Wednesday, May 8

Ryan Mountcastle Is Having a Bizarre One

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A giant a part of this gig early within the season has to do with figuring out outliers and regression candidates, both to have a good time the previous or warn concerning the latter. The Statcast-based anticipated statistics have made this job many orders of magnitude simpler than it was a decade in the past, so I’ve spent a lot of the previous month trying on the league leaders for xwOBA and the like.

Ryan Mountcastle has been up there. Through Monday’s video games, he’s forty second amongst certified hitters in xwOBA, one spot forward of his teammate Adley Rutschman and two forward of Alex Bregman. More to the purpose, his precise wOBA (.298) is 92 factors decrease than his xwOBA, which is the sixth-biggest discrepancy within the majors amongst certified hitters.

Mountcastle has been at the least a league-average hitter, by wRC+, in each season of his main league profession. Is he simply getting unfortunate in a small pattern? I imply, most likely, however that’s not the one cause he’s having a bizarre 12 months.

If you’ve listened to as a lot Hardcore History as I’ve, you possibly can solely hear the phrase “the extremes of the human experience” within the explicit lusty growl Dan Carlin breaks out when he’s about to learn an in depth description of some medieval unlucky being disembowled in a public setting. Which is kind of occurring to Mountcastle.

Sure, he’s hitting the ball exhausting however underperforming his anticipated stats, however who cares? So is Rob Refsnyder. So is Shohei Ohtani, when you’ve got a strict sufficient definition of “underperforming.”

Mountcastle is a reasonably aggressive hitter. In his first three seasons, he posted stroll charges within the 7% vary, which is under league common (9.0% this season) however not particularly uncommon. His chase price, nonetheless, has been within the worst 10% of the league yearly of his profession, and it’s at the moment within the second percentile.

Or, should you desire, Mountcastle hasn’t walked since April 7. He has a nine-RBI recreation since he walked final. And that stroll on April 7 is Mountcastle’s solely stroll since Opening Day. Feels like anybody who walks simply as soon as in 22 video games ought to seek the advice of a doctor.

Perhaps you possibly can already see what this implies for Mountcastle’s stat line. While most hitters get on base with out placing the ball in play a couple of instances per week, Mountcastle is producing virtually all of his offensive worth on balls in play. So it stands to cause that his xwOBA isn’t precisely capturing the extent to which he’s having exhausting luck as soon as the ball leaves his bat.

Sure sufficient, should you take solely Mountcastle’s numbers on contact, the scenario is much more excessive. He has the second-biggest destructive discrepancy within the league between his wOBACON and his xwOBACON, behind Josh Naylor. The destructive discrepancy between his batting common on contact and his xBACON is the third-largest in baseball, behind Naylor and Alek Thomas. (And no person’s proud of being denied anticipated BACON.)

The cause Mountcastle’s anticipated stats look so good is he’s posting by far the perfect contact numbers of his profession, and when he does get wooden on the ball, he’s hitting the bejeezus out of it.

So far this 12 months, Mountcastle is posting a career-low strikeout price and a career-high contact price (by an enormous margin). On pitches within the zone, he’s making contact 87.6% of the time, which is sort of 10 share factors higher than final 12 months. In 2022, his in-zone contact price was 114th out of 130 certified hitters. (One spot forward of Javier Báez, should you have been curious what degree of swing-and-miss we have been coping with.) This season, it’s thirty seventh out of 179.

In addition to these much-improved contact numbers, Mountcastle is within the 93rd percentile in common exit velocity, the 88th percentile in hard-hit price, and the 94th percentile in xSLG. So is he getting unfortunate, or is there a Mountcastle-shaped gap in xwOBA?

The cause anticipated stats are extra helpful as an mixture measure than uncooked exit velocity is the truth that not all batted balls are created equal. A 100 mph fly ball has a reasonably good probability of changing into a house run, whereas a 100 mph groundball has a reasonably good probability of changing into a double play. Grounders generate the next batting common than fly balls, however far fewer extra-base hits, whereas line drives are the best kind of batted ball basically.

The case for Mountcastle having unhealthy luck will be summed up in two fast stats, after which I’m going to dump a bunch of tables on you. (All numbers from this level ahead are present by means of Monday.)

First, the league-wide batting common on line drives is .701. Mountcastle is hitting .474 on liners, which is one hundred and fifty fifth out of 161 batters with at the least 10 line drives this season. That’s ludicrous. I didn’t comprehend it was attainable to hit below .500 on line drives. Second, Mountcastle has 10 batted balls this 12 months that have been hit within the air (i.e. a line drive or a fly ball) at 100 mph or extra, and changed into outs. That’s tied for essentially the most in baseball this season.

Just as anticipated stats are extra informative than exit velocity as a result of they incorporate launch angle, they do depart one thing to be desired as a result of they don’t let you know what path the ball was hit. Sometimes that doesn’t matter — a line drive is a possible hit wherever it goes — and typically it issues loads.

Here, you possibly can see each batted ball hit within the majors this 12 months, sorted by path (pull, middle, reverse) and sort (line drive, groundball, fly ball), giving us 9 buckets. The quantity in every cell is the proportion of whole batted balls that fell right into a sure bucket:

League-Wide Batted Ball Distribution, 2023

Direction LD GB FB
Pull 8.1% 23.6% 9.1%
Center 6.8% 14.1% 13.6%
Opposite 5.5% 5.0% 14.2%

Now, listed below are Mountcastle’s 72 batted balls to date this season, sorted into the identical buckets:

Mountcastle’s Batted Ball Distribution, 2023

Direction LD GB FB
Pull 6.9% 8.3% 4.2%
Center 8.3% 12.5% 22.2%
Opposite 11.1% 5.6% 12.5%

So Mountcastle is hitting extra line drives than the remainder of the league, which is nice. And he’s not pulling the ball, which is nice in some circumstances and unhealthy in others. Here’s the league-wide wOBA on batted balls for every path. The buckets wherein Mountcastle is hitting the next share of batted balls than the league are crammed in pink, whereas buckets the place the league is hitting extra regularly than Mountcastle are crammed in blue:

League-Wide wOBA by Batted Ball Type

Direction LD GB FB
Pull 381 8 382
Center 353 38 92
Opposite 319 147 22

Mountcastle is filling up essentially the most worthwhile batted ball buckets, with two exceptions: First, pulled line drive, which doesn’t matter. Mountcastle has a line drive price of 26.4% to the league’s 20.4%. If he’s hitting virtually a 3rd extra line drives than league common, no person cares what path they’re entering into. Besides, Mountcastle has hit so few balls in play that the distinction between beating the league common to that facet and never is one hit.

The second batted ball kind the place the league is thrashing Mountcastle is pulled fly balls, which issues loads.

Form a psychological picture, if you’ll, of a fly ball hit to the pull facet, and one other of a fly ball hit to the alternative area. The former goes again, again, again to the observe; the latter is dropping into an outfielder’s glove 40 ft in need of the fence. The league-wide HR/FB price on pulled fly balls is 30.2%; to the alternative area, it’s 4.0%. Pulling the ball within the air as an alternative of hitting it the opposite approach provides an extra 257 factors of batting common and 360 factors of wRC+.

Mountcastle is hitting loads of balls within the air, however he’s solely pulled three fly balls to date this season. Two of these, by the way, grew to become house runs. So he ought to hit extra of these, I suppose.

Other than that, it’s exhausting to see a lot of something Mountcastle may enhance, strictly by way of his batted ball profile. All he has to do is look ahead to his luck to vary, and he’ll be the perfect hitter with a sub-3% stroll price of all time.

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