Nationals Baseball: Trea and MAT

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Trea and MAT

Is Trea in trouble? 

Last year Trea Turner came in like a lion.  He hit so well over the course of just 70 games, .342 / .370 / .567, that he nearly won the Rookie of the Year award for less than half a season.* There was some thought that he couldn't keep that MVP type of production up in his sophomore year but clearly the Nats had a star on their hands. Yet a quarter way into 2017 Trea looks nothing like a star and more like a guy who needs more AAA seasoning.  What gives?

Well, onto the fancy stats. Is Trea say... making less contract? Hitting the ball worse when he does make contact? Or is he just getting unlucky?

His contact rate overall is pretty much on target with last year (77.9% if you must know) His K-rate is up but just a little and at around 20% it's fine. His swinging strike rate is done just a little. His swings outside the zone done a step.  There's nothing here. Moving on.

He is hitting fewer hard shots - but he isn't hitting a lot of soft balls. Neither of the percentages are worrying in the least. He is htting fewer line drives in lieu of ground balls and flyballs but that alone isn't the cause of his slump. Although that FB rate is higher than it has typically been for him.

So is it mostly luck then? Well his BABIP is down almost 100 points. But it was at .388 last year which is a very very high number. He is very fast but still people don't usually sustain that type of number for very long. His .291 is more typical but given his minor league numbers I'd imagine he'd be high, not typical. Over .350 is possible given his speed and age.

Could it be injury? Perhaps but there wasn't a clear "great before, bad after" split. Actually what we see is odd.

Before Coors : .214 / .241 / .286
Coors : .524 / .524 / 1.095
After Coors .198 / .234 / .322

Trea looks bad now, but imagine his year without that amazing series? He's barely breaking .200 and has little power. You can't say Coors messed him up either - he was mediocre before that. Makes me wonder if all these stats are being skewed by that series. But we'll see.

We don't really know what Major League Trea is. So we have to use not only what we've seen so far up here but his minor league stats as well.  From that I would say this:

Trea will hit better. His BABIP should be higher, he is typically a better LD hitter. It could be, could, that some luck with HR/FB rate (the 16.7% last year was best of his career) got him thinking he was more of a HR hitter than he is. That's why his FB rate is this high. If that's the issue and he can fix it - he goes back to a .300+ hitter.  The question there is how useful a .300+ hitter he will be. He doesn't walk. That's a given. Like he's terrible, worst in the majors at it. In the minors it bounces around all over the place making me think it's something he can do better but isn't inclined to. Given that a lot of his worth is then going to be in his power, which I regret to inform you is nowhere near as good as last year. Maybe he grows into it, but right now he's a singly/doubly Joe.

So what does this mean? I don't think Trea is in trouble as in he's a below average offensive player. But I also don't think he's a way above average hitter either. .310 / .340  with 35 doubles 15 homer power? Something like that. Good player. Fun player to watch. Player with potential to be great. But just as I wouldn't expect him to keep hitting .250, I wouldn't expect him to be able to carry a team for a while like he did last year. At least not in 2017.

Is MAT (finally) for real (finally)?  Finally?  

I know MAT and his big issue has been strikeouts. If those are way down and there is no sign of luck, he could be a late bloomer.

K-Rate 35.5%.   That's 'uh-oh" territory, but with that rate he shouldn't be doing that well unless...

.387 BABIP.  We just talked about it with Trea but that's like the natural limit of where BABIP can be and it usually isn't sustainable. Unlike Trea too, MAT is more in a .330 area.

And well... that could be that. His BABIP goes down. His average goes down and you have MAT. A .230 hitter who K's all the time, no patience, decent pop when he makes contact, good fielder. But I suppose we could look for anything that has changed.

Walk-rate? Nope. Still bad. HR/FB luck in either direciton? Nope about the same as before. Hitting more LDs? Nope. More GBs actually which is usually bad. More hard hit balls and/or fewer soft hit balls? NopYES! A little bit, but it's something I guess. A different hitter in terms of pull / go with? I can't really say that looking at all his minor and major stats. Overall Swinging Strike down? Nope actually up a little. Fewer swings outside the zone? Nope, more.

There's nothing here that makes me think MAT is anything different than what he's always been. He's had some luck with where the ball is falling, which has inflated his BABIP. He's gotten a couple of triples instead of doubles, which has inflated his slugging. Take these things away and he's a guy with maybe one more homer this year than last because he's hitting a few more FBs.

MAT is MAT. You shouldn't rely on him and you should feel lucky the Nats don't need to.

*And honestly he would have if Corey Seager didn't have a Trea like year for nearly a full season. 

Side Note :  Corey Seager isnt' doing as well as last year either. Of course he's still hitting .285 with a .388 OBP and a .468 SLG.  So he is better.

