J.D. Martinez: Hips Don't Lie

A Bad Man

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J.D. "Just Degenerating" Martinez is on pace for a nearly -4 fWAR season. This is 2018 Chris Davis level bad.

In 128 PA vs. righties, JD has a wRC+ of 50.

Most of J.D.'s advanced metrics remain the same: Contact%, SwStr%, launch angle, etc.

The glaring issues are exit velocity and HardHit%:

Exit velocity:
  • 2017: 90.9
  • 2018: 93.0
  • 2019: 91.4
  • 2020: 88.7
HardHit%
  • 2017: 49.0%
  • 2018: 52.3%
  • 2019: 48.1%
  • 2020: 39.2%
JD is due $19,350,000 in 2021 and 2022.
 

Rwillh11

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J.D. "Just Degenerating" Martinez is on pace for a nearly -4 fWAR season. This is 2018 Chris Davis level bad.

In 128 PA vs. righties, JD has a wRC+ of 50.

Most of J.D.'s advanced metrics remain the same: Contact%, SwStr%, launch angle, etc.

The glaring issues are exit velocity and HardHit%:

Exit velocity:
  • 2017: 90.9
  • 2018: 93.0
  • 2019: 91.4
  • 2020: 88.7
HardHit%
  • 2017: 49.0%
  • 2018: 52.3%
  • 2019: 48.1%
  • 2020: 39.2%
JD is due $19,350,000 in 2021 and 2022.
I was curious how long it takes EV to stabilize, and in general how repeatable of a skill it seems to be. Found these articles, which are pretty concerning from the standpoint of thinking about JD going forward. Of course, he could be playing through something (but why would he, its a lost season and it's hard to believe he's opting out), but a drop this big suggests something isn't right and he's had enough plate appearances for the stats to mean something.

Fangraphs
Baseball Prospectus

Here is the key graph from the Fangraphs piece, which shows a lot of within season stability for exit velocity. Of course, there are outliers and it still could be noise. But I think we've seen enough that it makes sense to be a bit concerned.
34237
 

DJnVa

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I was curious how long it takes EV to stabilize, and in general how repeatable of a skill it seems to be. Found these articles, which are pretty concerning from the standpoint of thinking about JD going forward. Of course, he could be playing through something (but why would he, its a lost season and it's hard to believe he's opting out), but a drop this big suggests something isn't right and he's had enough plate appearances for the stats to mean something.
Isn't the lack of in-game video review pretty clearly weight on him?
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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I have some hope that so much of his game is mental preparation and discipline that some of this is just attributable to the weirdness of the year.

The team has been out of it since the jump. It's obviously the weirdest year ever in terms of player rhythm and stuff and the truth is that even if he completely sucks this year he knows he has $40 million left on his contract and two years to audition for the next contract. Maybe it's regression, but I have hope that in a full year when there are actual stakes both for the team and for JDM that it will be different.
 

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Isn't the lack of in-game video review pretty clearly weight on him?
Honestly, I think as much psychologically as anything. Baseball players are such creatures of habit, and this certainly is messing with his mind big time. How much of his suckitude is attributable to this, we'll never know. But I don't think it is insignificant.
 

DJnVa

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I have no idea how to isolate this, but if this were true, wouldn't he have historically suffered if there was a pitching change at any point during an inning before he came to bat?


He doesn't use it to scout opposing pitchers. He uses it for swing review.

I’m a DH,” he said. “This is going to affect DHs across the board. What the hell are we going to do for three innings when we’re sitting there waiting to hit again? That’s what we do: watch the game, study our swings, study my teammates’ swings … ‘Devers, I think you’re coming off, you’ve got to do this …’
 

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What's he going to do while waiting to hit? Sit on the bench and scratch his balls like every other DH did for the first 30 years the rule was in place.

Looking at his batting breakdown, his K rate is basically in line with his career averages, as is his groundball to flyball ratio. The big difference is his groundouts to air outs, where he's flying out way more than ever before. He's not hitting the ball hard enough to get past an outfielder or over the wall.
 

