In April, the baseball article topic of selection is usually a participant who has a scorching scorching begin to the season. We put him below scrutiny, study his ins and outs, then in the end shrug and say, effectively, possibly. Possibly it’s one thing! Then once more, it may be nothing. Months move, and stated participant and their progress is rarely revisited. As an alternative, you’ll probably come throughout their stays within the dustiest nook of a field rating, discovering a mere shell of a once-promising breakout candidate.
Let’s amend that. If there’s anybody who deserves a follow-up, it’s Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan, who captivated followers again in April with an limitless stream of hits and a refusal to swing and miss. However a horrid Might (.173/.271/.253) eliminated him from the neighborhood’s collective radar, consigning him to a Yermín Mercedes-like destiny. Since then, nevertheless, Kwan has been excellent: Following a productive summer season, he’s introduced up his slash line on the season to a good .295/.371/.389, for a 121 wRC+. This sport has seen numerous one-month wonders; he isn’t one in all them.
On the top of Kwan’s stardom, Ben Clemens authored the initial dossier on him. In it, Ben got here away impressed by the bat-to-ball expertise and plate self-discipline however famous two areas through which he might come again all the way down to earth. The primary was his zone charge, which appeared abnormally low for somebody with hardly any thump in his bat. Certainly, pitchers quickly found that they have been higher off difficult the rookie as an alternative of letting his plate self-discipline get the most effective of them. Because the season progressed, Kwan started to see increasingly more strikes:
His zone charge peaked in late June to early July; not surprisingly, he walked in simply 3.1% of plate appearances within the latter month, effectively under his season common as much as that time. However the graph exhibits one other pattern: In latest weeks, Kwan’s zone charge has plummeted again all the way down to his early-season stage, which we’ll contact extra on later. The speed at which a participant is thrown a strike fluctuates inside a season. Primarily based on the preliminary up and subsequent down, it looks like Kwan will find yourself at mark greater than that of the everyday hitter, however not overly so.
What works in Kwan’s favor is that his eye on the plate isn’t simply good — it’s completely stellar, presumably top-of-the-line within the league. You may not have been satisfied of that early on within the season, but it surely’s obvious now. The person refuses to swing at a pitch exterior the zone. That helps him convert favorable counts into walks at a frequency that surpasses the typical hitter at each step of the best way:
Kwan’s Stroll Price Via Hitters’ Counts
|Depend||Kwan’s BB%||League BB%|
It’s attainable to type a pessimistic view of Kwan. Pick just a few of his numbers, and he resembles Adam Frazier, who’s been largely incapable of working a wRC+ above 100. However Kwan’s self-discipline is on an entire completely different stage: His 18.8% chase charge is much decrease than Frazier’s 29.7%. It leads me to imagine Kwan has a a lot safer flooring he can depend on. Even during times when his BABIP inexplicably craters and pitchers use that chance to replenish the strike zone, he appears ready to proceed drawing walks. My favourite Kwan statistic (Kwantistic?) is likely to be his chase charge in early counts: 0–0, 0–1 or 1–0. At a mere 7.1%, it’s the second-lowest of all hitters with 200 or extra early-count swings, behind solely the majestic Daniel Vogelbach. Not solely does Kwan fare exceptionally effectively in favorable counts, however he additionally units himself up time and time once more to achieve them.
We’ve talked about Kwan’s persistence, however what occurs when he really places a ball into play? Going again to Ben’s article, the second space due for a correction was the infield positioning towards him. Within the minors, he pulled a majority of his grounders as a left-handed hitter, and Ben speculated that groups may start shifting towards him, thereby consuming into his batting common. For a high-contact, low-power method, the kind of grounders that sneak previous the shortstop are useful pickups, and Kwan appeared like he may doubtlessly miss out on them.
Luckily, that hasn’t been the case. Groups have shifted towards Kwan in 7.3% of his plate appearances as of this writing, and when you think about that “shift towards any respiratory, dwelling lefty” is the de facto technique of a number of organizations, it’s extraordinarily low. And it’s been that approach for a cause: simply over a 3rd of his groundballs to date have been pulled, which is a big pink flag for potential shifters. However what really stands out is the hidden adjustment behind all of it. From April to Might, he pulled 46.1% of his grounders; since June, that charge has plummeted to 31.4%. It’s a change seen to even the bare eye, through a side-by-side comparability between his early-season groundballs and mid-season ones:
Kwan has basically made himself un-shiftable. In comparison with April and Might, there’s been a better density of grounders up the center and towards the alternative subject in latest months. When he slaps a ball on the bottom, it’s turn out to be unimaginable to foretell which course it’s going to find yourself. But it surely’s onerous to say this is why he rose from the ashes of his depressing Might. Grounders generally discover their approach, generally they don’t, and it’s believable that he would have had the identical variety of groundball hits as now even with out an anti-pull adjustment.
And actually, would an all-fields method ever be the rationale why pitchers begin to keep away from the zone? No, Kwan might be incomes extra respect than earlier than as a result of his injury on contact has jumped. He’s hitting fewer fly balls than earlier than, and extra importantly, he’s hitting extra line drives:
The 2 developments go hand-in-hand. Over time, Kwan’s groundball charge has barely budged. Quite, it appears as if he’s buying and selling fly balls for line drives, the latter of that are way more helpful. Think about that fly balls below the hard-hit threshold of 95 mph have returned a mere .119 wOBA this season. When Kwan hits a fly ball along with his modicum of energy, it’s virtually assured to turn out to be an out. There’s an opportunity for a house run, but it surely’s about as dependable as a scratch ticket jackpot. The kind of batted ball that maximizes Kwan’s constant but medium exit velocities is the road drive. When you can maintain poking exterior pitches into left subject with ease, there’s no want for Stantonian power:
As issues stand, the one actual concern about Kwan’s offensive profile is his abysmal exit velocities. I did simply say that line drives aren’t as reliant on batted ball velocity for outcomes, however his hard-hit charge ranks 250th… out of the 251 hitters listed on Baseball Savant’s leaderboards. There’s low, after which there’s bottom-of-the-barrel low. Kwan’s full and utter energy outage is a real, albeit comparatively minor, problem, one which makes me suppose he’ll wield a mean moderately than an above-average bat shifting ahead. He seems able to hitting the ball with extra authority — when he connects with a ball and drives it, the sight is awe-inspiring — however possibly it’s by way of exaggerated slap-hitting that he defends himself towards main league pitching.
However concern not, as a result of all the Kwan bundle remains to be interesting. 4 hundred or so plate appearances later, he’s proved that his knack for contact is impervious to the nastiest of pitches, and that his plate self-discipline is not only good, however elite. With how he’s not too long ago discovered find out how to entry the launch angle sweet spot, maybe it’s solely a matter of time earlier than he tacks on some further in-game energy. There’s additionally the matter of his defensive worth, which two of the three big-name defensive metrics (DRS and OAA) are on board with. However defensive metrics take a boatload of time to turn out to be dependable, and that is primarily about his achievements on the plate. A minimum of we will relieve ourselves of the uncertainty of April, once we questioned if Kwan might be the true deal. The reply? Sure certainly.
Statistics on this article are by way of video games of August 14.