Mookie BBetts - 2019 Campaign

Pitt the Elder

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Sep 7, 2013
535
Rather than glom onto last year's Mookie thread, I thought it would be helpful to have a new one so that we could discuss Mookie's 2019 season. First, some stats to get us started:

YearRHRSBTBfWARbWAR
20159218212864.85.9
201612231263598.39.7
201710124262885.36.4
2018129323033310.410.9
20194285891.62.3
Projected12824152724.97.0

YearWRC+PAAvgOBPSLGOPSISO
20151206540.2910.3410.4790.8200.188
20161367300.3180.3630.5340.8970.216
20171067120.2640.3440.4590.8030.194
20181856140.3460.4380.641.0780.294
20191342220.2900.4050.4860.8910.197

The immediate take is that Mookie is either regressing to his true talent level or he's having an MVP hangover - and possibly a little bit of both. So far, his 2019 more closely resembles his 2017 - a very good season just shy of being great. But when you dig a little deeper, this season is very much unlike his previous campaigns. For starters, Mookie is walking more than he every has in his career:

Yearbb%kk%O-Swing %Z-Swing %Swing %O-Contact %Z-contact %SwSt %
20157.0%12.5%25.3%55.7%40.2%72.9%93.1%5.4%
20166.7%11.0%25.5%58.4%41.2%71.6%94.8%5.2%
201710.8%11.1%22.1%53.8%36.0%72.6%92.7%5.0%
201813.2%14.8%19.8%57.0%35.6%70.7%93.0%5.0%
201915.8%14.9%18.1%59.1%35.9%78.4%93.0%4.0%

This data suggests that he's being much more selective - or is being pitched to much more carefully - than previous seasons. He's swinging a pitches out of the zone less often but, when he does, he's making contact at a higher rate. His swinging strike rate is also the lowest it's been by a large margin. So that explains the jump in walks but what happens when he makes contact?

Yearbarrel %exit velocitylaunch angleXBAXSLGHARD %
20155.9%89.915.00.290.45437.4%
20165.3%89.712.50.2890.45739.6%
20174.5%88.414.10.2790.44437.9%
201814.1%92.218.30.3140.51050.2%
201910.5%90.017.20.2690.48644.4%

The quality of his contact isn't as good as it was last year, but it's still better than his previous highs. His barrel %, exit velocity, launch angle, hard hit % are all 2nd best of his career, which would imply that this year is shaping up to be one of his bests. But, what are his fWAR and bWAR projections so much lower than last years's? In short, his base running and defense hasn't been good, at least on paper:

YearBsRSprint SpeedHP to 1stDefOAACatch % Added
20157.928.7-0.5--
201610.627.9-1465
20179.227.94.2114.3204
20186.928.14.1811.674
2019-0.727.84.32-0.853

Mookie's BsR and Def metrics on Fangraphs are the lowest of his career and his speed metrics, though not that far off his previous seasons, show that he's a tad slower. He's made some uncharacteristically bone head plays on the bases and in the outfield early in the season, which could be weighing everything down, but it does seem like Mookie's operating at a gear or two below what he was doing last year.

So what say ye, SoSH? Is Mookie still shaking off the post-MVP doldrums, as his performance over the past month might suggest? Or is this closer to his true talent level?
 

Average Game James

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Apr 28, 2016
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The immediate question that jumps to mind for me is what does the batted ball profile looks like when he swings at pitches in the zone and how does that compare to last year? In other words, is his greater O-contact% suppressing overall contact quality stats? Or is he also making weaker contact with pitches in the strike zone? On mobile, so won’t fight with the Fangraphs splits tool right now, but something to look into later...
 

SemperFidelisSox

suzyn
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May 25, 2008
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A career .905 OPS vs left handed pitchers down to .519 this season. Zero homeruns vs left handed pitchers either. His performance has taken a stark turn.
 

Byrdbrain

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Jul 18, 2005
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A career .905 OPS vs left handed pitchers down to .519 this season. Zero homeruns vs left handed pitchers either. His performance has taken a stark turn.
Which of those numbers do you think is the outlier? Which of those numbers do you suspect he'll be closer to from now to the end of the season?
 

