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Statcast Hitter Studs and Duds: Biggest xwOBA Surprises So Far in 2023 (Week 11)

Brent Rooker - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

Welcome to the Week 11 edition of Statcast Hitter Studs and Duds for the 2023 fantasy baseball season! Be sure to also check out all of our Statcast analysis for fantasy baseball, including the weekly series by Connelly Doan about Statcast Pitcher Studs and Duds.

It's hard to believe we're already 10 weeks into the fantasy baseball season. However, it's a great time to check in on some underlying metrics as the sample sizes are large enough to the point where we can begin to confirm a breakout or conclude that a given player just doesn't have it this season. Of course, there's plenty of baseball left and room to get things turned around, for better or worse. But it's time to start giving some players their due. Again, for better or worse.

This week, we're going to focus on the xwOBA metric. wOBA itself is a great way to gauge how a player is performing overall but xwOBA is a better tool considering it aims to eliminate any type of positive or negative fortune. It's yet another layer of advanced metrics to utilize in evaluating how a player deserves to be performing rather than focusing solely on surface results. Let's take a look at some of the biggest xwOBA surprises of the season whether it be on the positive or negative side of the ledger!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Statcast Hitter Studs & Duds - Biggest xwOBA Surprises 2023 (Week 11)

Manny Machado, Padres: .273 xwOBA

I'm sure we've all heard "Machado is going to get it going at some point." While it's possible, the underlying data suggests otherwise.

Even after breaking out of a lengthy slump with three knocks on Monday, Machado is hitting just .234 with five homers and a .653 OPS across 44 appearances on the season. His walk rate is down, his strikeout rate is up and his power has taken a serious dip by way of a .135 isolated power that sits miles below his .209 career mark.

Prior to this season, Machado's career-low wOBA was .317 from his rookie season in 2012 at the age of 19 followed by a .328 mark in 2017. Right now, he sports a .286 wOBA, a figure that's actually superior to his prevailing .273 xwOBA.

For those who are expecting an imminent return to form for the All-World third baseman: don't hold your breath.

Sean Murphy, Braves: .424 xwOBA

It's safe to say the Braves made a good bet on trading for former A's backstop Sean Murphy, who has exploded at the plate in his first season in Georgia. At the beginning of each season, we basically list off the top hitters in the sport and expect them to paint the leaderboard in this department. Don't you (for one second) tell me you had Murphy hangin' with the big boys.

Folks are waiting for Murphy to cool off at the dish, but as you can see, his current .424 xwOBA is actually beating his .404 wOBA. Any sort of major cooldown appears unlikely at this juncture.

Add in his elite defense and Murphy's 2.8 fWAR puts him in a tie for fourth in baseball and second in the National League as one of the very, very best players in the game this season. Didn't see that coming.

Jose Abreu, Astros: .279 xwOBA

There is absolutely no freakin' way that anyone could have guessed how bad Jose Abreu would be in his first season outside of the south side of Chicago.

Houston inked Abreu to a three-year, $58.5 million contract to take over at first base for the outgoing Yuli Gurriel. They believed they were getting a more effective overall bat given Abreu's history of hitting for both average and power as opposed to the average-only Gurriel.

Well, so much for that notion. Among the 162 qualified MLB batters this season, only five have an inferior xwOBA to Abreu: Enrique Hernandez, Machado, Javier Baez, Jean Segura, and Andres Gimenez. My first thought is holy smokes, that's a lot of dough in the bottom five. My second thought, when it comes specifically to Abreu, is utter shock.

After all, he was the 2020 MVP who hit .304 with a .373 xwOBA just last season. I mean, check out his career marks in this department:

The question of "what happened?" is a story for another day. For now, we're left speechless when it comes to what used to be one of the better overall hitters in the sport.

Keibert Ruiz, Nationals: .376 xwOBA

Keibert Ruiz is a very interesting name on this list, not only because he's a surprise one spot outside of the top 25 in this category among qualified hitters, but this is just about the only area where he's excelling.

Overall, the 24-year-old backstop is hitting just .232 with a .686 OPS across 49 contests. He's shown some pop with seven homers and seven doubles on the season while his most attractive quality has been a microscopic 7.8% K% that is only bested by the .399-hitting Luis Arraez (4.8%).

Note Ruiz down as a serious positive regression candidate, however. His .303 wOBA is a country mile below his .376 xwOBA while we've seen some of that regression kick in as of late. He recently enjoyed a three-hit, two-homer game against the Dodgers on Friday, the second straight day in which he homered.

Still, Ruiz's overall profile remains a mixed bag, as you can see:

Nonetheless, considering his 87 wRC+ labels his bat 13% below the league average, sporting an xwOBA in the 87th percentile is a major surprise.

Trea Turner, Nationals: .286 xwOBA

After the damage Trea Turner did in the World Baseball Classic, the outlook on the first season of his 11-year megadeal with the Phillies looked pristine. So far, that just has not been the case.

Turner is coming off a two-homer game against the Tigers on Monday but still has just seven of those on the season while hitting .243 alongside a .684 OPS on the campaign. Compare that to his career .298 average and .831 OPS and we have ourselves a problem here in the 2023 campaign.

Doubling down on that problem, Turner's .286 xwOBA is actually slightly below his .294 wOBA. He's also seen his walk rate dip to just 5.6% while his strikeout has jumped from 18.4% for his career to 24.1% through the first 59 games of his season.

This is one of the last names you would expect to see near the bottom of the xwOBA list, to be sure.

Brent Rooker, A's: .370 xwOBA

Sitting one spot behind Ruiz in the xwOBA rankings is the A's Brent Rooker, who is enjoying his breakout tour.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of opportunity. Prior to this season, Rooker had largely struggled at the big-league level despite putting mass amounts of power on display at Triple-A. Just last season, Rooker clubbed 19 homers in just 61 games in the San Diego system, resulting in an eye-popping .333 isolated power. He also went 4-for-32 (.125) with three walks in 36 plate appearances in the big leagues between the Padres and Royals.

However, the rebuilding A's gave Rooker a chance and he's taken advantage. The 28-year-old has seven homers, a 12.7% BB%, and a .865 OPS in 53 games. What's more, the fact his .373 xwOBA is nearly identical to his .370 prevailing wOBA. In other words, it appears he fully deserves his results at the plate, which is nice considering his wRC+ has his bat 45% above the league average.

LaMonte Wade Jr., Giants: .392 xwOBA

This list was done in no particular order but Wade's .392 xwOBA on the season is the second-highest of the bunch, behind only Murphy.

Wade is hitting .273 with eight long balls and a .879 OPS across 57 games on the season. He uses his massive 17.3% BB% to boost his overall work at the dish and whether we see that figure trend toward his 11.6% career mark remains to be seen. Nonetheless, a sky-high walk rate, a manageable 19.1% K%, power, and a rock-solid batting average have Wade sitting with an xwOBA just three points above his .389 wOBA.

At 12th among qualified hitters in xwOBA and one spot behind 2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt, Wade has quietly gone about his business as one of the best hitters in baseball this season.



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