Welcome to The Opener, where every day of the week morning in regular time you’ll receive a new, topical story to start your day from one of SI.com’s MLB writers.
You see a ball hit the right way, back, back, back. you to hear it. It was a home run. How could this not be? No more. It has to be … until it dies on the track, lying comfortably in the glove of a waiting outfielder.
If you’ve watched, oh, three innings from this MLB season, you’ve seen this scenario play out even once.
Balls that look like they should be hit instead of ending up as outs. That’s evident in the disappointments expressed by some players and coaches — who shared their doubts about the quality of baseball itself. But it’s even clearer statistically: Specifically, the IMMINENT statistically, Statcast numbers like xBA and xSLG show what a hitter’s “should” performance is based on batted-ball data. At the individual level, a gap between expected and actual statistics can tell us about a player underperforming or over -performing, and what we can expect going forward. At the general league level, however, there is no general gap at all: In a sample of that size, what you “should” see is often more or less what you done.
This year looks different now.
See. Here are the expected league -wide statistics compared to actual statistics over the past few seasons:
At a glance: Typically, there is little difference between what the data predicts and what actually happens at the league level. But this year, there is a comparatively place of a. (The difference in actual and expected batting average right now is equivalent to the difference between what was the worst offense in the league in history and what was the best in a few years.) But it’s not that simple! Here’s a breakdown of what we can – and can’t – learn from the expected statistics so far.
Is This the Largest Gap We See Between Expected and Actual Statistics?
Perhaps this is clear from the chart above: Yeah, duh, big gap. But the real answer is… type, perhaps, but not so much.
For context, this expected statistic comes from taking basic information about an individual bathed ball — such as exit velocity, launch angle and the ballpark where it was hit — and comparing that with previous data to determine the possible outcome. . But the key here is the data used to make the comparisons. The league calculates the baseline for that twice each year, according to MLB statistician Mike Petriello: once at the All-Star Break and once again after the end of the season. This means that ago the All-Star Break — like, let’s say, today! —the baseline actually comes from years past.
Yes, it’s all bad, (literally) inside-baseball stuff. But it is important to understand what these numbers say. In other words: If you see that there is no gap across the league between expected and actual statistics for 2021 and 2020, you see that there is no gap. when baselines have been adjusted to reflect the offensive environment of those years, which has yet to happen for 2022. In a world without any dramatic, year-over-year changes in offensive environments, this is less meaningful. Unfortunately, MLB is clearly not in that world. If there is a big change in the offensive environment from one year to the next — for example, if baseball itself is different — the numbers will show different things.
Scroll to Continue
The result? You cannot make a direct comparison today between the expected statistics for this period and the past. They just show different contexts. Data from the previous year is adjusted to fit the specific conditions of the previous year, and the data from this year, well, is also adjusted to fit the specific conditions of the previous year. At least until July.
(If you’re wondering why MLB didn’t update the baseline to more easily reflect the current environment? That’s already been mentioned, Petriello said, but it’s possibly confusing that there are numbers shifting in the middle of the season. All-Star Break and end of the season provide natural points for this kind of re-orientation.)
So What Do Expected Statistics Tell Us Today?
Lots more! If you look at the league’s actual batting average of .233 versus the expected batting average of .253, what you see is the actual performance this year compared to what is expected to be achieved in the same performance in offensive environment last year.
Which tells you that the environment this year is very different.
If it hasn’t changed from last year? With this quality of contact from the hitters, the ball will fly a lot more, and there will be no serious conversations as to why the offense collapsed. The league batting average can be over .250 and slugging over .430! Although the same contact with it The environment has led to a dramatic reduction in offensive numbers.
Why? How Much of That Can Be a Defensive Position?
Talking about the environment: What about the transition, which is more popular this year than ever? Sure, that doesn’t affect possible home runs that are now deep fly-outs, but there could be a lot of possible hits that could be out elsewhere on the field, right?
Yes, but the numbers don’t suggest that’s an important answer here. There is a large gap between the actual and expected batting average for each infield alignment: standard (.240 vs. .257), strategic or partial shift (.238 vs. .249) and full shift (.222 vs. .257). .247). Obviously the difference is greatest when teams use a full transfer-defined as three infielders on one side of second base-but it’s even greater when teams are on a regular turn align with infield. In other words, the gap between the actual and expected batting average is not due to the teams optimizing the transfer. There seems to be more than that.
What Else Could Cause It?
Well, there is no way to say definitive. But since there are no dramatic, major changes from last season in player pool or in the dimensions of ballparks across the league… baseball itself remains as the main factor. If you’re talking about something that has affected all of MLB, with a strange change from one year to the next, it’s hard to find any other credible answer.
What Does It Mean to Practice?
Simply put, a lot of balls you might expect to hit are already there. There is already 33 balls nowadays that are outs even with an xBA over .950 — including one with an xBA of 1.000. Yes, ball with exit velocity and launch angle hit each other past context… Arrested for a fly-out.
An Out with Perfect xBA? What does it look like ??
Apologizing to Ronald Acuña Jr. Ball probably won’t lie, but if it changes from one season to the next, it won’t feel like it’s completely true.
Additional MLB Coverage:
• The Pitching Coach Behind the Resurrection of the Diamondbacks
• The Age of Angels Gets a Sense of Magic With Detmers’s No-Hitter
• MLB Power Rankings: These Breakouts and Busts Shake Things
• Unusual By Nestor Cortes Jr.
• Five-Tool Newsletter: Christian Yelich Returns to MVP Form