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Statcast Week 4: Matt Joyce's BABIP Problem

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Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Matt Joyce hits the ball hard, but why is his offensive production so poor?
Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

I was in attendance for last Wednesday’s game between the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Anaheim. The game, which the A’s lost 8-5, came with poor defense and included another injury to a key pitcher, was long and drawn out. However, something wonderful happened!

My dad and I discussed Matt Joyce and I explained that Joyce’s poor stats were the result of bad luck, and that he had actually been hitting the ball hard this year but hasn’t seen the fruits of his labor.

Two chuckleheads sitting behind us provided their expert analysis.

Matt Joyce is still alive?” One man chirped.

His friend replied, “Judging by his batting average I’d say he barely has a pulse.”

Just then, crack! Joyce popped a well hit two-run home run over the right field wall.

Here is Matt Joyce’s home run, as illustrated by Statcast
BaseballSavant.com

I bring this story up because it’s fun to talk about going to a game with my dad, but also to bring to everyone’s attention that Oakland’s “big” offseason acquisition isn’t a lost cause, yet.

Low BABIP or Poor Skill?

According to Fangraphs Joyce is hitting the ball harder than he has in the past. His hard-hit rate is right around his career average, but his medium-hit rate is the second highest 0f his career while his soft-hit rate is the lowest it’s ever been. Also, he has yet to hit an infield fly ball! All of that has amounted to a .518 OPS and a 45 wRC+. Joyce’s BABIP, however is just .176, which is the lowest of his career (aside from an 11-game stint in 2009).

Hard-Hit Outs

I decided to take a closer look using Statcast to determine why exactly Joyce’s hard-hit batted balls are turning into outs.

Joyce has 6 hard-hit flyball or line drive outs this season, so far. That is good enough to tie him for 13th most in baseball Here is what the numbers say about those collective batted balls:

Matt Joyce’s Hard-Hit Outs

Name xwOBA xBA PAs AVG. Exit Velocity Launch Angle
Name xwOBA xBA PAs AVG. Exit Velocity Launch Angle
Matt Joyce 0.778 0.528 6 101.8 25.7
BaseballSavant.com

Now case-by-case:

Matt Joyce’s Hard-Hit Outs: Case by Case

Date Home Team Away Team Inning Distance Exit Velocity Launch Angle
Date Home Team Away Team Inning Distance Exit Velocity Launch Angle
4/30/17 HOU OAK 9 371 ft. 93 MPH 28.44 deg.
4/15/17 OAK HOU 1 170 ft. 108.8 MPH 10.676 deg.
4/10/17 KC OAK 3 370 ft. 106.7 MPH 17.635 deg.
4/9/17 TEX OAK 6 320 ft. 102.4 MPH 41.887 deg.
4/7/17 TEX OAK 1 399 ft. 97.2 MPH 26.327 deg.
4/3/17 OAK LAA 4 385 ft. 100.8 MPH 29.309 deg.
BaseballSavant.com

Now take a look at what other hitters have done with similar batted balls this season.

April 3, 2017: LAA vs. OAK, Oakland, Calif.

385 ft. line drive, 101 MPH, 29 degrees.

BaseballSavant.com

April 4, 2017: OAK vs. TEX, Arlington, TX.

399 ft. fly ball, 97 MPH, 26 degrees.

BaseballSavant.com

Watch Carlos Gomez rob Joyce of what would have been the first of two home runs that day.

April 9, 2017: OAK vs. TEX, Arlington, TX.

320 ft. fly ball, 102 MPH, 42 degrees.

BaseballSavant.com

You can watch this long fly ball here.

April 10, 2017: OAK vs. KC, Kansas City, MO.

370 ft. line drive, 107 MPH, 18 degrees.

BaseballSavant.com

April 15, 2017: HOU vs. OAK, Oakland, Calif.

170 ft. line drive, 109 MPH, 11 degrees.

BaseballSavant.com

April 30, 2017: OAK vs. HOU, Houston, TX.

370 ft. fly ball, 93 MPH, 28 degrees.

BaseballSavant.com

These images and the chart below make it easy to envision what Joyce’s hard-hit outs typically become.

Matt Joyce’s Hit Probability

Date EV LA BA 1B% 2B% 3B% HR%
Date EV LA BA 1B% 2B% 3B% HR%
4/3/17 101 29 0.696 0 6 7 57
4/7/17 97 26 0.345 1 16 2 15
4/9/17 102 42 0.273 0 5 0 23
4/10/17 107 18 0.778 8 56 1 13
4/15/17 109 11 0.826 54 28 1 0
4/30/17 93 28 0.143 2 6 2 5
BaseballSavant.com

xStats

As I mentioned in a previous entry xStats are a brilliant way to project any given player’s production based on their Statcast data. Joyce’s season appears much better when you take his xStats into account.

Matt Joyce’s xStats

Player BA ISO BABIP SLG wOBA xwOBA xBA Exit Velocity Launch Angle
Player BA ISO BABIP SLG wOBA xwOBA xBA Exit Velocity Launch Angle
Matt Joyce 0.167 0.121 0.176 0.288 0.230 0.340 0.244 88.6 10.9
BaseballSavant.com

I’m not completely writing off Joyce’s poor first month, because the results he’s seen are real and they still count. However, I know better numbers are on their way, and Statcast is providing evidence that Joyce is hitting the ball well and is worthy of a better batting line. The data here is a few days old, but the idea remains the same: Joyce has been one of baseball’s unluckiest under-performers this year (Amazing, I had most of this written before I ever saw that article)!

Hopefully better results show up sooner rather than later.