Continuing on the series that began with April Powers Part 1, I showed you the top hitters over the last 3 years in the month of April with the caveat that they had to be “hot” at least twice. This week we’ll take an initial look at the top hitters from April 2019 and see if how they performed in the following months, and maybe catch a glimpse of what to look out for in Part 3.
In honor of Star Wars week, let’s take a page from Master Yoda. Always in motion is the future, difficult to tell. But to find our way there, we can start by looking at the present. After all, it’s impossible to know where you are going, if you don’t know where you’ve been without feeling under pressure. Right, David Bowie? They said it couldn’t be done! Yoda and Bowie in the same reference? Check. Now lets look at the board:
|Name||Season||Apr wRC+||May wRC+||Jun wRC+|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||2019||136||—||195|
|Tommy La Stella||2019||136||139||114|
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||2019||130||96||157|
So the interesting thing here is you see the top performers in April of 2019 had many different patterns in the following months. The difficulty trying to find patterns is you have to be mindful of externalities (word of the day). A big one being playing through injuries or missing time altogether. Take Fernando Tatis Jr. for example; he missed all of May so it’s hard to say if he’s a rhythm player (ramps up each month with more exposure and working out timing like Carlos Santana) or if he’s a fast-starter with a May dropoff and a summer heat boon like Nelson Cruz and Yoan Moncada. Both of which have a clear pattern starting hot in April with a wRC+ over 140 for their career, and a noticeable drop in May.
Then you have rookies like Jeff McNeil, they hit the ground running often because no one has a book on them yet. Then there’s an adjustment period for the league, followed by adaption. Because of this, it’s hard to gauge what type of hitter a rookie will be until they get a few seasons under their belt like Moncada.
Which brings us to the breakout players; you may have noticed that Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich did not appear in Part 1. Bellinger did not break camp in 2017 and had a comparably rough 2018, whereas Yelich didn’t break out until the second half in 2018. They also serve as examples of nearly opposite profiles. Yin and Yang, Belli and Yeli. Bellinger after 3 seasons has shown himself to be a first-half hitter. His career wRC+ split is 149/129 with 2019 being a very loud example. Whereas Yelich has shown to be a second-half hitter with a career split of 130/144, but is still a little murky post-breakout since getting injured and shut down in September last year. Hmmmm, in redrafts one could draft Belli and trade for Yeli at the All-Star break and reap the best of both worlds.
And then there’s Javier Baez. Since his second-half breakout in 2017, he’s shown himself to be a first-half hitter which was compounded by a heel injury in June last year and never fully recovered from it. He had a .924 OPS before the injury, and a .797 OPS after it. I am looking forward to a healthy Baez in this shortened season after he was hitting .429 with 3 HRs in spring training before it was put on pause. His stroke and timing were once again ready for Opening Day in short order.
The final hitter I’d like to highlight is Michael Conforto. His career splits are 116/144, yeat April is always his hottest month followed be continuous decline until July. Which, he then gets a second wind for the home stretch. You could say he’s a 2-peak hitter, which there are many of. Many things could be responsible for that: the cycle of adjustments between hitters and pitchers, physical conditioning, and summer weather to a degree.
This is a quick outline for you to see that players can follow different patterns, and especially in Roto leagues understanding these patterns can help you maximize the production of your lineup and make savvy trades at ideal times. Next issue, Part 3, I will attempt to clear the bats from the belfry and dive in deeper. Digging for trends in batting profiles and player adjustments, we’ll try to predict who can be a fast-starter in “April” that might not have an established pattern yet, and maybe even why that is. Stay tuned!