Early season overachievers & underachievers

Early season numbers blah, blah, blah. Small sample size yadda yadda yadda.

There have been hot starts – looking at you Tyler Naquin – and there have been cold starts, like Miguel Sanó with three hits in 48 plate appearances. But I wanted to take a look at the players who had overachieved their underlying stats in these first couple of weeks, and those who are likely to significantly improve upon their dismal start.

The easiest method was to simply compare a player’s wOBA against his xwOBA.

To get you up to speed …

wOBA: It’s like on-base percentage (OBP) but it gives extra credit for how the player reached base. For example, a double is worth more than a single. Currently, MLB average is .312 wOBA.

xwOBA: This is the expected version of wOBA. Calculated with the exit velocity and launch angle etc, it predicts the likely outcome. Thus taking the impact of the defence out of it.


Mike Trout, Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. in the top five is the best advertisement that wOBA and xwOBA are excellent stats to sum up a player’s performance.


These are the early-season headline grabbers.

Maybe Orioles fans should not be as excited about Mullins’ break out. Maybe Christian Vázquez is not the second coming of Mike Piazza – if you don’t know what I’m talking about listen to the podcast.

Twins’ perpetual disappointer, Byron Buxton is still pretty damn elite, even if you knock 100 points off his wOBA. The same can be said for Yermin Mercedes, the White Sox slugging catcher who appeared from nowhere. That’s not to say that both players won’t fair significantly worse over the course of the season.

The table gives reasons for concern about two of the exciting youngsters in the game. Had it not been for a bit of luck, then Randy Arozarena and Jonathan India could both have started the season as below-average hitters, instead, their fans have a different opinion.


I guess what this table tells us is that you don’t need to worry about Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper or Paul Goldschmidt. They are still studs, despite the sluggish start to the year.

Joey Votto is an interesting name to see that the top of the list. A 173 point difference between his actual and expected wOBA suggests he has hit the ball really well, but just not got the results. The question is, does he persevere with his new approach at the plate knowing that the results will come, or change back to the more patient, but less productive hitter of the last couple of seasons.


Remembering that the league average wOBA is .312, all of these players are enduring torrid (bad torrid not good torrid) starts to the year. Personally, I thought Josh Fuentes was off to a decent campaign, but that’s what happens when he hits in both of the two Rockies games that I watched.

I’m particularly disappointed to see J.P. Crawford on the list, as for the fourth straight year, I have tipped him for a breakout.

So, there you go. Nothing too nerdy and no in-depth analysis, just a couple of tables you could have generated yourself on the marvellous Baseball Savant website.

Photo by Sarah Stier

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