Baseball is a funny sport. You remember baseball, don’t you? Men wearing gloves chase down a ball hit by another man holding a big stick. Like I said, funny. Damn, I really miss it though. Baseball is special beyond words (the rest of this post notwithstanding) and uniquely American in that you have to proactively win a game or lose by failing (unlike that silly soccer/euro-football). Earl Weaver once said, “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”  There are two other things about baseball that make it special beyond the rest:

First, baseball is a game of failure. There is no other profession on this planet where you can fail 70% of the time and be considered elite; that is, other than maybe weathermen and apparently now epidemiologists. The enigma that is Pete Rose once said, “When you play this game 20 years, go to bat 10,000 times, and get 3,000 hits, you know what that means? you’ve gone 0 for 7,000.” Secondly, it’s a game of adjustments. The eternal cat and mouse between the opposing pitchers and the batters. Batters show what pitches they can hit, pitchers adjust and throw them something different. Then the batters have to adjust to the new game plan, and the beat goes on Sonny. I’m Cher you know what I mean.

One such aspect of said feline frivolity is the idea of the “hot bat.” When a hitter is hot they have either A) found the edge of the scouting book that other teams have on them or B) are capitalizing on pitching mistakes, or even C) both. When it comes to this game within the game, there are different types of hitters: reactive and proactive. There’s a fine, fine line between the two kinda like between love and waste of time. Reactive hitters essentially are chasing the book on themselves, adjusting after the fact. Proactive hitters generally make adjustments in advance and when the league catches up, they move on to their next plan. Then some hitters walk the line. You can take that to the bank, Cash money.

So after that 380-word segue (you made it!), I have always wondered what hitters are “fast-starters” in baseball. When the season begins, who are the guys that come out of the gate hot and put up the most crooked numbers at the outset of a season? And further, are there some guys that do it on the regular? This COVID-19 afflicted season looks to have a severely shortened half-life and more than ever (especially in roto) you’ll want to start hot with less of time to make up for a cold April* (way after April). Remember that one season you started in last place and rallied after the ASB?! Sorry, you’re bat[crap] crazy if you think you can do that again. You can thank a horseshoe bat in China for that. In Mandarin, its “xie xie,” pronounced, “shiEH shieh.” Hmmm, that oddly sounds like… nevermind.

Without further ado, I present to you the Great Wall of Text Which is Actually a Table for Hot Bats in April; or we can just call it something a little more catchy like… April Powers!

Name MA130+ Seasons wOBA wRC+ ADev
Mitch Haniger 2 2017-2018 0.442 186.8 0.3
Bryce Harper 2 2017-2018 0.459 186.5 33.6
Mike Trout 3 2017-2019 0.442 184.8 10.4
Aaron Judge 3 2017-2019 0.430 174.7 20.7
Freddie Freeman 3 2017-2019 0.439 174.1 30.9
Mookie Betts 2 2018-2019 0.430 170.4 36.1
Eugenio Suarez 2 2017-2018 0.424 163.1 0.6
Eric Thames 3 2017-2019 0.423 162.7 19.1
Rhys Hoskins 2 2018-2019 0.419 162.6 4.9
Matt Kemp 2 2017-2018 0.411 158.6 14.0
Matt Davidson 2 2017-2018 0.400 156.2 10.8
Michael Conforto 2 2017,2019 0.405 155.9 12.9
Tommy Pham 2 2018-2019 0.397 154.2 13.1
Elvis Andrus 2 2018-2019 0.413 153.9 4.8
Nelson Cruz 3 2017-2019 0.393 151.2 13.5
Tyler Flowers 2 2017,2019 0.405 149.8 1.6
Paul Goldschmidt 2 2017-2018 0.403 148.9 6.4
Carlos Correa 2 2018-2019 0.386 148.0 5.4
Paul DeJong 2 2018-2019 0.392 148.0 15.3
Matt Chapman 2 2018-2019 0.385 147.3 2.2
Kris Bryant 2 2017-2018 0.395 147.0 9.4
Yoan Moncada 2 2018-2019 0.383 144.8 4.8
Javier Baez 2 2018-2019 0.388 142.4 3.9
Max Kepler 2 2018-2019 0.384 142.3 5.5
Joc Pederson 2 2018-2019 0.382 142.3 6.1
Jose Ramirez 2 2017-2018 0.388 142.2 11.8
Eduardo Escobar 2 2018-2019 0.383 139.8 3.1
Scott Schebler 2 2017-2018 0.388 139.4 9.2
Jose Altuve 2 2017-2018 0.371 137.7 1.2
Marcell Ozuna 2 2017,2019 0.379 137.6 5.1
Michael Brantley 3 2017-2019 0.377 136.8 1.4
Mike Moustakas 2 2018-2019 0.379 136.2 4.7
Nolan Arenado 2 2017-2018 0.397 133.9 1.1

