Back during the shutdown, I wrote about trends in players being top hitters in April (the first month of the season). Surprise! Mike Trout is on that list. One of the other names on that list is Matt Chapman. Then in Part 2, I discovered certain players had patterns. Chapman has shown a pattern of hitting for two years now. Not only is he a top performer at the start of the season, but its definitely a HOT start as he cools off after. He is a streaky hitter (to a degree), but a streaky hitter that comes out of gate hot.
Chapman has taken a big stride in the last 2 years, most notably going from 24 HRs to 36 HRs with an extremely repeatable HR/FB rate and a top 4% EV and top 7% Hardhit%. But as it pertains to this shortened season, he has a lot of appeal for the limited schedule. Let’s dive in.
Clearly, over the last two years, Chapman has been better in April as opposed to May. Now, in 2018 he had a massive dip then rebounded in June. Then last year, in 2019, he had a mild dip but rebounded to a 143 wRC+ in June then struggled in July. What we see here is in May his K% has gone up both years. This has led to a drop in AVG and OBP (duh). What is also evident is that his K-rate improved from 2018 to 2019. This shows his growth as a hitter and shows up in the stat sheet, but also you see he does still experience a month of struggles yet this last year he pushed it out another month. Since this season is only 2 months long, he might just stay productive for the entire season and avoid the struggle. So what is happening besides him striking out?
The data on batted balls is not very clear — with the exception of a noticeable dip in Chapman using the opposite field. There’s a small element of teams using the shift against him but it doesn’t have a significant effect as he mostly pulls the ball heavier in the first half of the season (with the exception of April 2019) before spraying the field in the second (43.3%/37.3%). Moving on.
|AVG vFB||AVG vBR||AVG vOS||Whiff vFB||Whiff vBR||Whiff vOS|
So once again you see that he has improved. Yay! What has happened is opponents’ use of Offspeed pitchers in conjunction with Fastballs has adjusted to attack him with speed changes high and inside on outs and low outside on Ks. But a specific area where he has improved is making contact with pitches low and outside. In the outside bottom corner of the zone, Chapman has improved his AVG from .236 (40% K-rate) to .324 (26% K-rate) which has been the primary target by pitchers against him. Next!
That explains it. To start the season, he doesn’t swing at more pitches; he swings at less! In April Chapman is more patient for his pitch. He swings at less in the zone (Z-swing%) and chases less (O-Swing%). And despite fewer swings, his contact rate is higher. He comes into the season with a plan; but, then once the season gets into summer he gets baited more by scouting reports and then needs to adjust back to his game plan. In general though, his contact skills have improved along with his discipline. If he can avoid the bait this year with a little luck, he would be the same as Nolan Arenado for a 60 game season. And if he can just repeat last year (April–May) he’ll produce a line of 37/15/34/.273/.356, i.e. Grey’s projections for Matt Olson.