Pitt the Elder

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Sep 7, 2013
535
A career .905 OPS vs left handed pitchers down to .519 this season. Zero homeruns vs left handed pitchers either. His performance has taken a stark turn.
that's really interesting and seems to explain almost all of the drop in his offensive output. his numbers vs RHP are almost identical to last year:
  • OBP: .447 vs .427
  • SLG: .570 vs .610
  • OPS: 1.017 vs 1.013
  • wRC+: 168 vs 178
  • BB%: 18.2% vs 11.8% (big uptick here)
  • K%: 15.3 vs 15.3%
now let's look at those same numbers vs LHP:
  • OBP: .269 vs.471
  • SLG: .250 vs .736
  • OPS: .519 vs 1.207
  • wRC+: 19 vs 212
  • BB%: 7.7% vs 17.4%
  • K%: 13.5% vs 13.5%
he basically went from murdering LHP to being very weak against them while maintaining great numbers against RHP. as Byrdbrain suggests, there's probably some mean regression coming and in a good way. Mookie only has 58 PA against LHP this season and, so far in May, the numbers are starting to get better after an atrocious April. April-19 (34 PA) vs May-19 (18 PA) vs LHP:
  • OPB: .265 vs .278
  • SLG: .167 vs .389
  • OPS: .431 vs .667
  • wRC+: -10 vs 70
  • BB%: 0.0% vs 11.8%
  • K%: 8.8% vs 22.2%
the drop in BB% and spike in K% suggests that Mookie is still searching...seems like he's getting more aggressive with marginally better results, but it has yet snapped back to his career norms.
 

billy ashley

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Jul 15, 2005
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Washington DC
why the disparity between Baseball Reference and Fangraphs? Is it all driven by UZR versus DRS?

If so couldn't we just chalk up the "decline" to the fact to UZR SSS issues? Like, I don't think anyone expected him to be the best offensive player in the league again. But if he's a 30% better than league average as he is now (and likely trending upward a bit) with elite defense, that's still a 6-7 win player. Which is a MVP candidate in world in which there are no Mike Trouts.
 

bosox79

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Dec 22, 2002
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I don't think this is his true hitting talent level but I don't think last year was either. If last year was his true hitting ability, coupled with everything else, he's be one of the 5 best players to have ever played the game. I'd guess his true hitting level is right around .300/.400/.500.

I actually looked up his average performance from 2016-now, and it's .304/.380/.530, OPS+ of 138. Add in his defense and he's a threat to win MVP on any given year. There's a lot of room between his 2018 OPS+ of 186 and his 2019 OPS+ of 122.

Another thing besides his performance vs L
BAbip
2014: .327
2015: .310
2016: .322
2017: .268
2018: .368
2019: .295

Someone mentioned his career vs L but I figured more context would be good.
vs R: 2463 PA, .300/.370/.511, .315 BAbip, 9.5% BB rate, 13.0% K rate
vs L: 734 PA, .302/.375/.522, .308 BAbip, 10.9% BB rate, 11.2% K rate

Yeah, basically no split whatsoever.

2019 vs R: 204 PA, .305/.422/.539, .323 BAbip, 16.2% BB rate, 14.7% K rate
2019 vs L: 70 PA, .194/.286/.242, .226 BAbip, 11.4% BB rate, 12.9% K rate

He's hit for no power vs L this year, but he's also only put the ball in play 53 times and has been pretty unlucky. He's also been kinda meh on the road.

Career Home Split: 1539 PA, .319/.385/.533, .334 BAbip
Career Road Split: 1658 PA, .283/.358/.495, .293 BAbip

2019 Home: 120 PA, .310/.417/.500, .329 BAbip
2019 Road: 154 PA, .248/.364/.426, .267 BAbip

I think it's all SSS noise but those are the results to date, luck or not.
 

reggiecleveland

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Whenever I read one of these articles all I can do is wonder what Wade Boggs could be today.
I wonder about greats that don't fit the profile too. Would Tony Gwynn be coaching high school because he didn't get enough "barrels" in AA? Would Wilt Chamberlain be setting countless ballscreens, watching his team mates shoot 3s?
 

