It's easy to say things like "it's still early" or "there's still a lot of baseball to be played," and just one month into the 2014 MLB season, it's absolutely true.
However, that doesn't make it any less alarming for fans to look up at the scoreboard and see one of their team's key hitters currently hovering below the Mendoza line.
What follows is my best guess at whether or not each of the top-15 players currently battling through an early-season slump will turn things around.
To decide that, I've looked to determine whether or not their numbers are simply the result of bad luck or of something more, and I've done so by looking at some advanced stats from FanGraphs. The following numbers were taken into consideration:
- BABIP: A players batting average on balls in play is perhaps the best indicator of what kind of luck they have had. A .290-.310 mark is about league average, and anything sitting far from that range (on either side) can be expected to regress back toward the mean at some point.
- Swing Peripherals: The following article references "swing peripherals" more than once. This refers to the frequency a player hits a ground ball, fly ball or line drive, and it also accounts for things like home-run-to-fly-ball rate.
- LD%: Line-drive percentage, in particular, was looked at, as it is often a good indication of how often a player is making quality contact and helps to determine whether or not he is barreling the ball on a consistent basis.
- K% and BB%: A sharp spike or drop in strikeout rate or walk rate is worth paying attention to as well, as they are both good indicators of whether or not a hitter is taking a different approach at the plate.
After looking at those numbers, each player was then given a 1-5 ranking on how likely I feel they are to turn things around relative to expectations for that player entering the season.
- 1: Player will never get on track and could lose his job.
- 2: Player will never quite get on track but will turn things around somewhat.
- 3: Player will get on track but fall slightly short of expectations.
- 4: Player will get on track and wind up right in line with expectations.
- 5: Player will completely turn things around and exceed expectations.