Sunday Shenanigans 7: A True Moneyball Line

Sunday Shenanigans 7: A True Moneyball Line

by May 16, 2021 1 comment

To follow up the most contested Sunday Shenanigans last week, this week gave us the least contested one. That means that we will have to go with a broad, more outside-the-box approach. It’s fitting, considering that this is a wacky series on its own.

This week’s winner is White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal, who is really highlighting where baseball offense is going, but to the extreme. Grandal is known as one of the best backstops in baseball, but this year has been a strange ride at the plate for him.

The Good Ol’ No-Contact Game

Grandal has had a crazy May. In his first three games, he managed zero hits, but he walked nine times.

That brings us to this week. He has played in six games, and the first one came on May 8 against the Cincinnati Reds. It was a doozy, as Grandal came up to the plate on four separate occasions, and saw 16 combined balls. He ended the day by going 0-for-0 while walking four times. For the rest of the week, Grandal had just two hits and three walks. Each of those hits were home runs. His last single came on April 30. Before that? His fourth game of the season on April 5.

He definitely is not a singles man. In fact, he has just three on the season, with four home runs. What should feel like an awful start, may not actually be so.

Elite Plate Discipline

Major League Baseball teams are emphasizing walks more than ever, and Grandal’s hitting philosophy reflects that. Looking at his 2019 and 2020 seasons also reflect that. In 2019, his one year with the Milwaukee Brewers, he hit a measly .246 but walked 109 times. His on-base percentage (OBP) reached an elite .380. His average dropped even more last year, as he hit just .230. However, Grandal walked 30 times in 46 games, raising his OBP to .351. This year is a much, much more extreme example.

Of the 203 MLB batters with at least 100 plate appearances in 2021, the White Sox have two catchers on the top and bottom. Yermin Mercedes is more of a DH, but a DH who is hitting .374. Allllllllll the way at the bottom of a very long list is Grandal, at .125. That means he gets a hit every eighth time up. Mercedes gets roughly three hits every eight at bats. The second-worst average in the league belongs to Kansas City’s Hunter Dozier, who is still 15 points up on Grandal.

Where the veteran catcher makes do is obviously his walk rate. He has already walked 29 times this year and has played in just 26 games. He has a walk rate of 28.2 percent. Of those 203 aforementioned batters, that is first by a lot. Max Muncy is second at 23.2 percent. The only other person above twenty percent is Arizona’s own catcher Carson Kelly. So despite the .125 average, Grandal has a .373 OBP. This contrasts amazingly with many players, but especially with Yordan Alvarez. The Houston Astros’ outfielder is hitting .346, which is third in the league. But, he has walked just four times, for a 2.9 BB percentage.

The two have nearly identical OBPs, with Alvarez edging out Grandal by two points. That is amazing, considering the 221-point difference in batting average.

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