That is Sara’s first piece as a FanGraphs contributor. She has been writing about baseball on and off since her byline first appeared in her native paper at age 13. Her work has appeared at Baseball Prospectus, the place she contributed to Quick Aid, and as a lead voice protecting the Chicago Cubs for SBNation’s Bleed Cubbie Blue, the place she additionally co-hosts their podcast, Cuppa Cubbie Blue. She’s a fan of superior metrics, conserving rating by hand, and bat flips. Sara is a meticulous researcher who applies that expertise to all elements of baseball, from large points like labor relations to idiosyncratic points like Javier Báez and his uncanny potential to ship on an 0-2 depend in 2019. She seems to be ahead to bringing her analysis expertise to FanGraphs, which has lengthy been her first cease for information to assist her writing.
A lot of the discuss round Nick Castellanos to begin the 2021 season has targeted on his two-game suspension for his position within the occasions previous the benches clearing between the Reds and the Cardinals throughout their second sport of the season:
However whereas baseball followers and analysts argue about whether or not Jake Woodford deliberately hit Castellanos as retaliation for his hop, skip and bat flip after his Opening Day home run the sport earlier than, or whether or not Yadier Molina’s intuition to guard Woodford was additionally worthy of a suspension, I need to deal with Castellanos’ purple sizzling begin to 2021. It seems the Reds outfielder has had so much to have fun one week into the season.
To be clear, each small pattern caveat within the universe applies to this run. A .435/.480/1.130 line and 317 wRC+ is unsustainable over the course of a season. However there’s at all times some magic within the first week or two of the season, and it’s entertaining to take a more in-depth take a look at the numbers. And whereas what Yermín Mercedes and Akil Baddoo have proven of their early large league motion has been enjoyable to look at, it’s in a barely completely different class from what a longtime participant like Castellanos is doing.
Castellanos boasts a profession 112 wRC+. But, regardless of a equally hot start to his 2020 season powered by a 12-game hitting streak, there was actual trigger for concern that he had taken a step again by the top of the season. The .225/.298/.486 line and 102 wRC+ Castellanos put up throughout 2020 have been fairly the outliers relative to his profession marks, as was his 28.5% strikeout charge. As his numbers tapered off, Castellanos admitted he started pressing more down the stretch as the top of the shortened season loomed:
“Normally these little spells the place nothing’s falling are straightforward to disregard, however then while you search for and also you solely have 17 video games left, you recognize?” Castellanos mentioned. “To say that I didn’t take note of it or I needed to do very well? Or I attempted to do an excessive amount of? I’d be mendacity.”
However the peripherals round that hunch point out Castellanos could have been within the midst of some dangerous luck. He posted a career-low BABIP (.257) through the pandemic shortened season, whereas his .329 wOBA was outstripped by his .372 xwOBA, and his xSLG (.539) based mostly on the standard of his contact was considerably greater than than his SLG; his 16% barrel charge was a profession excessive, and good for the ninety fifth percentile in all of baseball. All of it combines to make 2020 look like a possible blip in an in any other case profitable profession on the plate, with Castellanos poised for a 2021 bounce again.
So simply how effectively has that bounce again gone thus far? To place it merely, by one week of baseball in 2021, Castellanos is within the prime 1%.
I needed to check Castellanos’ 2021 begin to different gamers’ first weeks in current seasons. To try this, I pulled offensive stats for the primary week of the final 5 seasons for gamers who had at the very least 20 plate appearances. Listed here are the highest 20 first week begins since 2017, sorted by wRC+:
Prime 20 Begins Since 2017 by wRC+
Minimal 20 plate appearances
There’s lots of noise on this information and the primary week shouldn’t be a crystal ball for what is going to occur over the following 150ish video games. As you may see above, throughout his first week with the Phillies, Bryce Harper he is likely to be in line for an additional MVP marketing campaign. His tempo slowed down, and he wound up “settling” for a .260/.372/.510 line on his strategy to 35 house runs, a 125 wRC+ and 4.6 WAR. It was a stunning season, and positively among the many prime 5 campaigns of his profession, but it surely wasn’t the MVP-caliber season the primary week prompt. On the different finish of the spectrum, Harper’s 2019 teammate Maikel Franco noticed his purple sizzling begin to that season come to a screeching halt; he completed the yr with a .234/.297/.409 line and a 70 wRC+, which was the seventh worst wRC+ in baseball amongst batters with at the very least 400 plate appearances.
The destiny of 2021 Nick Castellanos most likely lies someplace between Harper’s 4.6 WAR season and Franco plummeting again to Earth. Castellanos nonetheless has to play the sphere, a reality that’s prone to suppress his total manufacturing. He’s unlikely to remain within the prime 1% of the league by xSLG, simply as he’ll probably strike out greater than 8% of the time. But, if he can maintain the profession excessive barrel charges and common exit velocity he demonstrated in 2020 regardless of an underwhelming line, it may go a protracted strategy to curing the Reds’ offensive woes (their 91 wRC+ ranked twenty second in baseball final season) and provides him loads extra alternatives to flex at house plate.