Thursday, August 31, 2023


Yes, homers are up over the past two months. That has driven a slow, steady improvement in batting average as 2023 has progressed. 

The HR uptick is not a healthy sign, as it suggests that we're still entrenched in the "launch angle" game. Pitcher injuries are up--particularly amongst top-flight starters--and that is also contributing to a measurable decay in pitcher quality during the second half of '23.

Let's go right to the data:

The troublesome areas are marked in yellow and orange; the HR/9 column at far right puts into bold type any monthly average that's above the current MLB HR/G average (1.22).

And as you can see, it's starting pitching that has been decaying over the past two months, in both leagues, as a year with elevated injury issues has taken its toll.

AL relief pitching has also hit the skids in the past two months; the NL, not so much, though there's been an milder uptick during August.

Our guess is that this is a temporary setback for pitching and that a counter-move will come into play early in 2024, but right now the game is showing that the odd-year "launch angle" pattern is still intact.

We'll follow up with a look at team pitching once the final August numbers come in, followed by a look at the Dodgers' run in August (24-5) in historical context. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 11, 2023


The old-school sabermetric tools still work, thank you very much. And we haven't seen anyone do a list for hitters just based on their hitting for awhile, because the so-called "new school" has rabbit-holed themselves with various forms of defensive data and will overlay that into what they present at the drop of a hat...

...or sometimes even before the hat starts to fall.

Here at BBB--and just like you--we know that a second baseman with an OPS+ of 150 is going to be more valuable than a first baseman with an OPS+ of 150. But sometimes we just want to get the lay of the land, and we don't want to be heavily massaged by Statcast or Phangrafs. We're cool with "old school" because we're there are times when we' re just interested in the hitting numbers. 

So that's what we have for you today: baseball's top hitters, in five tiers. Data is through yesterday (August 10th). Here are your top guys, those with OPS+ of 150 or higher:

Bet you didn't know that Corey Seager was that close to Shohei Ohtani in OPS+, did you? If Seager hadn't missed six weeks early in the year, he'd have a semi-serious shot at the MVP award. (He said, snorting: no way an "old school" stat line that looks like a 1930s player is going to beat out the Fold It Two Ways God with the homer mystique.)

The real pity of 2023 is that Aaron Judge got hurt, as he was on pace to have a season very similar to the one that denied Ohtani the MVP last season. 

Note that players aged 25 and younger have their stats rendered in orange. (We were in an orange mood, like Madge Rapf above, which still doesn't explain to you who she is, despite bearing a striking resemblance to Agnes Moorehead.)

We took the plate appearance threshold down to 90 PA to include a few folk you wouldn't see otherwise who are currently hitting (the banged-up-but-still-great Jose Altuve among them). At this moment, this is looking like Mookie Betts' best season since 2018.

But the big talk in the NL is Ronald Acuna, Jr., still on track to (literally) run away with the MVP award.

And now, the second tier, those hitters with OPS+ of 140-149:

This range is kind of a thin group this year, with only two hitters (Luis Arraez and Kyle Tucker) playing regularly. We're also not entirely sure that the young guys here (Zack Gelof, Matt Wallner, Ryan Jeffers) are really going to hold this level, but they might. 

Cody Bellinger is certainly setting himself up for a big free agent payday this off-season, isn't he?

Let's gear ourselves up for the third tier, all the folk whose OPS+ is between 130 and 139:

We have a more sizable number of youngish hitters in this category, ten in all. Corbin Carroll was flying higher earlier in the season (as were his Diamondbacks--whose dive has been even more precipitous than Madge Rapf's), but he's still having an impressive speed-power year. 

Strange to see Mickey Moniak right next to the ever-injured Mike Trout, whose rate numbers have taken a tumble over the past two years. It's unlikely that Mickey will remain there, however, given that extreme BB/K ratio he's carrying. 

Hidden away from most everyone outside of San Diego is the fine year being turned in by He-Seong Kim, now playing second base for the Padres. 

And it's nice to see Christian Yelich have something like a return to form after his dark passage in the wilderness since the "pandemic season."

Let's continue on to the hitters with OPS+ values between 125 and 129:

We always miss at least one color-coding, and this time it's Adley Rutschman, having a stalwart sophomore season for the Orioles.

This is more of an older guy bracket than what we've seen previously, with J.D. Martinez, Christian Walker, Nolan Arenado, Brandon Belt, the enigmatic Tommy Pham (who wasn't traded away at the deadline for once...) and Jorge Soler all residing here. But there are also plenty of interesting younger folk, many of whom can be expected to improve even more in the future: keep your eye on Lars Nootbaar and Christopher Morel.

And, finally, the fifth tier: those hitters with OPS+ in the 120-124 range:

Here's your bumper crop, with even more older players in tow: interesting to note that the Dodgers and the Red Sox essentially exchanged older players in their lineups this year (Justin Turner to Boston, J.D. Martinez--in the fourth tier with a 128 OPS+--to LA) and both of those oldsters have kept on keeping on.

Boston is still struggling, trapped in the tough AL East, but their patience with Tristan Casas seems to be paying off and they could well be a bigger force in things come next season. 

