SCOUTING STATCAST (Volume I): Ohtani, B. Lowe, Musgrove and Wheeler

Some people take Adderall and accidentally spend hours on Wikipedia reading about Mediterranean diets, the origin of pretzels and the critical reception to Oasis albums upon release. I drink too much coffee and slide into a Baseball Savant rabbit hole, which I guess is the nerdy baseball adult edition of trying to beat certain levels of Super Mario Bros.

Baseball Savant/Statcast is a vital resource during my fantasy baseball prep, and should be for any player; it helps answer the question of why the numbers are what they are or could change in the future.

Since I spend so much time scouting Statcast, I wanted to compile some of my favorite spicy nuggets from the last months – off-and-on, of course – of research. Let’s call this Volume I:

Shohei Ohtani is healthy, we think, and his stuff is dirtier than an AVN convention.

--- Shohei Ohtani, who should be good to go on the mound, threw 192 split-fingers in 2018 and gave up just two hits with an insane 55.8 Whiff%. Also, his slider had .205 xwOBA; among SPs who threw 100+ sliders, only four had better active spin.

And even crazier about Ohtani: his fastball, despite averaging 96.7 MPH, was hammered and he threw 56 curves for an xBA of .089. So, Ohtani improving fastball command/spin and mixing in the curve more could unlock more dominance.

--- Joe Musgrove's four-seamer PutAway% when average velocity is below 93 MPH: 9.6 and 9.1% (2019); when average velocity is above 93 MPH: 18.2 and 19.2%. It’s not a coincidence Musgrove’s FIP (3.59 > 3.82), xFIP (3.92 > 4.31), and xERA (3.35 > 4.08) were all noticeably better in 2018 with the 93+ MPH average fastball velocity.

--- Zack Wheeler (2018/19) is among Gerrit Cole's top similarity scores (velo/movement).

2017 Cole (Pirates): 4.08 FIP, .254 xBA, .428 xSLG, .389 xwOBAcon, 23.1 K%, 6.5 BB%, 33.7 hard hit%

2019 Wheeler: 3.48 FIP, .250 xBA, .400 xSLG, .367 xwOBAcon, 23.6 K%, 6.0 BB%, 32.2 hard hit%

Is this the same as Cole going from the Pirates (sink the ball and our organization!) to Astros (four-seamers up, elite breaking stuff down)? No, but Wheeler should have much improved catching in 2020 and a chance in pitch arsenal could unlock better results.

Here’s what we’ll need to follow with Wheeler: his wife’s due date, reportedly, is around Opening Day. As a new father myself, I would totally expect Wheeler and his family to exercise extreme caution with COVID-19; it’s certainly possible he misses a start or perhaps even a lot of the season.

--- 2019 Batted-ball profiles for…

Ronald Acuna, Jr.:

SwSp%: 40.5

hard hit%: 46.9

barrel%: 15.0

barrels per PA%: 9.2

average exit velocity: 90.6 MPH

xwOBACON: .495

Brandon Lowe:

SwSp%: 40.2

hard hit%: 46.2

barrel%: 16.3

barrels per PA%: 9.2

average exit velocity: 91.1 MPH

xwOBACON: .501

The big difference? Acuna, Jr. doesn’t chase nearly as much, doesn’t strike out nearly as much, and Lowe is a fairly extreme pull hitter who had an extreme jump in fly ball rate last season. However, keep in mind Lowe is currently, according to Roster Resource, projected to hit leadoff against righthanders, and is an adjustment away, albeit a significant one, from a breakout.

Photos courtesy AP Images

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