Pitt the Elder

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Sep 7, 2013
535
Baseball Savant isn't super easy to get splits for, but here's what I managed to tease out:

vs RHP:
YearExit VelocityLaunch AngleBarrel %Hard Hit %XBAXSLGXWOBA
201589.9145.9%37.0%0.2710.4340.330
201689.8124.6%39.8%0.2800.4340.336
201788.3154.8%38.1%0.2750.4370.344
201892.12013.2%49.2%0.3080.5910.424
201991.21713.8%49.3%0.2870.5550.414

YearGB%LD% FB%PU%
201539.6%25.2%28.0%7.2%
201642.7%25.3%22.4%9.5%
201740.0%24.9%22.4%12.8%
201833.2%26.8%32.6%7.4%
201937.7%23.9%27.5%10.9%

vs LHP:
YearExit VelocityLaunch AngleBarrel %Hard Hit %XBAXSLGXWOBA
201590175.9%40.0%0.3130.4780.361
201689.2158.5%41.0%0.2900.5000.358
201788.7123.6%37.5%0.2830.4450.361
201892.51516.8%53.3%0.3280.6720.461
201988.1213.8%26.4%0.2220.3320.267

YearGB%LD% FB%PU%
201536.3%26.7%26.7%10.4%
201637.6%23.1%27.4%12.0%
201744.6%23.2%19.6%12.5%
201836.4%26.2%29.0%8.4%
201932.1%20.8%43.4%3.8%

What stands out to me is the big spike in Mookie's launch angle and FB% in 2019, which correlates to a drop in barrel %. Is it possible that Mookie is getting a little too launch angle happy against LHP and is hitting too many catchable fly balls to the outfield? The pitch profile against him doesn't seem very different than it was last year, so my guess is that Mookie should be able to make an adjustment to sacrifice some launch angle to drive the ball better.
 

Hawk68

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Feb 29, 2008
172
Massachusetts
https://slate.com/culture/2019/06/mvp-machine-excerpt-mookie-betts-better-swing.html

Here’s an interesting article on changes to Betts’ swing brought on by a specialist.
Thank you for pointing this out. The shift in hitting philosophy back to Williams method, the advances in baseball bat construction, the use of data to drive decisions have driven the game to it's current state.

It is not the game I played and loved. But it is the game the professionals earn world class entertainment incomes playing.

Times change and we all must face that fact.
Respectfully,
Hawk
 
Jul 5, 2018
126
Thank you for pointing this out. The shift in hitting philosophy back to Williams method, the advances in baseball bat construction, the use of data to drive decisions have driven the game to it's current state.

It is not the game I played and loved. But it is the game the professionals earn world class entertainment incomes playing.

Times change and we all must face that fact.
Respectfully,
Hawk
The way I see hitting is that you have a fraction of a second to identify pitch type and location. To do this, great eye sight, reflexes, hand eye coordination, bat speed and reps are needed. Besides the reps, success is due to natural ability.

What changed in pitching, besides the countless guys coming out of the bullpen that throw 95+mph, has necessitated radical changes in the approach to hitting? I don't believe using data is going to help anyone hit better against Sale.
 
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shaggydog2000

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Apr 5, 2007
5,567
The way I see hitting is that you have a fraction of a second to identify pitch type and location. To do this, great eye sight, reflexes, hand eye coordination, bat speed and reps are needed. Besides the reps, success is due to natural ability.

What changes in pitching, besides the countless guys coming out of the bullpen that throw 95+mph, has necessitated radical changes in the approach to hitting? I don't believe using data is going to help anyone hit better against Sale.
Different pitches with different movement go in and out of style. The changes in how the strike zone is called make high and low strikes more or less likely to be thrown, and therefore encourage different swing paths. Advanced scouting gives an advantage to hitters who are better able to internalize the information and put it into use during those high stress fractions of a second.
 

soxhop411

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Dec 4, 2009
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in his last 8 games (including todays game) he has 3 Hits in his last 30 AB's....


not including today's game, in his last 15 games, he is batting .203 with 12 Hits in 59 AB's.

The entire team, AB, Mookie etc, are all struggling at the same time
 

Al Zarilla

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Dec 8, 2005
49,139
San Andreas Fault
in his last 8 games (including todays game) he has 3 Hits in his last 30 AB's....


not including today's game, in his last 15 games, he is batting .203 with 12 Hits in 59 AB's.

