Brewer Spotlight

All The Stats Suggest A Massive ’19 For Shaw

This offseason Travis Shaw received the biggest raise of any Brewer when he signed a one year, $4.675M dollar contract. It allowed him to avoid arbitration and focus on his craft. The Brewers are clearly interested in keeping him around. BREW MATHs forecasts ‘really big things’ for Shaw in 2019…


*** ALL STATS LINK TO BREW MATHs EXPLANATIONs  ***

CAREER TRENDS

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A player’s Wins Above Replacements (WAR) is a great place to begin any analyses. It roots us in how good the player is when compared to peers (overall). A very telling stat, and most likely the best single metric we have to evaluate overall play. The trend here is very clear… he is getting better as he goes. Once he becomes an everyday player (2016), we begin to see his true colors. As the graph portrays, his rise from role player to All-Star was very quick. The good news is that it looks to be real after two highly productive years as a starter.

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PLATE PRODUCTION

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2018 STATS: 0.241 AVG / 0.345 OBP / 0.480 SLG / 32 HR / 86 RBI

Just as WAR is the best at representing overall production, wOBA may be the best for isolating plate production. Again, it is clear that Shaw is well above average in terms of his offensive numbers. Other high-yield offensive metrics show the same trend:

In the end, no matter how we cut it Shaw is producing at a very high clip. However, this is where it starts to get REALLY good…

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RATE STATs

If the trends we have seen haven’t been clear enough, take a look at his Strikeout Rate:

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2018: 18.4% K Rate

And his Walk Rate:

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2018: 13.3% BB Rate (Shaw’s walk rate was 17th in the entire MLB last year!)

So by now we know that Shaw:

  • Plays at an All Star Level
  • Is getting better every year
  • Has gotten so good at separating balls from strikes – his rate stats are among the league leaders!

 

PLATE DISCIPLINE

If Shaw’s massive improvements at the plate are real, his discipline will be reflective of that. And when we look closely, it definitely is! Who is this guy?!?

  • He is swinging at pitches OUTSIDE the zone less
  • He is hitting them INSIDE the zone more
  • He is whiffing progressively less as time goes on
    • This leads to the sharply rising contact rate we see in the lower right graph

So far, the news couldn’t get much better… but it somehow finds a way:

If you are not familiar with Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) you might want to familiarize yourself by following the link. For our purposes, just understand that over large sample sizes, it represents a player’s ‘baseline’ for quality of contact. So if a player with a lifetime 0.300 BABIP drops down to a BABIP of 0.240 over a smaller sample size (like Shaw), you can expect that their stats will eventually go back up. The law of averages will balance out (i.e. regress to the mean).

The converse also being true… if a player with a lifetime 0.250 BABIP starts the first month of the season on a tear with a 0.400 BABIP, you can expect that he will come crashing back to Earth. When we look at Shaw’s BABIP, it suggests he should be in line for a huge jump back to his baseline:

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Contrast: Shaw’s 2018 BABIP (0.240) vs. The 3 Years Before That (0.306)

 These three factors factor in most concretely when calculating BABIP:

  1. Talent with a bat
  2. Defense
  3. Luck

So, unless Shaw’s talent level abruptly declined (it didn’t) or defenses suddenly got better (they didn’t), we know that bad luck was to blame in 2018. That might sound like a cop-out but it is a real thing in Major League Baseball… WHERE a player hits the ball is under limited control. On the other hand, HOW HARD he hits the ball is more directly linked to talent level. A look at Shaw versus league average here shows another reassuring trend:

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In terms of ‘hard hit rate,’ Shaw is consistently above average and getting better as time goes on. Sound familiar?

This reinforces the idea that if (READ: when) Shaw’s BABIP trends back up to baseline, his already impressive stats are going to explode. While statistics do not guarantee the future, everything we see suggests that Shaw is in line for a massive year. With the addition of Grandal, now more than ever, Shaw will be surrounded by talented bats in the lineup. This will ensure he sees a high percentage of hittable pitches in the coming season. All signs point up.

Maybe WAYYY up…

BREW MATHs is even beginning to wonder, “Is the MVP bug contagious?” Counsell might want to check Shaw’s temperature… He’s already exhibiting some of the hallmark symptoms.

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