Note the 60-point range in OPS amongst the hitters with a 124 OPS+. That's because OPS+ is ballpark-adjusted: J.P. Crawford and Brent Rooker play in pitchers' parks (Seattle and Oakland), while Jarren Duran and Joey Votto play in hitters parks (Boston and Cincinnati). 

FROM which side of the plate do the top batters take their swings? Let's break it down in tiers; in the top tier (150+ OPS+), there are five LHB, seven RHB. In the second tier (140-49), there are three LHP, nine RHB. In the third tier (130-39) there are nine LHB, eleven RHB, and two switch-hitters. In the fourth tier (125-29), there are six LHB, eight RHB, and two switch hitters. In the fifth tier (120-24) there are fourteen LHB, twelve RHB and four switch-hitters. 

That adds up to 37 left-handed hitters, 47 right-handed hitters, and eight switch-hitters. 

We'll look at this again after the conclusion of the World Series...stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023


Monthly tracking might get an interesting wrinkle if we bundled the results we have for you (monthly data for April-July) with what then transpires in August-September--in other words, after the trading deadline adjustment. Such data isn't readily available without additional back-end summarizing efforts, but we might have a chance to do some of that in the near this space, just in case.

Meanwhile, here are the updated monthly 2023 summaries for the National League, presented by division. First, we get flyover country out of the way with the NL Central:

You'll just have to imagine the green-colored squares for the Reds' starters in April, May and June (we'll fix that for the August update). That would make it clearer that Cincy actually got some better work from the rotation in July, which kept their June momentum from fizzling. The bullpen is doing a great deal of heavy lifting for the Reds this year: their relievers are 33-17, as opposed to 26-30 for their starters.

The Cubs survived poor starting pitching in July to post their second winning month in a row: as with the Reds, they got a boost from the bullpen. Meanwhile, the Brewers are 39-40 over the past three months, just treading water. The Pirates (27-49 since May 1st) are back to being a mess, while the Cardinals remain intensely enigmatic: their fire sale at the trading deadline could make for some "interesting" pitching numbers in August...

Now let's head East:

We did a little better with the color-coding here. As we suspected, the Braves cooled off, as their starting pitching remains spotty. The Fish hit an underwater headwind (you figure out what that is...) and are now swimming upstream for a post-season berth. The Phils had a solid follow-up to their hot June, and look poised to make another run, but they need more consistency from their starters. 

The Mets actually had a decent July, but it wasn't good enough to keep management from backing up the truck and unloading a whole lot of merchandise. (That 1-13 record from their relievers in June seems to have the killing blow to Steve Cohen's overwrought pipe dream.) And what can anyone say about the Nats, except how the heck did they go 12-14 last month with such crummy pitching?

Now, the long red-eye haul to the left coast:

Serious rough patches in starting pitcher performance for the two front-running teams (Dodgers and Diamondbacks) might be letting those pesky Giants back into things. SF's manager Gabe Kapler, who's shown some intriguing "retro" sensibilities now and again, might be listening to the Who's venerable rock opera Tommy via his earbuds: that would explain the "pinball wizardry" he's been displaying with his bullpen over the past two months. (Giants' relievers are 24-5 since June 1, and 38-17 for the year.)

By contrast, the Padres bullpen is now 4-18 since May 1, which is one of the key reasons why they're still looking to get some traction vis-a-vis the post-season. They kept their top pitchers for the stretch run, and we might just have a four-team race develop in the NL West.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023


We've been swamped with non-baseball work for the past few weeks; we've just enough time, however, to update the monthly pitching summaries, which we think give you an excellent "birds-eye" view of the performance ebb and flow for starters and relievers.

Today, the American League:

We start with the "stinky division" (aka the AL Central). You can see the White Sox' fire sale coming in the July numbers, along with the continuing decline of the Twins' starting pitching. Somehow their bullpen managed to go 8-4 in July despite a 5.19 ERA, which saved them from a third consecutive losing month. The smart money (such as it is) is probably on Cleveland...

On to the East, where the Rays slid and the O's flew high in July. Baltimore's relievers have a cumulative 29-14 record, which is bailing out a spotty core of starters. The Jays seem to be gearing up to give chase to the front runners, with their starter/reliever ERAs staying steadily above-average. The Red Sox are probably not going to pull it together, as their starters are still sub-par, but their bullpen had a fine July, helping them to their best month of the year. The Yankees' pitching faded notably this past month, leaving them in danger of becoming AL East cellar-dwellers at season's end for the first time since...*

And the red-eye to the West, which shows those ever-lovin' A's as just a bad team instead of an all-time travesty. The Rangers have been giving ground over the past two months, and that's let the Astros back in the division race despite pitching woes: Houston got away with murder in July, as their bullpen pitched poorl overall but managed to pull it together in key spots and post a 7-2 record anyway. The Mariners got great pitching and their July was the best in the AL West; the Angels continue to float along at just a tad over .500 as they try to gather enough momentum to challenge for a Wild Card slot before they (presumably) lose Shohei Ohtani to the highest bidder. 

Tomorrow, the National League...
*Since 1990...haven't you kept pace with the "Expansionist Extravaganza," for Crissakes? (Update on that coming up later this month...stay tuned.)