Rovin Romine

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He doesn't use it to scout opposing pitchers. He uses it for swing review.
I’m a DH,” he said. “This is going to affect DHs across the board. What the hell are we going to do for three innings when we’re sitting there waiting to hit again? That’s what we do: watch the game, study our swings, study my teammates’ swings … ‘Devers, I think you’re coming off, you’ve got to do this …’
Yeah. . .I don't know. I don't want to say that the man couldn't find some benefit from reviewing his first AB before his second, and caveats about the fragile mental state/superstitions of some pro-athletes, however:

First time facing SP 2019: 327/427/653/1.080 (143 AB)
Second time facing SP 2019: 316/375/701/1.076 (128 AB)

2020: 256/310/462/771 (42 AB)
2020: 297/333/568/901 (39 AB)

I'm sure there's some fine points to make about the above, SSS and all that, but overall that makes the "He's suffering because can't make in-game corrections," argument seem kinda like bullshit to me.
 

OurF'ingCity

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Looking at his batting breakdown, his K rate is basically in line with his career averages, as is his groundball to flyball ratio. The big difference is his groundouts to air outs, where he's flying out way more than ever before. He's not hitting the ball hard enough to get past an outfielder or over the wall.
I haven't watched nearly enough Red Sox baseball this year to know if this has any merit, but part of me (the glass-half-full part) wonders whether he had already more or less decided he wasn't going to opt-out after this season before the year even started, and once it became quickly clear that the Sox weren't going to be contenders he just decided to treat this year as extended spring training and work on certain aspects of his swing or something. As you say, really the only statistical anomaly for him is that he's not hitting balls hard/barelling them anywhere near his career numbers, which could be the result of such experimentation.

It could also be the result of reduced bad speed, which is potentially more concerning - I don't think that's injury related because if he was at all hurt he already would have been shut down like Benintendi was, which means if bat speed is an issue, it's most likely just wear-and-tear and age, which doesn't bode well for upcoming seasons.
 

curly2

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Honestly, I think as much psychologically as anything. Baseball players are such creatures of habit, and this certainly is messing with his mind big time. How much of his suckitude is attributable to this, we'll never know. But I don't think it is insignificant.
I agree with this 100 percent. J.D. worked incredibly hard to become a great hitter, but there might be a part of him that views video review as his lucky rabbit's foot, and he can't hit without it.

Age may mean he'll never have another 1.000 OPS+ season like he did in 2017 and 2018, but he should still be a good hitter the next two years. A sports psychologist could help.
 

DJnVa

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Yeah. . .I don't know. I don't want to say that the man couldn't find some benefit from reviewing his first AB before his second, and caveats about the fragile mental state/superstitions of some pro-athletes, however:

First time facing SP 2019: 327/427/653/1.080 (143 AB)
Second time facing SP 2019: 316/375/701/1.076 (128 AB)

2020: 256/310/462/771 (42 AB)
2020: 297/333/568/901 (39 AB)

I'm sure there's some fine points to make about the above, SSS and all that, but overall that makes the "He's suffering because can't make in-game corrections," argument seem kinda like bullshit to me.
It's not *just* 1st AB to 2nd AB. It's how he keeps his swing fresh--he's not just reviewing his previous AB. To each his own, but taking away something that gives a player a routine and immediate feedback doesn't strike me as bullshit.

There's been a ton of stories how he had to rebuild his swing to turn into what we now recognize as JD Martinez. Even if you think it's all a placebo effect, that still clearly matters to him. He's clearly not comfortable.
 

Rwillh11

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Isn't the lack of in-game video review pretty clearly weight on him?
Maybe - but you'd have to believe it's impacting him significantly more than it's impacting everyone else - and driving quality of contact rather than K rate (which seems the more obvious thing to be hit by lack of video)
 

Rovin Romine

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It's not *just* 1st AB to 2nd AB. It's how he keeps his swing fresh--he's not just reviewing his previous AB. To each his own, but taking away something that gives a player a routine and immediate feedback doesn't strike me as bullshit.

