Saturday, June 07, 2014

Checking in on George Springer

The big league career of George Springer is now 44 games old and it seemed like it was time to check in to see how he was doing. Oh, we see the power and the ten homers on the highlight shows and he has made an impression. But how is he really doing? The prognosis is that he is holding his own and the early results are mostly encouraging.
Last night's Springer Dinger was pretty amazing. 
Facing Phil Hughes in the sixth inning, Hughes had given Springer nothing but fastballs all night, which looking at Springer's pitch value chart is not a good idea. But Hughes had struck him out the first two times relatively easily. And he got the first two strikes on Springer in the sixth inning at bat too with fastballs. But then Hughes threw one too many. It was a great pitch, painted black and low on the outside corner. Springer's rear end flew out a little bit and he flicked his bat out and the bat caught the ball on the sweet spot and it went out to the opposite field. It was amazing.
springer dinger
That is what we see on the highlight reel. But the rest of the story was the two strikeouts before and the sacrifice fly after. All in all, a successful night with three RBIs.

The thing everyone was ramped up for when it came to Springer was his package of speed, power and plate discipline. So far we have seen two out of the three.
We have already talked about the ten homers in 44 games but should also mention the 32 RBIs and eight other extra base hits.  His ISO does not yet match his minor league data, but .227 is quite good nonetheless and has to be exciting for Houston fans.
The plate discipline has been there. Springer has shown discipline in the strike zone. He is swinging at 23.4% of pitches out of the zone according to PitchF/X and at only 47.4% overall. That has led to a 10.2% walk rate. Again, that is less than his minor league numbers but still quite good for a rookie when most rookies come up to the Majors hacking like no tomorrow (see Tavares for the Cardinals for example). Springer should only get better in that department.
The plate discipline has given Springer a .340 OBP with only a .250 batting average. Encouraging. The one discouraging thing about looking at his plate discipline is the swing and miss rate.
Springer is currently swinging and missing at a 17.8% clip. That is the third highest in baseball and even higher than his teammate Chris Carter. That has led to an extremely high strikeout rate of 32.8%, the third highest in baseball. The rate is six percentage points higher than what he did in his last two seasons in the minors.
Everyone knew that Springer was going to strike out a lot. But that is a lot a lot. It will remain to be seen if Springer can lower that proclivity as the season moves along.
If you look at how Springer is doing against certain pitches, you can see where the strikeouts are coming from. He is mashing the fastball and already has pitch value of 10.5 runs against that pitch. Sliders and change-ups are killing him though. For sure, the Major League pitcher has a better arsenal of those pitches than the minors. Springer will have to adjust and improve against them.
The thing most people were waiting to see (especially fantasy players) was the stolen bases. George Springer stole 85 bases in 101 attempts in the minors. He has only tried three times in the Majors and has been thrown out twice. So that has been a disappointment. Good coaching should be able to help him in that area as time goes on. Again, everything is better in the Majors including the catching.
George Springer's defense in right field reminds me of the early days of Wil Myers and Giancarlo Stanton. It has been pretty rough so far and Fangraphs already rates his defense at negative five runs. Both of those mentioned formerly have worked hard to improve the defense and no doubt Springer will too.
We are 44 games into George Springer's career. That is a pretty good sample size for an early gauge on how he is going to do in the big leagues. Despite the high strikeout rate, his wOBA is healthy enough at .359 as is his wRC+ of 130. Those aren't nearly as high as his career in the minors, but it is still a fine start to a Major League career. For George Springer, so far, so good.

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