There has been a lot to talk about these past few months, whether it be Matt Carpenter’s second half tear, or the NL pennant race, or the MVP race, or Boston’s historic season. That’s why the most highly trafficked article on this website is about... Luke Voit. One would think that’s totally crazy, until you look at the best hitters in the second half (min. 100 PA):
Ah. Patrick was certainly on to something there. The crux of his argument was that he: had one of the highest wRC+’s in the PCL, among one of the highest exit velocities of 2017, and one of the better K% vs. ISOs in the league. It was all small sample, and this isn’t to say all of our predictions are right, but he should take credit where credit is due: he was right.
Let’s check back in, though, to track just how right he really was. In 2018, here is where he ranks in the major Statcast categories (min. 90 BBE):
- Average exit velocity: 11th (92.9 mph)
- % of balls hit >95 mph: 2nd (54.1%)
- Barrels/BBE: 2nd (19.4%)
- Barrels/PA: 1st (12.1%)
Batted ball events have a... tenuous correlation to future offensive production for a variety of reasons, and players in that region are also, say, Joey Gallo, who have their own holes in their game, but the general rule of “good hitters hit the ball hard” does ring true here. He is hitting the ball harder than nearly everyone, and nearly a fifth of his batted balls are right on target.
Let’s talk about ISO vs. K% again, then. Voit has a whopping .344 ISO versus just a “normal” 25.7% K-rate, which certainly stands out in red for hitters in the second half:
Let’s talk about pitcher approach, though. It’s pretty much the only thing one could hold on to in regards to “he’s absolutely going to regress,” and it’s because it’s very possible pitchers haven’t truly adjusted yet. When you look at his average exit velocity zone chart...
...you can see that there are two locations where Voit has struggled even within his own dominance, up in the zone and low and inside. When you look at where pitchers are actually attacking him, it’s quite a bit different, showing merely “down in the zone” in 2017...
...and something like a mix of middle, low and away, and what looks like a slowly creeping adjustment upward:
But that’s not what the exit velocity chart indicates, exactly. Pitchers are starting to come to the realization that they should go after him up in the zone a bit more, but just like with what happened with Mike Trout, it took a while for pitchers to move past the traditional heuristic that pitching hitters up in the zone is somehow risky or dangerous. I would imagine when Voit inevitably faces pitchers in the postseason, they won’t make that mistake.
His role even beyond the postseason looks pretty good, as well. Even with that caveat, you can’t look at his performance and say that he doesn’t at least deserve a shot at the Opening Day job next year. If we take the projections, ZiPS finds him at 124 wRC+, and Steamer at 112. Take that for what it’s worth (based on recent performance and MLEs), but there’s a good argument that he is at the bare minimum a capable first baseman considering the AL first base talent level, and considering where the Yankees were with Greg Bird, it’s practically a miracle. Anyway, I look forward to more home runs and for you to keep Googling his name and for our site to come up again. See you soon!