d regress their current work against the league average. At the stabilization point, you can use half their own number plus half the league average in your calculations.

One more try, in the most colloquial language possible: Stabilization is the point at which a number in a category tells us more about their future work than the league average.

If that gets boiled down to more simple language, you can understand why. None of the above makes for hit monster posts.

But, there’s a little more to it: we play fantasy baseball. We don’t have the same stakes as a major league team, and if we’re in a redraft league, we have to move faster than the numbers, in effect. For example, power doesn’t stabilize until 550 plate appearances or so. There’s no way we can hold on to someone experiencing a power blackout for a full season in your standard 15-team redraft.

And so we simplify our language, at the cost of precision. “Time to worry about this player’s production because of this stat has stabilized” is something I’ll say. I understand it’s more complicated than that. I understand that shivers will go down spines. But I have moves to make on my fantasy teams, and I need to grasp at straws sometimes.

All of that is pre-amble. According to Derek Carty’s excellent piece linked above, strikeout rate for batters has stabilized for most regulars. Because we’re shaving the garlic here anyway, I’ve set the minimum at 90 plate appearances instead of the 100 he found. And I’ve set their current strikeout rate against last year’s, so that you can sort the table in different directions.

I’ll post the table at the bottom, after we point out some interesting movers and shakers. Strikeouts are negatively correlated to batting average, so that’s why you care about this. Even though most researchers and baseball people don’t care about batting average and might cringe at using stabilization this way, we have categories to protect. We must move quickly.

I’m picking up what Miguel Montero is laying down. Swing metrics are ahead of per-PA metrics, and he’s swinging less than he’s ever had, he’s reaching less than he’s ever had, and he’s making more contact than he’s ever made. At this strikeout rate, there’s plenty of room for regression while still showing batting average improvement. Monter’s hit .280+ in three of his five big-sample years, and I think he’ll do that again this year.

Brandon Moss isn’t seeing the same kind of radical changes in his swing profile, but the contact is up and the strikeout rate is down. This is interesting because he’s made more contact in the past, but seemed to go with the Big Swing for the Big Power. His owners own him for the power, so I’m a little more ambivalent about this big change.

Yoenis Cespedes is swinging less, reaching less, and making more per-pitch contact, so I’m buying this new contact rate. It’s not statistically important, but it’s nice to see it come with a better walk rate and comments from the player himself about shortening his swing. Since BABIP is hiding the fact that he’s improved, he makes for a decent buy-low, actually.

I love Jason Kipnis, still do.

Pedro Alvarez! God of Whiffs! What will we do if you change so fundamentally? We will go buy you. Because you have decided to swing less, reach less, and make more contact. And you haven’t cost your power. And you’re walking more. If only your batting average on balls in play (.161) loved you as much as I do right now.

On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve talked about Brad Miller enough, and it all looks bad. Every day makes him more droppable. Edwin Encarnacion, though, is getting a pass. But maybe he shouldn’t. At least, it doesn’t look like he’ll have his customary great strikeout rate this year. But it’s a testament to how good his strikeout rate used to be that he can fall this far and still have something close to an average strikeout rate. If the wrist is fine, I’m only slightly worried, because he can still provide a ton of value even with a worse batting average.

Norichika Aoki and Garrett Jones are both older gentlemen with flawed games. At their current rates, they’re playing themselves out of mixed league relevance quickly.

The next two are more important to more of yous. Mike Trout is probably unassailable, and it’s worth noticing that most of his swing rates are fine, it’s just a little drop in contact rate. This might need more attention. But there is reason to worry about Martin Prado. His swing rates are unchanged, but his ability to make contact outside the zone — not a skill that ages well — dropped seven points. That’s how you turn a small change in contact rate into a huge change in strikeout rate. Given his career strikeout rate is 10.6%, and he’s at 17% now, even with regression, we’re likely looking at Prado’s worst year for strikeouts. And his game is built on contact.

We’ll try to look into the rest of these guys, but here’s a sortable table that you can use for yourself:

Name PA K% 2013K% 14K-13K% BABIP AVG
Miguel Montero 105 8.6% 23.2% -14.6% 0.273 0.271
Brandon Moss 96 18.8% 27.7% -8.9% 0.295 0.268
Yoenis Cespedes 95 15.8% 23.9% -8.1% 0.242 0.238
Jason Kipnis 107 14.0% 21.7% -7.7% 0.264 0.247
Pedro Alvarez 107 23.4% 30.3% -6.9% 0.161 0.172
James Loney 97 6.2% 12.9% -6.7% 0.316 0.306
Matt Adams 98 18.4% 25.1% -6.7% 0.408 0.337
Alex Gordon 101 13.9% 20.1% -6.2% 0.313 0.277
Emilio Bonifacio 99 16.2% 22.3% -6.1% 0.405 0.333
Mike Napoli 106 26.4% 32.4% -6.0% 0.390 0.304
B.J. Upton 100 28.0% 33.9% -5.9% 0.295 0.211
Carlos Gonzalez 101 21.8% 27.1% -5.3% 0.265 0.234
Starlin Castro 100 13.0% 18.3% -5.3% 0.304 0.292
Justin Morneau 97 12.4% 17.3% -4.9% 0.360 0.356
Jose Altuve 116 7.8% 12.6% -4.8% 0.309 0.292
Chase Utley 99 10.1% 14.9% -4.8% 0.377 0.360
Jhonny Peralta 93 17.2% 21.9% -4.7% 0.167 0.195
Ben Zobrist 114 8.8% 13.0% -4.2% 0.321 0.313
Albert Pujols 110 8.2% 12.4% -4.2% 0.244 0.290
Alfonso Soriano 101 20.8% 24.9% -4.1% 0.286 0.258
Aramis Ramirez 102 11.8% 15.7% -3.9% 0.288 0.280
Neil Walker 111 11.7% 15.4% -3.7% 0.217 0.235
Prince Fielder 109 12.8% 16.4% -3.6% 0.227 0.209
Troy Tulowitzki 98 13.3% 16.6% -3.3% 0.349 0.342
Asdrubal Cabrera 100 17.0% 20.3% -3.3% 0.250 0.211
Jed Lowrie 114 10.5% 13.7% -3.2% 0.316 0.292
Evan Longoria 109 20.2% 23.4% -3.2% 0.351 0.296
Michael Brantley 102 7.8% 11.0% -3.2% 0.253 0.264
Jay Bruce 103 23.3% 26.5% -3.2% 0.271 0.224
Anthony Rendon 112 14.3% 17.5% -3.2% 0.326 0.298
Adam LaRoche 104 19.2% 22.2% -3.0% 0.359 0.307
Chris Davis 94 26.6% 29.6% -3.0% 0.333 0.250
Hunter Pence 109 13.8% 16.7% -2.9% 0.282 0.253
Alejandro De Aza 90 18.9% 21.8% -2.9% 0.190 0.183
Ryan Howard 107 27.1% 30.0% -2.9% 0.295 0.245
Yasiel Puig 96 19.8% 22.5% -2.7% 0.311 0.265
Trevor Plouffe 105 19.0% 21.5% -2.5% 0.388 0.310
Freddie Freeman 107 16.8% 19.2% -2.4% 0.371 0.344
Alex Rios 107 14.0% 16.3% -2.3% 0.376 0.330
Todd Frazier 97 18.6% 20.8% -2.2% 0.266 0.244
Eric Hosmer 104 12.5% 14.7% -2.2% 0.341 0.295
Nolan Arenado 109 11.9% 14.0% -2.1% 0.303 0.298
Anthony Rizzo 104 16.3% 18.4% -2.1% 0.319 0.284
Nelson Cruz 101 21.8% 23.9% -2.1% 0.305 0.284
Nick Markakis 111 9.0% 10.9% -1.9% 0.330 0.300
Dan Uggla 93 30.1% 31.8% -1.7% 0.281 0.209
Ian Kinsler 96 8.3% 9.6% -1.3% 0.284 0.278
Allen Craig 103 16.5% 17.8% -1.3% 0.203 0.177
Elvis Andrus 110 12.7% 13.9% -1.2% 0.284 0.253
Domonic Brown 101 16.8% 18.0% -1.2% 0.311 0.264
Joey Votto 112 17.9% 19.0% -1.1% 0.328 0.287
Dustin Pedroia 115 9.6% 10.4% -0.8% 0.305 0.274
Jean Segura 94 12.8% 13.5% -0.7% 0.267 0.239
Jimmy Rollins 102 13.7% 14.0% -0.3% 0.280 0.261
Chris Carter 92 35.9% 36.2% -0.3% 0.238 0.169
Matt Holliday 107 14.0% 14.3% -0.3% 0.312 0.272
Howie Kendrick 111 17.1% 17.3% -0.2% 0.354 0.300
David Ortiz 103 14.6% 14.7% -0.1% 0.250 0.253
Yonder Alonso 97 12.4% 12.5% -0.1% 0.198 0.174
Alexei Ramirez 109 10.1% 10.1% 0.0% 0.360 0.350
Omar Infante 97 9.3% 9.2% 0.1% 0.289 0.279
Paul Goldschmidt 124 21.0% 20.4% 0.6% 0.369 0.306
Jonathan Lucroy 95 12.6% 11.9% 0.7% 0.347 0.306
Giancarlo Stanton 112 28.6% 27.8% 0.8% 0.328 0.270
Daniel Murphy 104 14.4% 13.6% 0.8% 0.337 0.289
Jayson Werth 111 19.8% 19.0% 0.8% 0.338 0.281
Yunel Escobar 97 13.4% 12.6% 0.8% 0.253 0.225
Leonys Martin 93 21.5% 20.5% 1.0% 0.400 0.309
Jacoby Ellsbury 103 15.5% 14.5% 1.0% 0.372 0.312
Gerardo Parra 118 16.1% 15.1% 1.0% 0.292 0.250
Dexter Fowler 94 22.3% 21.3% 1.0% 0.295 0.238
Jose Bautista 112 17.0% 15.9% 1.1% 0.305 0.294