There's been a ton of stories how he had to rebuild his swing to turn into what we now recognize as JD Martinez. Even if you think it's all a placebo effect, that still clearly matters to him. He's clearly not comfortable.
You can dig deeper into the AB splits if you want. If the idea was that his swing deteriorates without video monitoring for each AB, we'd expect his first AB in the game to be good. It's not. We'd expect the second AB against the same pitcher to be worse. It's not. It's markedly better.

This year, against relief pitching (deeper into the game) he certainly does suck relative to facing starters and in the context of his career. SSS caveats.

He "rebuilt" his swing in 2014, when he was 26, and has had success on three different teams. So, if watching his own swing is some kind of thing for him. . .I'm not sure what to say beyond that he needs to put on his big-boy pants.
 

Rwillh11

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Javy Baez and his .623 OPS has been outspoken about about this.
Interestingly, with Baez, his exit velocity isn't really down (last 3 years 90.6, 91.0, 90.3), but he's striking out more - in part because he is swinging less at pitches in the zone. https://www.fangraphs.com/players/javier-baez/12979/stats?position=2B/SS

I can believe that some players rely on video more than others, but the weird thing with Martinez is that unlike Baez, his approach seems the same (no real change in o-swing % or z-swing %), he isn't striking out more, he's just not doing anything with the ball when he makes contact. Seems like if he was just getting fooled because of lack of video, that's not what we'd expect?
 

effectivelywild

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Interestingly, with Baez, his exit velocity isn't really down (last 3 years 90.6, 91.0, 90.3), but he's striking out more - in part because he is swinging less at pitches in the zone. https://www.fangraphs.com/players/javier-baez/12979/stats?position=2B/SS

I can believe that some players rely on video more than others, but the weird thing with Martinez is that unlike Baez, his approach seems the same (no real change in o-swing % or z-swing %), he isn't striking out more, he's just not doing anything with the ball when he makes contact. Seems like if he was just getting fooled because of lack of video, that's not what we'd expect?
I think the routine though of being able to watch his swing could be very important to him and just getting out of the routine could do just enough to screw up his batting line without him losing his approach at the plate or getting fooled by pitches. If he feels like he needs video to see his swing and make adjustments, without it he may be feeling just a little off and maybe not trusting his swing as much. Not to the point where he starts swinging at pitches he'd otherwise take, but if its just a little--a little loss of efficiency, alittle more "thinking about his swing" during his at-bat, it could be enough to lower his hard hit rate. And, as he continues to struggle, the "lack of in-game video" gremlin may start to live more and more inside his head, rent-free (or at least with heavily subsidized rent). Given how slim the margins are between success and failure as a batter are, it wouldn't surprise me if a swing being just a little off (along with some bad batted ball luck) could lead to a deep slump.
 

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Tonight's oppo home run was a positive sign. When he's going good, he's driving the ball to right and right center. What I've seen watching him hit in this slump is too much trying to pull everything, especially outside pitches, resulting in a lot of weak contact.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Tonight's oppo home run was a positive sign. When he's going good, he's driving the ball to right and right center. What I've seen watching him hit in this slump is too much trying to pull everything, especially outside pitches, resulting in a lot of weak contact.
Hasn't it been indicative of a hitter's bat swing and pitch recognition beginning to fail when they start to pull everything? My apologies, but I feel like I've read something along these lines before on the pages of SoSH in the past....
 

A Bad Man

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Makes sense. I kind of feel bad that this thread title is so negative; should I change it to something more optimistic or neutral to carry on JD discussion? Or should I leave it?
 

Rovin Romine

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Which is better:
J.D. Martinez, The Art of Hipping
J.D. Martinez, Too Hip for his own Good

https://www.mlb.com/news/j-d-martinez-ready-to-work-on-swing
At least he believes he knows what the issue is.

“My hips. It’s been obvious to me all year,” Martinez said. “It’s just, as of late, I’ve been feeling better. I feel like I have a little bit more control of them. It’s like, I think I’m doing the right move. I don’t know if I’m doing the right move, and I’m like, 'OK, I think I have my hips. I think I’m doing it right.'