25 comments:

Fries said...

It's been kicked around on the comments here before, but I say bump Trea down in the order. MAT's having success in the 8-hole, and Weiters was having success there before him, so why not try Trea there to get him some practice working the count and jumping on the fastball in a lower leverage spot? He showed last year that he can be great, but I agree with the assessment, Harper, that he should really be cutting down on the fly balls and aiming to hit more doubles/triples than homers. With his speed, he shouldn't need to hit it out of the park to be effective

Jimmy said...

On Trea I think he has a little bit of a higher power ceiling than what you suggest, and probably a better walk rate. He honestly just hasn't ever really needed to develop a walk tool yet due to how successful he's been throughout the minors. On Taylor you are dead on he's due for a regression but if we put up with Espinosa for all those years we can put up with Taylor.

Jimmy said...

Also it would be a colossal mistake to shake up the lineup. Turner will adjust as he sees more pitches and Taylor would be terrible in the 1 hole. Terrible. I don't want to see Werth in the 1-hole either this offense is fine as is without Turner and Turner will find his stroke really soon.

G Cracka X said...

Excellent analysis, thanks Harper.

I think based on that, it sounds like a Herrera/LoCain trade would be a good fit. Someone suggested Soto+. Seems about right to me. Moves Glover to setup and MAT to 4th OF.

Anonymous said...

With Glover building the closer resume that he is now, I doubt Rizzo is still interested in closer-type trade...or at least hit the pause button for a while. If Glover continues to excel (seems like a great post on Glover analysis - looking at you Harp!), with his 4 pitch repertoire, he seems set up for success and a decent-sized leash, unless he re-injures the hip or melts down(which doesn't seem likely).

Depending on Blanton finding his groove again - it seems to me with Glover at closer, the other relief pitchers are finding some solid outings to build on. I predict no move until near the trade deadline, and if Rizzo makes a move, it'll be because he convinced the Padres to part with young and suddenly good Brad Hand, while dumping Romero (unlikely) or giving up on Solis returning this year (more likely)...

Anonymous said...

Can't disagree more...Turner is on pace to score 120 runs this season (even with missing some time)...if he does this, I don't care what his BA is...how many homers he hits etc...He scores that many runs and keeps playing good defense, the Nationals will be a leading contender.

Kubla said...

Bryce-Werth-Zim-Murphy-Rendon-MAT-Turner-pitcher-catcher or something similar seems like a reasonable lineup. The bottom of the order tends to be the time for small ball tactics, and fast guys are useful for that. Turner has power, but could he become the king of the bunt single with that speed?

KO said...

Is there a way to see trea's BABIP excluding the Rockies series? Based on BA it would seem the BABIP excluding that series is extremely low, not just typical

Miles Treacy said...

One can only hope Dusty his having him do push-ups for every fly ball like Willie Mays Hayes...

Ole PBN said...

@Jimmy - I don't think you develop a walk-rate. You start getting a better sense of the strike zone. Two things that are very difficult to do: intentionally foul-off pitches with 2 strikes to live to see a pitch you like (i.e. Werth, Murphy) and having a ridiculously good eye on pitches over the outside edge (i.e. Bryce). Very few players can do it like these guys can, and I'm not saying Trea will never develop either of these, but he's not going to get it by struggling like he is. Its the old managerial style of "keep throwing him out there, let him do his thing, maybe something will happen." No! He's not that kind of hitter. I would so much rather Trea hit before the pitcher, have fun up there any build some damn confidence... SMH. You're killing him, Dusty, you're killing him. Put him down in the order!

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

Does ANYone else steal that base off Posey other than Trea? No.

Does anyone else almost beat out a comebacker to Samardzjia like Trea? No.

Leave him in the 1 hole. He'll work it out.

(Must do a better job at proofreading for typos before hitting send)

Ole PBN said...

Froggy, I respectfully disagree. That's a swiss cheese example, no offense. He almost beat out a comebacker? What is almost worth? He didn't beat it out. And he can steal that base from any spot in the order. Speed kills, absolutely. Don't bench the kid, but put him in a low-pressure spot in the order where he can thrive. He ain't thriving at the top. And since we're painting scenarios, how's this: Werth batting second, no one on, one out. Happens more often than you'd like with a .250 hitter starting us off every day. I'll say it til the cows come home, I'd rather have Trea crushing it/batting over .300 hitting by lower in the order than forcing a square peg in a round hole just because he's "fast."

Anonymous said...

