Rolling off of last weeks’ public safety announcement that David Dahl had very quickly turned into a David Don’t (I’m here all night folks), I’d like a chance to be a hype-man instead of a Debbie-downer this week. (I’m more of a Deborah anyways…) So if you hadn’t guessed from my spoiler-not-free title, we’re going to be taking a look at the player who puts the ‘R’ in Stella. Or wait, there is no ‘R’ in Stella. Look, whatever gets you from Tommy La Stella to Tommy La Stellar, that’s what I’m saying. (I actually don’t know what I’m saying.)
Coming off a surprising season that saw him hit 16 homeruns with 49 runs and 44 RBIs in just 321 plate appearances, this year was a curious test to see what would happen next in Tommy La Stella‘s fairly unspectacular career thus far. I mean, he had never hit more than five homeruns in a season before, and had never produced WAR higher than 0.8 sans the 2019 season mentioned. And I only mention that 0.8 WAR mark because this year, he’s already reached 0.4 in 50 less games with the worst Def (-2.7) portion of WAR in his career. So you can see why his pretty hot start, hitting a slash of 284/372/494, is quite the surprise. Or is it? (o^-^o)
Yeah, it’s kind of a surprise, but kinda isn’t? WAY TO CONCLUSION MAN. Okay, so without the shouting and Pikachu faces, I want to point out that while this season is still young (23 games as of this writing) and stricken by the plague and blah-blah-blah all the other usual caveats, there is one other season where La Stella showed similar promise, and I wonder if what we’re seeing now is a sign of things to come, or just another hot streak that’ll fade as fast as I do with your mom.
Let’s compare the past two seasons and see what happens!
Changes? A lot of em. In amazing fashion, La Stella has managed to substantially lower his K%, while upping his ISO and nearly doubling his BB%, all while sustaining the lowest BABIP of his career. A lot of this could be noise based on the lack of plate appearances, so we’ll rummage through his batting profile a bit more.
Again, usual season-cavaets aside, he’s definitely hitting the ball in the air more, certainly a great sign in terms of power and somewhat explains the lower BABIP. Ideally you’d want his LD% to have that effect, still, the GB% lowering is a net-gain in my book, and another sign that something is going on. But what kind of contact is he making? Let’s take a look in the next two tables.
It’s subtle, but as you can see, he’s hitting the ball harder in both classifications, even under the duress of the greater fandom knowing what your Soft% is. Something I tend to keep quiet.
And again, noting extraordinarily foreboding with this data. La Stella is clearing swinging at less balls out of the strike zone, but stable elsewhere.
I can only read all of these data points as great signs for sustainability. It’s clear that through both the results, and the data so far supporting those results, that he is hitting the ball harder, higher and better. But you could have come to that same conclusion without all the work. The real question is, will it last? Unlike last week’s Downer-Dahl report, I’m encouraged to think that Tommy La Stella can keep a similar level of play. While I don’t believe he’s a completely remade player, he has shown this amount of power and plate discipline outside of 2020 and 2019, and that was back in 2017 for the Cubs when he was able to produce a .184 (third-highest in his career) with a nearly similar 13.2 BB% to this season’s 13.1%. He would only finish the year with 151 plate appearances, but was able to provide a 288/389/472 slash, numbers that would create hitter comps like Michael Conforto-Trea Turner-Yasmani Grandal, not bad company to be in offensively.
So yes, Tommy La Stella is having a stellar season so far, and yes, I think it can continue. And yes, I think I’m Stellar for telling you that.
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him @jaywrong, or read his rarely (like never) updated blog Desultory Thoughts of a Longfellow.