“[Batting practice] will feel great, then I go in the game and I'm like, 'OK, well, I'm just going to ride this out, because I think that's what the move is. That's what it looked like in BP.' But then I'll go in the game and I'll do the move all day, and after the game, I go look at it and I'm like, 'Great, I just wasted the entire day because I didn't do the move from the first at-bat. I just threw away four at-bats.' That's been the most frustrating part.”

In a way, it is more frustrating for Martinez that he knows what the issue is and still hasn’t been able to fix it. And he knows the poor alignment with his hips are the reason he’s not catching up to the fastball.

“One hundred percent. Hip slides, everything slides. You cut distance to the ball, and all of a sudden the fastball is doing this, your hips are doing this and that's what happens,” said Martinez. “It's holding them back. Keeping them controlled. I've had very mobile hips, very loose hips and they've been kind of out of control. It's something I'm aware of, and it's something I'm excited to get to the offseason and just grind the hell out of it.”
 

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Seems like the pretty obvious answer is 'Hips Don't Lie'. I changed it myself but it can be changed again if people want.
 

Rovin Romine

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Works for me. Maybe if he keeps a stiff upper hip, we'll hear less whining about the video replay next year.

I think he'll likely bounce back. One hopeful anecdotal data-point is Ortiz's own age 33 season. He was worse than JD for the first 52 games.
 

A Bad Man

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1) Thank you for changing the thread title.

2) JD's home/road splits were interestingly extreme. Home: 110 wRC+. Away: 43 wRC+. Wonder if that fits with the routine narrative.
 

JimD

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472/500/1.083/1.583 through the first nine games - I guess he found his big-boy pants.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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472/500/1.083/1.583 through the first nine games - I guess he found his big-boy pants.
It's pretty amazing that the Sox have been absolutely on fire and the main board is relatively quiet.... lose a few and it'll light up again I'm sure.
Responding to this post though- have some of the recent HR's looked to be relatively weak coming off the bat or is it just me? The balls sure seem to travel much further than I expect them to when they leave the bat- not just JD but across the entire league. Sure... plenty of moonshots that are no-doubters, but I've seen far too many that I would swear would have been warning track at best hits carry another 25-40 feet.
Either way.... it's helping Devers too- I was worried about another loooooong 5 week time before he started to hit but he jumped right in after a miserable opening series. The middle of the Sox order looks to be seriously dangerous. If Dalbec can figure something out I'd put money down on the team to be the best offense in the league
 

bluefenderstrat

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It's pretty amazing that the Sox have been absolutely on fire and the main board is relatively quiet.... lose a few and it'll light up again I'm sure.
Responding to this post though- have some of the recent HR's looked to be relatively weak coming off the bat or is it just me? The balls sure seem to travel much further than I expect them to when they leave the bat- not just JD but across the entire league. Sure... plenty of moonshots that are no-doubters, but I've seen far too many that I would swear would have been warning track at best hits carry another 25-40 feet.
Either way.... it's helping Devers too- I was worried about another loooooong 5 week time before he started to hit but he jumped right in after a miserable opening series. The middle of the Sox order looks to be seriously dangerous. If Dalbec can figure something out I'd put money down on the team to be the best offense in the league
I don't know about the rest of the league, but this weekend in Baltimore was "hitter's weather" and balls were flying out of the park, as they say. This week in Minnesota will look quite different. Still, JDM's incredible start is heartening and makes last season look like an outlier vs. the end of his status as an elite hitter.
 

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By OPS+, JD's career divides neatly into five phases:

Phase 1 (The Scuffling): 104, 86, 79
Phase 2 (The Rise): 154, 139, 142
Phase 3 (The Peak): 168, 170, 173
Phase 4 (The Decline): 140, 81
Phase 5 (Current) ... 323
 

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JD was the luckiest guy in the league for the first series. He had a couple doubles where the outfielders misplayed them/lost it in the sun and a 330ft Pesky Pole homer. But he's been good for real since then. I can't believe it's all in game video work, since he's hitting relievers the only time he sees them in a game, but if maybe that's his crazy ballplayer superstition. It's certainly more productive than fiddling with your gloves for 30 seconds before every pitch.
 

