Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Stats Pack - Freeman, Krol, Ender, Bonifacio

By EricEnfermero (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
203 wRC+

I can probably make an entire article out of the absolutely insane numbers Freddie Freeman is posting, but for today, let's focus on his Weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+. This is one of my favorite offensive stats because it combines total offensive performance, park factor, and league factors all in one easy to compare statistic. Freeman is currently one of six players over the 200 wRC+ mark - that is to say, they are 100%+ better than the league average. Since 1960, we have only seen seven 200 wRC+ or better seasons. Barry Bonds did it four consecutive years from '01-'04 while Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas each did it in the strike-shortened 1994. Mark McGwire's 70-homer campaign in 1998 is the only other example of this elite form of accomplishment. No Brave has ever done it. In fact, the closest a Brave ever came was Rogers Hornsby's one season with the Braves back in 1928 (196 wRC+). Hank Aaron holds the top Atlanta-mark with a 191 in 1971. Can Freeman keep up the pace? History is not on his side, but if he was able to do so, it would be a historic season for the Braves.


Ian Krol was an excellent performer for the Braves last season with a 2.91/2.97/2.81 FIP/xFIP/SIERA triple slash. There was plenty of reason to believe he would continue to help anchor a bullpen that supposedly was improved. Instead, he is one of the primary reasons for the pen's struggles. His groundball rate is down nearly 16%. This has led to more flyballs and with his hard-hit rate up nearly 10%, more of those flyballs are traveling a long way. He surrendered four homers last season. This year? Four in 37.1 fewer innings. To put that in another way, 23.5% of his flyballs have turned into goners. That's highly unlikely to continue and if it did, it's impossible to believe he would reach the 50-inning plateau. But if that rate continued over 50 innings, his 23.5% HR/FB rate would rank as tied for the tenth worst since the stat was introduced in 2002. Some of the names ahead of him - Todd Coffey, Yohan Flande, Roman Colon, Sergio Mitre, and Jonny Venters. Yep, Venters had a 24% HR/FB rate in 2012, which is also the last time we saw him in the majors.

Now the Unquestioned Best?

You are forgiven if you think Kevin Kiermaier is the best defensive center fielder in baseball, but so far this season, there is little reason to doubt that Ender Inciarte has been on top of the heap. The converted infielder Odubel Herrera is currently the only one who is a worthy challenger to the throne. On the year, Inciarte has a 6.7 UZR. His ARM rating is second to Billy Hamilton. No player has made more out-of-the-zone plays and he's playing even better than he did last year when he won a Gold Glove. Not sure if anyone has ever said this before - let alone put it in song-form - but for right now, Ender Inciarte is simply the best. He truly is better than the rest.

5.7 IP/GS

It's a strange dynamic the Braves have. They rank just outside the top ten in innings-per-start from their rotation and are tied for tenth is quality start percentage. Despite that, no team has given up more runs per game from their starting rotation than the Braves. No team has a worse average game score than the Braves. Here's something that's also funny - no team has bequeathed fewer runners than the Braves. Brian Snitker's managing style to this point has been to let his starters try to work through whatever troubles they have and complete innings. Some of that has to be due to a troublesome bullpen, but there's also a trust-factor related to the veteran staff.

Boni's Value

I know I have been critical of Emilio Bonifacio's continued usage of a roster spot, but he is on at least one leaderboard. Only Martin Maldonado has attempted more sacrifice bunts and nobody has put more bunts down successfully than Bonifacio. He's 4-for-5 and part of the reason the Braves have attempted the second-most sacrifice bunts in baseball. Not sure if we should celebrate that - especially since they are about average at putting them down - but it's something. I guess.

Minor League Saturday Stats Pack

Gwinnett - 25% 

With him back in Gwinnett after a short time in Atlanta, let's look at one of the stranger stats in the system. In 66 PA, Lane Adams has a 25% ground-ball rate. To put that into perspective, much has been made about Yonder Alonso's re-worked swing to get more elevation on the ball. It's working wonders for him and his groundball rate went from 44% to 24.7% overnight. Adams has always been in the low 40's in groundball rate so it's worth a look to see if this continues.

Mississippi - 20% or better

Imagine being a Southern League hitter facing the Mississippi Braves. You know they will bring their vaunted rotation with them, but just how tough have they been on hitters? Each of their starters has carried a 20% or better strikeout rate this season. Kolby Allard has a 20.4% rate, Max Fried checks in at 23.3%, Matt Withrow is next with a 23.4%, Mike Soroka is at 23.9%, and Patrick Weigel is a shade under a quarter of all batters as he K'd 24.8%. Weigel has since been promoted, but don't rejoice Southern League hitters. His replacement, Luiz Gohara, was striking out 26.7% of Florida State League batters.

Florida - Breakthrough Power

It's fair to criticize the Braves taking a chance on Alex Jackson. Not only had he been a failure in the Mariners' system, but he had work ethic concerns. I wasn't critical, though. I spoke of minor improvements in his batted ball rates and plate discipline. Truth be told, I was just reaching for reasons to show my optimism was fact-based. So far, I apparently had reason to believe good things were coming. In 33 games, Jackson has bashed ten homers while hitting .309/.363/.604. He's also posted a .431 wOBA according to Fangraphs. Defensively, he still has some issues to work through - as he should since he's played in the outfield since being drafted and is switching back to catcher - but so far, this trade looks like a good one for the Braves.

Rome - ERA Not Telling the Whole Story

With a 4.03 ERA, it's easy to ignore Joey Wentz when compared to Ian Anderson and Bryse Wilson, each with much more impressive marks. However, Wentz betters both in FIP and xFIP (2.26/3.29). This is due to Wentz's polished performance on the mound. He's walked just 5.7% of opposing batters, nearly 4% less than Wilson and close to 9% less than Anderson. While his strikeout rate is well below Anderson's, it's just a tick below Wilson's and like Anderson, he hasn't surrendered a homerun. No matter how you slice it, for the second consecutive season, the Rome Braves have an uber-exciting pitching staff.

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