Sure, it’s only one week into the season, but there are still some interesting stats at which to look. Of course, take all of these with a grain of salt, but it is fun to see some crazy numbers in some players’ stat lines.
1. Gerrit Cole’s changeup
Again, it has only been two starts, but take a look at Cole’s changeup usage over the past few seasons:
Inches of Drop
Inches of Break
He seems to have developed it more this past offseason to have yet another weapon in his arsenal. So far this year, hitters have a minuscule .003 XBA against his changeup, with a whopping .005 XSLG.
As seen in the table above, his spin rate on the pitch has remained pretty similar to what it has been in years past. Same with the vertical movement. However, the amount of break he is getting on the pitch has slowly been creeping up.
We will have to see how this pitch plays out for Cole over a full season, but if he is able to continue to harness his changeup, it will just make him even more lethal.
2. Clint Frazier’s nice start at the plate
Everyone seems to be excited about Frazier finally getting his opportunity to be a full-time starter. He is still only 26 years old and has shown flashes of being a great offensive threat while steadily improving his defense in the outfield.
He is off to a nice start at the plate this season, hitting .313 in his first 16 at-bats with an OBP of .421 as of Wednesday morning. However, he’s gotten a little lucky. His exit velocity has averaged 78.1 miles per hour, which is in the bottom one percent of the league. Furthermore, because of this, his XBA is only .225. Prior to this year, he averaged a hard-hit rate of 38.7 percent. In 2021, it is at 23.1 percent.
By no means am I saying Frazier hasn’t been playing well — in fact, I am saying that he should move towards his career numbers as the season moves on. This means that his stats will only get better, and what we’ve seen from him this first week was nowhere near his best.
3. Gary Sanchez’s revenge tour
A “hard-hit ball” is defined as a ball hit with an exit velocity of 95 miles per hour or above. Sanchez actually had a hard-hit rate of 50 percent in 2020 (top eight percent of the league), but he also had a putrid 36 percent strikeout rate (bottom two percent of the league). He also had a 17.4 barrel rate (top three percent of the league) All in all, his .191 XBA was not much better than his actual .147 XBA. But he is hitting .278 in 2021, with an XBA of .322. Additionally, his XSLG is .671, which is way better than his .562 mark in 2016, the year he took the league by storm.
Another interesting thing to look at is his launch angle. Going back to his breakthrough 2016 season, he very surprisingly had an average launch angle of only 7.9 degrees. For context, here is how launch angle is generally categorized:
And here are Sanchez’s launch angles over the years:
Launch Angle (degrees)
He’s getting a little more lift on the ball so far this year. As of now at his current pace, he is projected for around 65 homers this season over 130 games. That’s obviously unrealistic, but he still will have a decent chance of topping his 130-game home run pace from last year, which was around 26-27 home runs.
To reiterate, most of these stats mean nothing, as it has only been six games. But it’s interesting to see how some players have started off, especially those critical to the success of the team.