Jack Rabbit Slim

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JD was the luckiest guy in the league for the first series. He had a couple doubles where the outfielders misplayed them/lost it in the sun and a 330ft Pesky Pole homer. But he's been good for real since then. I can't believe it's all in game video work, since he's hitting relievers the only time he sees them in a game, but if maybe that's his crazy ballplayer superstition. It's certainly more productive than fiddling with your gloves for 30 seconds before every pitch.
I think the video for him is more about fixing his own swing than seeing the pitcher
 

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I think the video for him is more about fixing his own swing than seeing the pitcher
Yep. JD is extremely methodical and detailed when it comes to his own hitting mechanics and swing.

I agree that the video is far more about seeing his own swing and timing vs pitchers than reviewing the actual at bat.
 

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Stats that are tied to the first x games of the season tell us nothing. 20 at bats in April are no more relevant than 20 in July. We all understand that being hot when leader boards and averages are whacky is fun - but, while it's better to be doing great at season's start than spending the next month catching up - these are just snapshots.

Regardless - it's nice seeing Martinez and Devers come to the plate in critical situations these days. It's nice to not have to put up with "JD is sunk" complaints if he had gone through an 0 fer 20 to start the season instead of doing that in August.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Stats that are tied to the first x games of the season tell us nothing. 20 at bats in April are no more relevant than 20 in July. We all understand that being hot when leader boards and averages are whacky is fun - but, while it's better to be doing great at season's start than spending the next month catching up - these are just snapshots.

Regardless - it's nice seeing Martinez and Devers come to the plate in critical situations these days. It's nice to not have to put up with "JD is sunk" complaints if he had gone through an 0 fer 20 to start the season instead of doing that in August.
While this is absolutely true- 20 AB's is far too small of a sample size to project anything at all- seeing Devers break out early on must have something of substance behind it. He's a guy for 3 consecutive seasons now starts off in a horrible slump before getting into a rhythm. It's a pretty significant sample size to guess that he likely would start 2021 in a deep slump again. Obviously another 0-fer for the Twins series would put him right back into a poor offensive showing "to start the season", but if he had been able to not spend May dragging his April numbers up in the past, his overall season line would be even more impressive. At this point in '21 it's already looking like that won't be a problem.
 

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While this is absolutely true- 20 AB's is far too small of a sample size to project anything at all- seeing Devers break out early on must have something of substance behind it. He's a guy for 3 consecutive seasons now starts off in a horrible slump before getting into a rhythm. It's a pretty significant sample size to guess that he likely would start 2021 in a deep slump again. Obviously another 0-fer for the Twins series would put him right back into a poor offensive showing "to start the season", but if he had been able to not spend May dragging his April numbers up in the past, his overall season line would be even more impressive. At this point in '21 it's already looking like that won't be a problem.
I guess it's possible Devers is a warm weather player. Chances are, the slow starts aren't actually a thing. That also doesn't explain last season but last season is an anomaly.

I think that's also his point. Does it matter if his April numbers are dragging down his May numbers or his May numbers are dragging down his April numbers? At the end of the year, it all works out.
 

effectivelywild

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It's pretty amazing that the Sox have been absolutely on fire and the main board is relatively quiet.... lose a few and it'll light up again I'm sure.
Responding to this post though- have some of the recent HR's looked to be relatively weak coming off the bat or is it just me? The balls sure seem to travel much further than I expect them to when they leave the bat- not just JD but across the entire league. Sure... plenty of moonshots that are no-doubters, but I've seen far too many that I would swear would have been warning track at best hits carry another 25-40 feet.
Either way.... it's helping Devers too- I was worried about another loooooong 5 week time before he started to hit but he jumped right in after a miserable opening series. The middle of the Sox order looks to be seriously dangerous. If Dalbec can figure something out I'd put money down on the team to be the best offense in the league
FWIW, there IS (again) a new ball this season, but this one was designed to help reduce flyball distance and home runs, not increase them. The initial word is that the ball was designed to have a lower coefficient of restitution (COR), which would make it less bouncy, though there is also some evidence that the new balls also have a greater drag coefficient, which would also lower how much "carry" fly balls have. This is talked about in greater depth here at The Ringer as well as at Fangraphs .

