Looks Can Be Decieving

Many opinions on the internet about prospects stem from their stats, and especially small sample size stats.  We are all guilty of making snap judgements, but often in that moment we miss out on the bigger picture.  Stats help create an objective look at what is happening in the game, but without context or proper use, they can be deceiving and lead us into opinions that may not be aligning with the truth.  So with all of that being said we are going to play a game of mystery players and look at some trends that may not be showing up in the traditional triple slash lines or the box scores.  Given the small sample size nature of these stat lines they are not meant to be predictive of the future, they are meant to show comparisons and past performance.

So lets start off with Player A and Player B who are showing some interesting trendings from 2013 to 2014.

Player A:

BB% K% ISO BABIP
2013 5.00% 23.20% 0.155 0.234
2014 5.60% 22.20% 0.281 0.25

Player B:

BB% K% ISO BABIP
2013 3.30% 16.80% 0.112 0.294
2014 10.60% 17.90% 0.097 0.256

In this case we see a pair of players taking a leap forward in one skill.  In the case of Player A the triple slash line (.203/.245/.359 vs .250/.278/.531) shows the difference and the sample size is only 36 PA for 2014, but Sebastian Valle has hit the ball hard so far this year.  I am not sure it is particularly sustainable, but it is an interesting start for a prospect who has had more downs than ups recently.

In this case Player B is more interesting because if you are only looking at the triple slash lines of .256/.280/.368 and .214/.314/.311 you are missing this development entirely.  But so far in only 123 PAs in 2014 this player is only 2 away from this walk total in 2013.  This player is Lehigh Valley OFer Leandro Castro.  It isn’t showing up in the stats yet, but he is making incremental improvements in the right direction.  He has put the ball in the air a lot more this year with a GB% that has dropped 10% and a FB% that is up 8%.  He is still hitting way too many pop ups, but the walk rate is a good place to start with this year.

Lets move on to a 3 player comparison

GB% FB% LD% IFFB% BB% K%
Player C 52.86% 24.29% 21.43% 1.43% 1.96% 24.51%
Player D 52.63% 18.42% 23.68% 5.26% 4.08% 14.29%
Player E 59.29% 19.47% 15.04% 6.19% 12.90% 13.55%

If I told you these were all players for the Blueclaws then you could easily pick out Player E as J.P. Crawford based on the walk and strikeout rates.  But this isn’t about Crawford at all, it is about Players C and D.  From the batted ball data the concerning thing is that it appears more of their fly balls are in the infield, but otherwise walk rate is up and k rate is down.  Now what if I told you the stat lines for Player C and D were .277/.303/.351 and .146/.222/.171 respectively.  It would now look like it is all just the noise of small sample size data.  That is what it looks like is actually happening here, as Player C is Carlos Tocci in April and Player D is Carlos Tocci in May.  Last night’s game was the epitome of what has been happening with Tocci as he flied out to RF, flied to CF, lined out to RF, and was out on a bunt hit attempt.  Another fun fact here is that facing the same defenses Crawford has 11 infield hits and Tocci only has 1, scouting the stat lines can lead you to many different conclusions.

Now lets just look at Player F across April and May.

AVG OBP SLG
April 0.382 0.427 0.596
May 0.244 0.358 0.267

If you been following the system closely this is very clearly Reading outfielder Cameron Perkins.  After having 14 extra base hits in April he only has 1 so far in May.  The biggest difference is a decline in line drive % from 27.27% to 13.89%, Perkins has stopped driving the ball as well in May.  More interesting is that his walk rate went from 6.06% to 12.73% while is strikeout rate fell from 14.14% to 9.09%.  He is actually walking more in May than he is striking out.  There is enough small sample size here to debate how much noise is present, but it is certainly an interesting trend so far.

Here is Player G and his lefty righty splits

AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
vs LHP 0.282 0.349 0.487 9.09% 11.36%
vs RHP 0.225 0.301 0.333 7.96% 19.47%

These numbers are really small sample size (43 and 111 PAs respectively) and they have actually to some extent reversed in May as opposed to April as the player has heated up.  But both of their May HRs have come off of LHPs.  I am of course referring to Lehigh Valley third baseman Maikel Franco.  It is worth seeing how the splits play out over a longer period of time, because one of the concerns is how much the length of his swing affects his ability to react to different pitches.  If he is losing just a little bit of time reacting to to righties vs lefties, that could be something to watch for.

