September 15th, today, is a very important date for playoff baseball. It’s the last day of the season in which a player can be added to any organization and be eligible for the playoffs. In all likelihood, we will see a few more teams in need of stocking stuffers add players today. However, the Braves shopped the Black Friday of baseball early yesterday and their stocking is now bulging. Pandamonium in the playoffs? Not likely…but maybe.
Braves Sign Pablo Sandoval
After the Braves DFA’d then released Matt Adams a few weeks back due to the Nick Markakis resurgence, Markakis has been really, really bad…like .437 OPS bad. In projecting the Braves lineup for the playoffs, it seemingly breaks down to 8 players (I count Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers as one player in this scenario) that will play daily and Nick Markakis, who will likely play daily…if he recovers from this awful stretch. Before I get into full on rosterbation, I’ll say this…I believe in Markakis’s recovery to a league average hitter much more than I believe in Pablo Sandoval’s chances to make an MLB impact, but I do believe that Markakis’s struggles combined with the lack of a solid bench bat is the reason the Braves signed Pablo Sandoval.
A Tale of Marcell Ozuna
Marcell Ozuna came into the 2020 season with elite exit velo numbers in both 2018 and 2019, but not an elite statline. Why? The answer seems to be swing optimization. In comparing Ozuna’s average launch angle change from 2018-2020, he went from 10.2 to 13.5 and now to 16.2 degrees. Optimization for his exit velo is about 20 degrees and if things continue trending upward (literally), he’ll be at or near an optimal level in 2021…wow.
The reason his numbers are trending upward is quite a simple science: less grounders, less line drives that hit fences, and more balls that get over the fence. If Pablo Sandoval can hang with Marcell Ozuna then drink the kool-aid with Kevin Seitzer, he has the potential to revamp his career at age 33.
Unlocking Pablo Sandoval
As stated in the previous thread, Sandoval has some really good underlying numbers:
- He has a higher average exit velocity than Ronald Acuna Jr. at 91.2 MPH (his highest in the Statcast era dating back to 2015).
- His hard hit rate is in the top 10% of the league.
- His BABIP is well below league average.
It’s easy to pick this apart as we look at Sandoval’s profile. He’s not small, so his BABIP is well below league average because it’s hard to start up a bus, especially when hitting the ball hard. But it’s not just about hitting the ball hard that gets Sandoval in trouble, it’s how he hits it hard.
As stated above, Marcell Ozuna has intentionally changed his swing to add more launch angle, but let’s take a look at some of the best Braves hitters and their average launch angles:
- Freddie Freeman: 17.2 degrees
- Marcell Ozuna: 16.2 degrees
- Ronald Acuna Jr. 16 degrees
- Adam Duvall: 22.5 degrees
Remember that launch angle optimization is ~20 degrees so it makes sense that of these 4, Adam Duvall has the lowest average due to his extreme fly ball approach, but being above the norm is much better than being WAY below the norm and that’s where Pablo Sandoval resides.
8.2 degrees to be precise. Put bluntly, that’s just not going to work.
Sandoval is a switch hitter and, in all likelihood, there’s no fixing his swing overnight, especially from both sides. However, if the Braves chose to have him concentrate on the side in which he’d be most utilized in a quasi-platoon with Nick Markakis, adding a handful of degrees to his swing could really help his exit velo grounders to 2nd and 3rd becomes doubles and dingers….ok, maybe singles and dingers.
Braves Layoff a Bunch
I’m not going to get into this too much, but a sad day for a bunch of families in the org. I hope normalcy returns to the world soon and baseball can get back to providing jobs across our country and beyond.
The Dream of a 3-Man Playoff Rotation is Over
Mark Feinsand, a great Twitter follow, dropped the MLB playoff schedule and, oh boy, teams better put on their big boy pants.
This is a real problem for a team that is desperate for depth via Starting Pitching. I hope someone emerges in the next week but that is looking less and less likely.
Braves Roster News
Got a little bit of inside info from a friend last night that Jasseel De La Cruz had been added to the taxi squad and putting 2 and 2 together, I figured he’d get the call if Touki Toussaint floundered. He did and he did. While Huascar Ynoa has been deemed the starter today, I wonder if the Braves will retract that statement and start Jasseel. Doubtful, but I’ll never stop dreaming.
New 3 Flags Flying Podcast
Hey, we got one right! Last night’s recording was fun even though the game was a dumpster fire. I encourage everyone to stay for the credits. It’s well worth it!
Stop the Madness. Get the W.