This is a table for the last 3 years, showing which players started hot in April (including the end of March) more than once. What am I calling “hot” you ask? Shut your mouth daddy’s talking. Kidding (sorta). After numerous throws at a dartboard… I decided to stop wasting time, and elected to use wRC+ as statistic of a hitter’s value. For those unfamiliar, wRC+ strips away the fickleness of AVG, SLG etc and frees it of goofy factors like BABIP and Coors/Crayola Canyon to find out the offensive contribution in Runs based off of wOBA on a scale where 100 = average. Anything above 100 is good to great.

I chose 130 as the marker, meaning, 30% production above average (compared to the field) to represent a hot bat. This clearly narrows the search to those doing more than just a decent hitting-streak. MA130+ is how many Aprils a player had a wRC+ above 130. wRC+ and other stats above are the combined averages during their hot starts. And ADev is the Average Deviation of the combined wRC+. For example, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are within a couple of points of each other; though Trout’s ADev of 10.4 means he was more consistent than Harper with a 33.6, as well as doing it 3 years straight vs only 2. And then there’s Mitch Haniger, ROFL. What the WUT.

I could sit here and swoon over Mike Trout for the 100th time and tell you again why he’s the greatest player ever, but you don’t need me to tell you that! What we can glean here, are other players that may be worth targeting a little more in this shortened season who are more likely to start the season hot. One in particular that stands out to me in Eric Thames. Since returning to the MLB, he has started hot every season. Though he is in a less favorable park, he will be the strong-side of a platoon in a division with very few Lefty starting pitchers (assuming games return to home fields).

Another of note is Tyler Flowers. If you find yourself punting catcher and looking for a cheap one to start the season off, you might consider Flowers; he has been flaming hot like Cheetos 2 of the last 3 years. Eugenio Suarez also began hot 2 of the last 3, and that doesn’t include last year when he went off for 29 HR in the second half, hmmm. There are several MIs to choose from that won’t cost you much and could give you a nice early boost in Andrus, DeJong, Mous with various skillsets. Javier Baez presents an interesting case and will be one of the subjects in Part 2 as I explore the Why. Not to be confused with The Who, as we will be nowhere near Soho. Stay tuned.

 

 
  1. Grey

    Grey says:
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    Okay, this was awesome…Nice work, whip!

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Thanks G, shockingly Yelich and Beli did not make the list. Though Beli started rough in 2018, and didnt catch fire until latter part of 2017… but last year though… more on that later!

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        I know, I thought that too…I’d ask close? But I’ll wait for ‘more on that later”

  2. Nice car!

    Surprised to see Baez on this list…wink…

    This also goes to show that Arenado will be fine in any park? Ok maybe not Frisco. But them streets are getting grimey with all the reeses feces all over them streets. Here’s a mission for you Frisco shit in a hole, shit in the bowl, shit in a park, shit after dark, shit in your hands, shit in the stands, shit in the water, shit with your father, shit in your sheets, but not in them streets!

    Anyway, I liked this. Nice work.

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      LOL… Arenado would be like Grey has said before, he’ll still be “fine” just not first round value. Likely somewhere around late 3rd or 4th i’d guess. He’s a bit interesting in that April/July is his worst months throughout career and he peaks in June and Sept. Which appears on the surface he’s a reactive hitter.

      • Yeah July does look to be the acception…

        That’s often when ski season closes so I don’t know if that is related…

        But my driver is still going 300 yards although often completely faded…

  3. Jolt In Flow says:
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    Whip, looking forward to our commentor league when the season starts. You really made it fun at the draft. You went above and beyond simply putting your name down for a league. I hope the other Razzball readers take note for next year.