Brett Gardner 91 22.0% 20.9% 1.1% 0.350 0.272
Robinson Cano 102 13.7% 12.5% 1.2% 0.342 0.301
Jason Castro 90 27.8% 26.5% 1.3% 0.265 0.221
Salvador Perez 97 13.4% 12.0% 1.4% 0.270 0.239
Erick Aybar 94 11.7% 10.0% 1.7% 0.286 0.261
Andrew McCutchen 120 16.7% 15.0% 1.7% 0.320 0.286
Alberto Callaspo 91 11.0% 9.1% 1.9% 0.279 0.272
Josh Donaldson 119 18.5% 16.5% 2.0% 0.291 0.278
Carlos Gomez 112 26.8% 24.7% 2.1% 0.373 0.297
Adeiny Hechavarria 101 18.8% 16.6% 2.2% 0.329 0.269
Wil Myers 101 26.7% 24.4% 2.3% 0.306 0.231
Juan Uribe 103 21.4% 19.0% 2.4% 0.360 0.310
Yadier Molina 95 12.6% 10.2% 2.4% 0.368 0.344
Buster Posey 91 14.3% 11.8% 2.5% 0.226 0.238
Hanley Ramirez 105 18.1% 15.5% 2.6% 0.324 0.280
Ben Revere 96 13.5% 10.7% 2.8% 0.363 0.312
Nick Swisher 113 24.8% 21.8% 3.0% 0.278 0.218
Miguel Cabrera 91 17.6% 14.4% 3.2% 0.299 0.259
Angel Pagan 100 15.0% 11.8% 3.2% 0.385 0.333
Carlos Santana 103 20.4% 17.1% 3.3% 0.150 0.122
Justin Smoak 92 26.1% 22.8% 3.3% 0.298 0.241
Billy Butler 102 18.6% 15.3% 3.3% 0.257 0.209
Carlos Beltran 98 18.4% 15.0% 3.4% 0.290 0.275
Colby Rasmus 91 33.0% 29.5% 3.5% 0.235 0.188
Adam Jones 103 23.3% 19.7% 3.6% 0.338 0.265
Melky Cabrera 117 16.2% 12.6% 3.6% 0.382 0.345
Brian Dozier 113 23.0% 19.3% 3.7% 0.217 0.217
Matt Dominguez 94 20.2% 16.3% 3.9% 0.234 0.221
Brett Lawrie 103 19.4% 15.4% 4.0% 0.157 0.179
Desmond Jennings 95 23.2% 19.1% 4.1% 0.357 0.269
Bryce Harper 91 23.1% 18.9% 4.2% 0.377 0.289
Kyle Seager 91 22.0% 17.6% 4.4% 0.241 0.228
Marlon Byrd 102 29.4% 24.9% 4.5% 0.385 0.278
Chris Johnson 92 26.1% 21.2% 4.9% 0.317 0.241
Joe Mauer 111 23.4% 17.5% 5.9% 0.358 0.266
Jedd Gyorko 101 29.7% 23.4% 6.3% 0.197 0.144
Will Venable 92 29.3% 22.9% 6.4% 0.295 0.205
Justin Upton 101 31.7% 25.0% 6.7% 0.440 0.330
Adrian Gonzalez 109 22.0% 15.3% 6.7% 0.333 0.313
Jason Heyward 107 23.4% 16.6% 6.8% 0.239 0.191
Aaron Hill 118 20.3% 13.3% 7.0% 0.310 0.255
Starling Marte 117 31.6% 24.4% 7.2% 0.343 0.229
Matt Carpenter 114 21.1% 13.7% 7.4% 0.356 0.281
Pablo Sandoval 99 21.2% 13.5% 7.7% 0.212 0.180
Eric Young 106 24.5% 16.7% 7.8% 0.302 0.216
David Wright 113 23.9% 16.1% 7.8% 0.355 0.275
Brandon Belt 104 29.8% 21.9% 7.9% 0.311 0.263
Everth Cabrera 109 23.9% 15.9% 8.0% 0.403 0.301
Ian Desmond 109 30.3% 22.1% 8.2% 0.313 0.243
Brandon Phillips 107 23.4% 14.7% 8.7% 0.338 0.262
Mike Trout 111 27.9% 19.0% 8.9% 0.413 0.320
Martin Prado 112 17.0% 8.0% 9.0% 0.284 0.234
Garrett Jones 102 32.4% 23.0% 9.4% 0.316 0.237
Norichika Aoki 102 15.7% 5.9% 9.8% 0.333 0.277
Brad Miller 90 28.9% 15.5% 13.4% 0.211 0.174
Edwin Encarnacion 107 23.4% 10.0% 13.4% 0.319 0.242



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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers’ fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A’s or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.



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Close to the Edge
Guest
Close to the Edge

Someone offered me Cespedes for Heyward in a 14 team 5×5 OBP redraft league. Normally would dismiss it out of hand but do you see this as getting to be a closer call?

Sgt. Hulka
Guest
Sgt. Hulka

Very close call, but I’d probably stick with Heyward. Just my two cents.

JKB
Guest
JKB

Yesterday, I was offered Cespedes for Tanaka in a 12 team 5X5 standard league, and declined.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya

I’d take Cespedes in that deal.

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