Collette Calls: Summer Slugging?

Collette Calls: Summer Slugging?

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

I took a train ride from Charlotte to Durham over the weekend with my son to take in a Durham Bulls game that evening. The train is an easy way to get over to the other side of the state, and a five-minute walk can get you to either the old or new Durham Athletic Park from the train station. I know because I visited both places on the trip. I had not been to the old DBAP since watching Javy Lopez play catcher in the summer of 1989 and had not been over to the new park since a Star Wars night a few years back. 

While on the train ride over, I came across a very interesting thread while scrolling through Twitter which caught my attention as it spoke to the home run environment I have discussed in this column most of the season:

Note the change in the moving average in the 2022 line a few weeks back. If you have had the likes of Bruce Zimmermann, Josiah Gray, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Bassitt, Julio Urias, Triston McKenzie or James Kaprielian, you know this as each of those pitchers has

I took a train ride from Charlotte to Durham over the weekend with my son to take in a Durham Bulls game that evening. The train is an easy way to get over to the other side of the state, and a five-minute walk can get you to either the old or new Durham Athletic Park from the train station. I know because I visited both places on the trip. I had not been to the old DBAP since watching Javy Lopez play catcher in the summer of 1989 and had not been over to the new park since a Star Wars night a few years back. 

While on the train ride over, I came across a very interesting thread while scrolling through Twitter which caught my attention as it spoke to the home run environment I have discussed in this column most of the season:

Note the change in the moving average in the 2022 line a few weeks back. If you have had the likes of Bruce Zimmermann, Josiah Gray, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Bassitt, Julio Urias, Triston McKenzie or James Kaprielian, you know this as each of those pitchers has a HR/9 rate of at least 2.0 over the past 30 days while Tarik Skubal, Taijuan Walker and Patrick Sandoval have not allowed a homer in that same time. Baseball is a funny game. The flyball distances have taken a sudden rise in recent weeks, with some speculating that the effects of the humidor are being reduced with the rise in temperatures across the league. 

If we look back at the HR/Contact metric ((HR)/(AB-K)) I referenced early this season, we can see a gradual climb in that measure nearly week over week since the metric cratered in the third week of the season. The bounciness of the metric in 2021 was influenced both by the enforcement of rules against foreign substances on the baseball as well as the inconsistencies in the baseballs being sent to the stadiums:

The changes in recent weeks have not shown up in HR/Contact as much as they have in the league-wide slugging percentage which has risen nearly 16% from its season-low of .356 in that dreadful third week of the season. The slugging percentage around the league had mostly been traveling a similar improvement path from 2021, albeit at a lower level until about four weeks ago when it leapt up to first catch and then even eclipse the pace from the 2021 season:

The other area slowly improving is the home run-to-flyball rate. It has taken nine weeks for the 2022 season to best the 2021 season pace, so it is tough to get too excited about the home run issue being a thing of the past even with the big explosion of 57 homers Friday night. The takeaway here is that we have had a steady upward trend nearly every week:

I am personally encouraged by the return of the stolen base to baseball strategy. Even as the baseball is beginning to show more signs of life off the bat, the league as a whole continues to pace ahead of the 2021 season in attempted steals. Julio Rodriguez is 17-for-20 in steals this season and has stolen more bases than the entire rosters of Colorado, Detroit, Boston and Minnesota. He leads all of baseball in steals and is one of nine players with at least 10 steals on the season as play begins Monday. I do hope this trend continues as baseball is a better game with more action on the bases:

Meanwhile, here is where things get sketchy for pitching. We have mostly enjoyed a pleasant season of pitching with many surprises such as the entire Yankees staff not named Gerrit Cole, Martin Perez, the back end of the Dodgers' rotation, etc. Balls are beginning to fly further off bats, and the league is making better contact with the baseball this season than it did at any point of the 2021 season:

The big dip in the middle of the 2021 line was the implementation and adjustment to the sticky stuff enforcement, but pitchers figured out a way to plow ahead until the league made enforcement tougher for 2022. Now, the league-wide contact rate has continued trending downward, which means pitchers will need their defense more than usual. This should also lead us to recalibrate our thresholds for strikeout rates with pitchers.

All in all, we were not wrong to press the panic button earlier in the season about offense because everything has not yet normalized. We are seeing signs of life from the baseball in some aspects that were not present a month which should help us see more offense moving forward. If your team is where it is on the strength of your pitching, it is a great time to look for a trading partner who has the bats but has seen their ratios destroyed in recent weeks by some of the aforementioned pitchers. Additionally, we have three guys in Austin Meadows, Robbie Grossman, and Cesar Hernandez who remain homerless in 2022 after hitting 20-plus homers last year, and those are just the type of hitters I would be looking to acquire the rest of the way.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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