    As for this post, one comment which I believe Grey pointed out in another post. It was along the lines of: are hot starters only hot in April? If the season starts in July, do they lose their hot-starterness because the season starts later?

    You get the picture. Things change all the time. I’m almost tempted to see which players have a tendency to get hot mid-season. So if the season starts in July, maybe they’re the ones starting hot.

    Much appreciated for the write-up. Especially the pieces on the meaning behind some of the acronyms. I’m not well-versed in them. So any little bit counts. I’m starting to grasp the easy stuff like BABIP.

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Jolt!
      First, thanks so much. If people signup because my name is on it, I feel I owe it to them participate. And if I’m participating, I want it to be fun too. haha. Nothing sucks more than a stale draft. I’d prefer to have a good time.

      Yes, as I wrote about, my premise is that it has nothing to do with April itself, but that its the first month of season when games count coming out of ST. Now, I’ve never played professional ball LOL, but I did play some in school and have talked to plenty of lower level players. There’s reason people use the phrase “midseason form”, as in after players have gotten used to playing and seeing live balls at game speed etc.

      If the season naturally began in the middle of summer, i think there would be more creedence to that thought, but summer comes later. So i think a mid-summer start might help more players and possibly make “fast-starters” even better. At least thats how I see it.

      Thanks for the feedback, as I write posts explaining what some stats mean etc I often wonder if I’m spending too much time explaining what statistics precisely mean, or if readers even care. So thanks! I’ll continue to throw it in their when it’s useful.

    • KrazyIvan says:
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      Nice, what a write up! Moncada has been a guy I’m really high on this year so it’s good to see him on the list.

      I’ve thought too about the angle of guys who hit better when it is hot, but I think overall I’m going with “trust” guys. This whole ordeal has turned everything upside down. I think that some of the veterans who have that strong, grind out styles, are going to get back on track fastest. Guys like Trout, Betts, Freeman and Cruz are going to be awesome because they are so locked into to their routine that works. For this same reason I’m scared the shizz out of some of these rookies.

      • Coolwhip

        Coolwhip says:
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        Thanks man! Yep agree on that. I’m not totally scared of rookies as they have no book against them, so some will definitely have a chance to shine with less time for league to adjust to them. So if they start strong they could be very valuable.

      • baby seal says:
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        Same here!

  4. Very interested in this type of info, especially this year. Love most on this list, Jv. Baez, N. Cruz and Moncada just moved up for me – LOL
    Great writeup, thanks Whip!

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Thanks man!

  5. Malicious Phenoms says:
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    Terrific info. This is gold for 2020, whip! Thanks for taking the time to do this! You are a true razzball asset!

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      np, and thanks! just you wait for part 2!

      • baby seal says:
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        I CANNOT WAIT, SIR

  6. baby seal says:
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    So good, Cool!

    I see you’re picking up my writing style. Nice long wall of text w/ a beautifully crafted intro. :-)

    Some deep thoughts in that segue! Loved it!!!

    Killer ending, too!!!

    OK, enough ass kissing, Sexy Mike Trout.

    You alluded to hot starts in April vs this year being in the summer, but not sure you actually addressed it w/ the data? Or at least, I couldn’t tell. You mind explaining that a bit more, please?

    This is exactly something I was looking for, so really great. Nice to see someone finally include st deviation in their analysis!! So freakin’ obvious IMO!

    I’m not interested in Harper’s AVG that early in the draft, FWIW. Going to dig a bit more now. Thanks!

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Thanks Seal and your kiss from a rose. flowery first, thorns second. ;-)

      Okay, April not entirely sure what the question is, but I’ll give it a go. I could have spelled it out a bit better in the post by I was writing it very late and very tired. LOL. I haven’t seen or read anything that says April in and of itself matters to impacting players based on its presence on the calendar. My premise is that, some hitters perform better, or in the case of this first post better than the field, during the first month of the season with live games at game speed(when people start trying to win).

      Therefore, generally, I view them as proactive hitters in that pitchers are often adjusting to them more than they are to the pitchers. Some of this is due to offseason work ethic and talent, Mike Trout is a clinic on that, every season he comes into camp saying he’s going to do better at something that season, and he always delivers. I can’t tell you how amazing that is. So if meaningful games begin in July instead of April, it doesn’t matter. If guys start season ahead of the curve, that actual begging date doesn’t matter.