While maybe moving Trea down in the order might help him, I just can't see Dusty messing with a lineup that not only has been working, but working really well. Messing with the lineup messes with other players besides Trea. Besides if Eaton is back and well next year, the question becomes fairly moot. So unless Trea actually does wade to below .200, I'm not sure Dusty notices much, especially with all the actual stuff he is doing (4th on the team in runs, 5th on the team in hits and RBIs). Stats aside (and no one would really confuse Dusty with a stat guy), it probably 'seems' like Trea is maybe a step ahead of Harp's analysis of the actual stats: above average but not really good or even great.

PotomacFan said...

I support keeping Trea in the lead-off position. He's doing okay. When he does get on base, he is a huge distraction to the pitcher. Factor that into the batting averages of the 3 guys behind him in the batting order.

More importantly, if not Trea, then who should bat lead-off? Not MAT, because he doesn't get on base enough, and is not good at stealing bases.

So, it would have to be Jayson Werth. He gets walks and has a high OBP. I would then bat Trea at #7 and MAT at #8. If Trea gets on base, he'll distract the pitcher (helping MAT, who needs the help). If MAT gets to 2 strikes, Trea can steal. If Trea gets thrown out (unlikely), MAT gets a fresh start in the next inning. If Trea is successful, he can score on a single.

Anagramsci said...

Werth should absolutely be leading off

Froggy said...

Turner is batting .366 (11 for 30) in the past week, and raised his line 10 points across the board. And when he gets on is always a threat to swipe a bag. Wgen he does get on base pitchers have to pay attention to him while some combination of Werth, Harper, Zimmy, Murphy, or Rendon follow. Putting him in the 7 or 8 spot would be a waste in comparison.

Anonymous said...

So was Trea 2016 actually...TREA?? (ala bryce/Bryce/BRYCE)

G Cracka X said...

TT is 4th in fWAR among qualified NL Shortshops. Surprising, huh?

Ole PBN said...

Froggy, to your point - he'd get on-base a lot more often and doing all the things we love in a different spot in the order is all I'm saying. I feel like everyone on here is thinking that I don't want Trea to play... hmmm. The only counter-argument to my proposition that I've heard is that it would throw off the rest of the line-up, which is fair. Sliding up Werth to #1 leaves who at #2? My vote is Murphy. Dusty isn't very out-side-the box so he'll never entertain this, but by following the old school approach, he should at least keep his job. I don't think Joe Maddon is aiming to just keep his job, he's got an open mind and trying to put forth the best lineup conceivable with the pieces he has:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/baseballs-new-leadoff-hitters-dont-need-to-be-speed-demons/

Trea is very good hitter and would be better showcased down in the order. Its not a slap face to the kid to suggest that he will do much better in a different spot. Bill Mueller won the AL batting title in 2003 hitting 8th all season. Do you have any idea how hard it is to thrive as a lead-off hitter? Not many can do it. Trea Turner, a stud, is showing you how hard it is but performing like an average player. I don't know about you, but pitchers seem to have a consistent approach of pounding Trea inside, revealing a contact gap in his swing. Guys with a long swing like his are prone to be exposed this way. Last year, as is by-the-book with every newcommer, stay away away away with the fastball: Right in Trea's wheelhouse. He'll have a chance to adjust to the latest gameplan against him, I just don't like while hitting first and setting up the rest of the team for a sub-par offensive performance.

As an aside for Harper, love the work. It would be interesting to see pitch tendencies across all MLB pitchers to specific batters in the order. I.e., what percentage of fastballs to #9 hitters see vs. #4, or what percentage of off-speed does a #3 hitter see, etc.

Jay said...

I like anonymous 1153 post. I vote trea/Trea/TREA bats lead off. He is starting to pick it up in the last week. Part of the problem was getting over his hamstring issues. There was a stretch last year when if Trea got on base he was going to end up on 2nd no matter what the other team did. This year he had a stretch until the last week or so where he wasn't trying to steal bases. I think he'll be fine by the end of the year.

John C. said...

After a half a season of production, many commenters proclaimed Trea leadoff-for-life, and were openly for banishing Eaton (a consistent >.360 OBP player) to the back end of the batting order.

After less than one third of a season, many commenters now want Trea banished to the back of the order.

Maybe both thoughts were/are just a wee bit premature?

I'm in no hurry to mess with a lineup that is leading MLB in runs/game. Yes, all of MLB, despite the fact that the Nats have to bat their pitchers. It ain't broke. Stop trying to fix it.

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: Just to be clear....an above average/average defensive SS who hits .300/.350 with 15 homers and 40+ SB is a star. Like a 5 WAR player. So nobody should be glum about the predicted outcome in this post. We would have the second best SS in the NL for the next 6 years. Would you take Addison Russell right now or Trea? To me it's a coin flip. That's an amazing outcome.

SomeGuyInVA said...

Trea's showing signs of being that .310/.340 guy you're hoping for; check out his past 12 games:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=turnetr01&t=b&year=2017#131-142-sum:batting_gamelogs

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