Out of Left Field

“Out of Left Field” is an occasional post about matters that don’t need 1,200 words of analysis, but should be mentioned anyway. In no particular order…

We all have or idiosyncrasies. One of mine is when individuals in the baseball media make statements that can be very easily and very quickly be proven false. It’s a sign of willful ignorance or just laziness at best.

To wit:

Aaron Judge’s average launch angle on batted balls this season is 14.8 degrees, which is not only significantly higher than last season’s 11.6 but is the highest of his career since 2017.

Judge’s pull rate is 47.2% which is up over 10% from last year and is also the highest of his career.

His flyball rate is 43.8% in 2022, up from last year’s 35.5% and again is also the highest of his career.

His contact rate is lower than it was last season and his strikeout rate is almost exactly the same.

He has simply spent the 2022 season elevating the ball to the pull side more than he’s ever done, by far.

I’m just leaving that there for when (not “if”, “when”) someone tells you today that Judge’s 2022 success is due to “giving up on that launch angle thing”, focusing on going the other way, or watching his batting average – which someone says every damn day. It’s factually inaccurate, and willfully ignorant, which if you’re a social media sh!t poster or a caller to sports radio, that’s one thing but if you get paid to talk baseball, be smarter.

Talking about Gerrit Cole is like talking about politics with people. They make a claim that’s factually incorrect, you correct them and they just move the goal posts – it’s exhausting, and I may be done with it. I’ve already pointed out that by any measurement, he’s been one of MLB’s best five pitchers since the Yankees acquired him, since the “sticky stuff” ban, and he’s at worst top ten in baseball this season.

In spite of his recent struggles here are the Yankees’ leaders in average game score for starting pitchers in 2022, in order: Cole, Nestor, Severino, with Taillon, and German tied for fourth. I’m not a psychiatrist, but if you truly believe Cole is a problem for this team I think you’re one of those folks that just look for drama.

See also; “Ohtani for MVP!” folks.

I’m not going to allow myself to be put in a position in which I need to denigrate Ohtani’s accomplishments or abilities. He “may” be the best player to ever step on a baseball field and a reasonable argument can be made for him as AL MVP this season (an argument I wouldn’t agree with to be clear, but a reasonable, adult one nonetheless).

That said, the number of absolutely moronic arguments coming from that faction – again, not just from fans but from paid media who should do better – has been tidal wave sized recently. As a result, I feel the need to point out that Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s OPS+ is the same distance from Ohtani’s as Ohtani’s OPS+ is to Judge’s.

Alex Verdugo is an average MLB hitter – almost exactly so with his wRC+ of 103. Last night he turned around a 100 mph fastball and hit it into the bullpen in right-center field. I say this because we tend to overlook how damn remarkable players are in this era.

I love era-adjusted stats and it usually annoys me when baseball folks compare players of different eras without mentioning the differing contexts. But Alex Verdugo and all the other average hitters and pitchers in MLB need to be considered when we’re talking about Judge, Ohtani, deGrom, Trout, and all the other great players today. Because even though OPS+, wRC+, ERA+, etc are adjusted for the era and have league averages set at 100, the Alex Verdugo’s of the world are far – and I mean far – harder to separate from on the field and statistically than the average players Ruth, Maris, and Bonds had to separate from.

It’s a damn great time to be a baseball fan.

Did I miss something? Let me know. Drop a comment in the comments section below or yell at me @mybaseballpage1 on Twitter and/or the “My Baseball Page” on Facebook.

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