      Arenado is a bit different as I pointed out above, He’ll probably appear in Part 2. The summer tends to benefit him a lot (Coors, heat, etc), and the funny thing is he made this list for April when April is his 2nd worst month, lol. So seems he’s a really good hitter but his power is helped, lol.

      Harper’s AVG? you mean batting AVG? This post does not involve AVG. I intentionally avoided using that because I wanted to show a hitter’s true value hince wOBA and wRC+ plus those stats account for league/park adjustments and wRC+ is relative to the field in that season. i.e. a 300 avg in 2017 is different than 300 avg in 2019 etc. This gives you look at value in the context of that season.

      This first post is more about looking at past performance and trends, seeing what has happened before, observational behavior etc. My next goal is seeing if I can be more predictive and spot trends. As well as showing different types of players. Those that historically start hot and trail off, those that start cold and peak in summer, and those that are “Ms” start and end each half low with a peak in middle of each half (like Arenado).

      How’s that?

      • baby seal says:
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        First of all, the reply wall of text is a beautiful site to see. Haha!

        Second, yes I did mean Harper’s batting AVG. Fading that in round 2. Sorry if wasn’t clear, just a general comment since you wrote about him in the blurb. The st dev above also defends my fading of him.

        April –> has to do w/ weather. Especially younger players from Latin America – very anecdotal – but seems like they struggle more than usual in the early months of their first couple season in the bigs.

        It is twofold as you alluded – 1) Seeing enough live balls (hehe) and getting timing down, 2) The warm weather makes everything better in baseball, unless it’s October or November and Jeter is at the plate!!

        3) Your point on being “proactive” vs “reactive” is very interesting and I love that. But that sort of falls partially into the same “bucket” as #1 above (if I were to broaden the definition), for me. Makes more sense?

        Few other things I would add / request for you think about and potentially include in the series:

        1) Teams – anything we can glean about certain teams starting hotter or colder? Might help neutralize other factors to figure out weather – or could just be an aggregation of the peculiarities of the players on that specific team at that time.
        2) Categories – are categories usually evenly distributed throughout the year, or do they have peculiar patterns. This might even do a better job at neutralizing other factors than #1. Pretty sure pitching sucks early and gets better as the year goes on.
        3) Age / experience in the league

        Obviously, do as you please. Even if just one of those ideas sound interesting and is worth pursuing, then that would be great. If none, or all, then fine too. Feelings won’t be hurt either way – not trying to create a lot of work for ya!

        Lastly — just an admin question — for the st dev, did u take their March-April wRC+ (or wOBA) for the last 3 years and then run the Excel function on it? Assuming it was pretty straight forward.

        Thanks again bro!
        #SealOut

        • Coolwhip

          Coolwhip says:
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          1. Walls beget walls I guess

          2. a) Gotcha, yeah i was just pointing him out for showing how good Trout was. news flash: trout is amazing. b) As i get into more numbers april weather might not impact as much as you think, Moncada for example is an April hero, and hes a LatinAm guy, and their a several others I will point out in coming weeks as well c) Yeah there’s a lot that goes into it… i just simplified it to catch-all terms for the sake of brevity and keeing this article under 2000 words. I could do a series of posts breaking down the aspects of a hitter coming into ST and ramping up, lol. But I don’t really want to, lol.

          3) Timing is definitely a big deal, some guys find it a lot sooner than others, which is an underlying factor to being proactive/reactive. Proactive meaning they find their time during ST or come ready. And reactive meaning they need full game reps to get into the groove. I think you and I are in agreement just describing things a bit differently.

          4) a) Teams would liekly be anecdotal, as players will (and do) widely vary within each team. So far I haven’t seen any trends with teams out side of Twins (ironically a cold weather city, so that supports player dependency), I believe has more to do with the players… more on that later b) categories? cats of what? c) yes i will be looking at that as well.

          5) Essentially yes, though due to smaller sample I used Average Deviation, if I were to expand it to 5 years or more I’d use StDev over AvgDev.

          • baby seal says:
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            1. lolol

            2a) But the real question is if he’s the best of all time?

            b) OK, interesting

            c) OK and totally fair haha

            3) Got it

            4a) OK

            b) Yes, 5×5 categories like HRs and SBs

            c) OK

            5) Thanks!

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