Weirdly, during spring training HR/batted ball event went up relative to previous years, though there are lots of mitigating factors, obviously. One thing that is worth noticing though is that overall exit velocities seem to be up, which is possibly attributable to the new ball. So maybe what you're seeing isn't the ball "carrying" farther than you'd expect but more that the ball is getting hit harder than you're thinking it is from watching the AB. Certainly Martinez and Devers have shown the ability before to crush baseballs, so this may be much ado about nothing, but I do wonder if it it is aiding Vazquez, though this is again all speculation.
 

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Certainly Martinez and Devers have shown the ability before to crush baseballs, so this may be much ado about nothing, but I do wonder if it it is aiding Vazquez, though this is again all speculation.
I think Vazquez is just having one of baseball's patented lucky streaks and the new balls are not related. His wOBA (.454) is outperforming his xwOBA (.343) by .111. He's having a nice stretch because he is not striking out (13.9% K rate), but it is really the type of stretch that should produce something like a .820 OPS, not 1.064.

He's not hitting the ball harder than usual:
- 2021 Average exit velocity: 88.9 mph (below average, 43rd percentile in MLB)
- Prior 2 seasons: 88.4 mph (2020), 89.4 mph (2019)

He's not getting barrels:
- 3.4% barrel rate (well below average, 24th percentile in MLB)

He's not hitting line-drives:
- 13.8% line-drives (MLB average typically around 25-26%, Vazquez career is 27%)

He's hitting a lot of pop-ups:
- 17.2% pop-ups (MLB average typically around 7%, Vazquez career is 6.3%)

Five of his thirteen hits include these sub-85 mph exit velocity batted balls:
- 66.8 mph single, 68.4 mph single, 77.7 mph double, 79.1 mph single, 82.3 mph single

(For comparison, only one of J.D. Martinez's seventeen hits were batted balls below 85 mph.)

Yet, here he is with his 1.000+ OPS. Not striking out has its advantage because sometimes the balls you hit just fall in, but I think he should finish his season right around the .800 OPS mark that he has shown to be his performance level since 2019.
 

effectivelywild

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I think Vazquez is just having one of baseball's patented lucky streaks and the new balls are not related. His wOBA (.454) is outperforming his xwOBA (.343) by .111. He's having a nice stretch because he is not striking out (13.9% K rate), but it is really the type of stretch that should produce something like a .820 OPS, not 1.064.

He's not hitting the ball harder than usual:
- 2021 Average exit velocity: 88.9 mph (below average, 43rd percentile in MLB)
- Prior 2 seasons: 88.4 mph (2020), 89.4 mph (2019)

He's not getting barrels:
- 3.4% barrel rate (well below average, 24th percentile in MLB)

He's not hitting line-drives:
- 13.8% line-drives (MLB average typically around 25-26%, Vazquez career is 27%)

He's hitting a lot of pop-ups:
- 17.2% pop-ups (MLB average typically around 7%, Vazquez career is 6.3%)

Five of his thirteen hits include these sub-85 mph exit velocity batted balls:
- 66.8 mph single, 68.4 mph single, 77.7 mph double, 79.1 mph single, 82.3 mph single

(For comparison, only one of J.D. Martinez's seventeen hits were batted balls below 85 mph.)

Yet, here he is with his 1.000+ OPS. Not striking out has its advantage because sometimes the balls you hit just fall in, but I think he should finish his season right around the .800 OPS mark that he has shown to be his performance level since 2019.
That's a good point, I should have examined his Statcast data before I hypothesized. It does seem like he is pretty heavily outperforming his batted ball metrics. The thing that stands out is his relative increase in burner/flare batted balls, which are more likely to go for a hit, even if they are weakly hit. I think I remember one time that Fangraphs did a breakdown where they noted that looking at average launch angles and exit velocities could occasionally give you data that wouldn't match performance, because sharply struck ground balls and popups are unlikely to be hits whereas a softer hit flare or flyball are likely to be productive, but if Vazquez has developed some ability to intentionally hit weak flares, well, he should teach it to the rest of the team. Based on his xwOBA, he's still an above average hitter, but he's definitely getting lucky (especially with fastballs).