In other news, Franco is actually elevating the ball more in May, but he is deriving more of his power from the pull side.  So far in May he is 12-13 on balls hit to the left side of the outfield with 5 2Bs and 2 HRs, and he is 2-7 of balls hit to the right side of the outfield with no extra base hits.  He is still really pull happy on the year and it will be interesting if teams shift him the major leagues if he keeps it up.

Maikel  Franco_HeatMap (6)

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

9 thoughts on “Looks Can Be Decieving

  1. Nice Article Matt and i really like the perspective you shared with your opening paragraph. Take Perkins for example. How many explanations can we come up with to explain the change in his numbers(Pitchers adjusting to scouting reports, Regression to what will be his mean, SSS slump), and it could be all of them. Sometimes we forget that it is a chess match between the pitcher and batter because the most readily available information is results based which is only part of the picture.

  2. Great piece! It’s this kind of thing I really appreciate – especially as I compare to the Nats prospects blogs (which I have been exploring as i live smack dab between several of their A and AA teams).

  3. Interesting data, thanks. With Franco, he spent a lot of time two years ago in LWood changing his swing to use all fields. I recall he was required to hit the opposite way for awhile. This year he has again changed his swing mechanics. I’m hoping its just a process where this change got him back to his pull roots and he’s slowly working on adapting again to use the whole field with his new mechanics. It truly is a long process.

  4. thanks matt. Its these type of technical articles that keeps me coming back to site. I would like to see more of mystery numbers with player revealed below.

  5. Yeah, I agree. I love this stuff…

    …but not as a scout, real or pretend. I love it because I can combine it with what I’m seeing on the field every day.

    Valle: Much better approach at the plate–he’s identifying pitches and finding the ones with which he can make good contact. He has a plan and he’s executing. Gone are the days when Ryno had to talk to him before every pitch (during the playoff run in 2012) to let him know what to do and what to expect.

    Castro: He’s fun to watch. Last night he saved bases three times from RF because he got to liners before they got to the wall and made really strong throws to second. All singles which would have been doubles. At the plate he’s simply more patient. I didn’t feel like he had trouble identifying pitches last season, just that he wanted to hit them ALL. Like Vlad Guerrero without the supernatural ability. Now it’s slowing down for him a bit.

    Franco: Kind of a combination of the above two: recognizing the pitches and learning when and how to put a good swing on them. Things are slowing down a bit for him. There is no question that the ball jumps off his bat differently than any player we have here in the Lehigh Valley now or in the past. There were times Taylor and Brown may have approached it, but it’s just different somehow. He’s looking good; let’s see if he can maintain. Also, the fielding’s been tremendous. He made a really nice stab while playing 1B last night…

    How does any of this correspond to their respective chances on the Major League level? I have no idea; it’s not my job. I’m not sure Valle’s back to being a “top prospect,” Castro’s ceiling is still probably fourth outfielder, and Franco’s a good kid who should be able to withstand the struggles that are inevitable as he continues to move up. I haven’s seen anything that makes me think he can’t play 3B, though.

    What I do know is that all three have been fun to watch play the game…

    1. There’s a common theme here, and one that applies to other players in the upper minors: more patience, a better approach. It’s not universal, but strong enough that I wonder if it is a result of a changed approach in the coaching.

      I should know this, but are there new hitting coaches at Reading and Lehigh Valley this season?

      1. I don’t know about Reading, but Sal Rende’s been here for a while. There has been the addition of Mickey Morandini, though…

        For Castro and Valle I attribute it to age, time, experience, really. For Franco as well, but on a different (read: quicker) scale as he learns to use his talents at the new level and enjoys the warmer temperatures….

  6. The Valle line is interesting, though not for the small sample size power this year. For me what is interesting is the continued low BABIP for both years. Even with those 2 years Valle has a career BABIP of .310. Being at .234 and .250 the last couple of years suggests to me that his depressed value is partly due to luck. I am really surprised by how little playing time he is getting as well. I think he still has value as a prospect even if he is a little behind Rupp and Joseph now.

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