The entire team, AB, Mookie etc, are all struggling at the same time
Mookie hit the ball very hard on two ABs (the grounders) and pretty well to right into the wind in his leadoff AB. Could have had two hits. If he can keep up today’s swings, the hits will come.
 

flymrfreakjar

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Jun 30, 2006
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I wonder if he is nursing a leg injury of some kind. Not trying to steal much, bad numbers on the bases in general, and some shockingly bad defensive metrics (especially considering he’s usually a super elite defender by the numbers)
 

richgedman'sghost

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Just addressing Mookie's lack of steals...For most of the year, he was batting second with JD batting third. It stands to reason that Mookie would be less inclined to steal with JD batting directly behind him than with Andrew batting behind him.
 

Pitt the Elder

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Sep 7, 2013
535
A quick update on Mookie's recent performance. Superficially, his numbers in June have been down, but it looks like that is being driven by a .232 BABIP (.267 for LHP and .222 vs RHP). His underlying batted ball stats are actually trending slightly higher, especially vs LHP:

vs RHP:
MonthExit VelocityLaunch AngleBarrel %Hard Hit %XBAXSLGXWOBA
Mar/Apr89.41611.9%47.8%0.2840.5550.403
May91.21814.5%53.2%0.2990.5620.434
June91.12015.8%42.1%0.2670.5520.402

MonthGB%LD% FB%PU%
Mar/Apr43.3%19.0%26.9%10.4%
May33.9%29.0%27.4%9.7%
June31.6%22.8%36.8%8.8%

vs LHP:
MonthExit VelocityLaunch AngleBarrel %Hard Hit %XBAXSLGXWOBA
Mar/Apr87.4173.7%29.6%0.2540.3730.287
May88.5254.2%20.8%0.2110.3180.255
June89.5236.3%43.8%0.2540.4290.287

MonthGB%LD% FB%PU%
Mar/Apr37.0%22.2%37.0%3.7%
May29.2%20.8%45.8%4.2%
June37.5%18.8%25.0%18.8%

In short, Mookie's batted ball performance vs RHP continues to be very strong, with his exit velocity holding steady at 91.1 mph and his barrel % climbing to a very strong 15.8%. Versus LHP, there are some signs of life. Mookie's exit velocity has climbed to 89.5 mph and his barrel %, while still low, is trending in the right direction, up to 6.3%, with a big jump in his hard hit % (43.8% in June vs 29.6% and 20.8% in Apr and May) and XSLG. HIs PA vs LHP in each month is still very small (34, 32, 24 by month) so small samples still apply.

I dug into some other interesting stats in Baseball Savant. The first was a SweetSpot % (SwSp%) that I can't find on Mookie's player card but which is included in the batted ball leader boards. The SwSp% is all batted balls with launch angles between 8 and 32 degrees. Mookies 5-year progression starting in 2015: 34.2%, 32.2%, 32.5%, 39.4%, 34.6%. I couldn't find a way to break that down by pitcher handedness, but my guess is that he's hitting the sweet spot far less than usual vs LHP. Similarly, I found these values interesting from Mookie's batted ball profile:

YearWeakToppedUnderFlare/BurnerSolidBarrel
20152.70%28.60%30.00%28.60%4.20%5.90%
20162.00%36.10%26.70%23.20%6.70%5.30%
20173.80%31.90%29.40%23.30%7%4.50%
20182.10%21.90%27.60%26.30%8.10%14.10%
20191.60%27.10%32.70%22.30%5.20%11.20%

Mookie is hitting more balls that are "topped" or "under" than last year by quite a bit. Again, I'd like to see how this is broken down by handedness and I wonder if this is a reflection of how pitchers are pitching him differently this year. LHP are pitching him more breaking balls this year than last (22.3% vs 17.3%) and are throwing less offspeed stuff (16% vs 21.9%). What's very telling is that Mookie has barreled up 0% of breaking and off-speed pitches vs LHP this year after barreling them up at an 18.4% (off-speed) and 21.4% (breaking) last year. Interestingly, his FB% on breaking balls has spiked as well, suggesting that he's getting under these pitches too much.

For what it's worth, fis numbers vs fastballs have dropped a bit, but his 2019 numbers (8.8%) aren't that much lower than 2018 (14.5%). Also, Mookie is not seeing the same drop vs RHP from 2018 to 2019 (Fastballs: 15.1% vs 14.8%; breaking: 10.1% vs 16.7%; 7.4% vs 4.2%).

So is the answer to the question "What's wrong with Mookie?" that he's simply struggling to barrel up offspeed and breaking pitches from LHP? A quick look at the numbers suggests he had a similar problem in 2017 after hitting those pitches well in 2016.
 
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