Friday, June 14, 2019

Luke Voit Not As Adroit

Everyone's favorite story last year was Luke Voit. After a year of frustration with Greg Bird and anyone else the Yankees put over at first in 2018, Voit was acquired with little fanfare, plugged into first base and became the most exciting and fun story for the 2018 Yankees. This spring, the question was, "Is Luke Voit For Real?"  I asked the question myself. While Voit has good numbers and is in the plus side of the offensive average, he is not the same dynamo and does not seem to be having the same amount of fun. So what is wrong with Luke Voit?

One could speculate in many ways. Last year, Voit was just a cog in a lineup full of powerful options for a team that broke the all-time homer record. With all the injuries this year, did Voit take too much upon himself and try too hard to make up the difference? Is it a strong factor that people doubted if he was the real deal and he tried too hard to prove he was? That is all speculation, of course, and without Voit opening up about his mindset, that is all it can be.

There are observations one can make. He looks too intense at the plate. Every pitch is a battle. He does not look nearly as happy as he was. His swing at times looks like he has taken the uppercut to new extremes to the point of looking softball-like. His hips bail out (which he never did before) leading to swings and misses, weaker contact and ground balls. Those are all eyeball tests though. And perhaps they are legit since I have been watching baseball for half a century. But for those of you who only want to know the numbers, let's consider some of them.

Last year, Luke Voit put exactly 100 balls in play in fair territory according to That makes for a very easy way to come up with percentages. You cannot get more easy than that! I like this number better than's percentages because it only measures balls in fair territory. Yes, there are foul outs and the like, but I think the fair territory balls in play gives a nice picture. Some of the facts I will present do come from Fangraphs, but most are from B-Ref.  The 2018 data includes his short stint with the Cardinals.

The first thing to notice is his pull percentage. In 2018, he pulled the ball only 23% of those balls he put in fair territory. That percentage is up to 33% this year. This meets the eye test that his hips are flying open and he is trying to pull the ball much more often.

Last year, he hit four homers to the opposite field. And he hit a total of fourteen homers to either right field or center field. Out of 100 balls put in fair territory, that is pretty incredible. This year, Voit has only hit one homer to right field and ten to center field (the same as last year) in 69 more at bats!

According to Fangraphs heat maps, Luke Voit's happy zones have shrunk. Last year, there was pink or darker in 22 of Voit's 36 strike zone sectors. This included one on the outer sixth of the plate. This year, he has 18 happy sectors and none on the outer sixth of the plate. This again shows that Voit has lost his approach to think first to drive the ball to right and center.

Voit's ground ball rate has increased by five percentage points while his homer to fly ball rate is lower by almost fourteen percentage points.

The most damning statistic that shows Luke Voit does not have the same approach as last year is his hard hit ball rate. Last year, his hard hit ball rate was 47%. It was that rate that had people thinking Voit was the real deal. This year, Voit's hard hit ball rate is down to 37.1%.  That is quite a drop and would account for his Batting Average On Balls In Play (BABIP) dropping from .365 last year to this year's .309.

There are two ways to look at Luke Voit's performance thus far this season. One could say that last year was unsustainable. Voit had never performed like that at any level of professional baseball. And that even where he is this year is as a very good offensive performer. His OPS+ is 131 and wRC+ is 132 (two ways at looking at the same thing). That means that he is 31 or 32% better than league average as an offensive performer. He is still a positive offensive force for the Yankees overall and still a godsend after the Greg Bird days.

On the other side of the coin, if he could go back to last year's approach and take the outside pitch to right or center and keep his hips from flying out, he wouldn't necessarily be the flame that last year was, but he would be better than he is and perhaps he would smile more again.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

MLB All Star Voting Is Seriously Flawed

I just completed my first ballot for the MLB All Star roster over at The "first ballot" thought is a real sticking point. Why are there multiple votes allowed? Is this American Idol? And what about the timing of the start of voting? Can we really tell who deserves to go based on two months of baseball? These are some of the hangups I have when it comes to, not only this new voting, but also the old way. I am not a fan of fan voting.

First of all, I feel a very compelling guilt if I do not vote for many members of my favorite team. I have been so pleased with DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela, so the urge is to vote for them. But Urshela currently stands 17th in the league in fWAR for third basemen. LeMahieu has a better argument, but if you boil it all down, Tommy La Stella and Brandon Lowe have a slight edge. Of course, part of the problem is the unreliability of the defensive statistics. Is Urshela really the sixteenth best fielding third baseman in baseball? I have a really hard time buying that.

The only Yankee I voted for was Gary Sanchez. That's it. To me, that is the way it should be done. You should not vote for hometown guys or guys with great reputations. Who is the best this year? Vote for that guy. But how many are like me out there? I am not trying to paint myself as this saint, but you know the majority of fans are voting for hometown guys or guys who were great in years past. When that happens, you get Bryce Harper starting for the NL in 2018.

If it was one vote per person, then there might be more clarity for guys and gals that think like me to have a chance. But if you can vote dozens of times or whatever it is, everything gets muddy and you do not get a true picture of who should start the game.

I also believe that the voting should not be started until two weeks before the final selections or the game itself. Say, for example, you could vote for pitchers and Domingo German is on the ballot when you first go to vote at the very start of June or whenever they started. German was an All Star in April and May. He is not now. That is how fast things can change.

How about if the reverse is true? What if a guy was just middling through April and May and plays with stars in his hair in June and by the end of the month is the best player at his position to that point? Sorry, pal, we already voted for someone else.

I do not believe that smaller market teams are penalized as in the past when voting was by cards given out at the ballpark. With things on the Internet now, it should not matter that way any more. Plus, I am not sure I buy the small market idea anyway. When every franchise is worth at least a billion or more and all that money pours in from, etc., then you only have franchises that spend money and those who would rather pocket the money.

The alternatives are unattractive as well. Polling managers leads to team stacking. Just look at how pitchers are selected. Last year's league champion manager will put his entire pitching staff out there if he can manage it. So, no, that does not work. Writers cannot even get the Hall of Fame ballot correctly. How will they manage an All Star selection? The problem is that some will do their homework and others will just file it in. Do players really know how all the other players are doing? Doubtful.

I would be okay with fan voting if it was one vote per fan. Perhaps I could go as high as three if some change their minds. But that's it. I would also be okay if the selections were made from equal shares of writers, fans, managers and players. I just know that a plethora of votes per fan is not productive and will not lead to the best players starting the game.

All that said, MLB has the best All Star format and game in all of sports. It is the only major sport where the players actually play the game to the best of their abilities. As flawed as the voting is, the MLB All Star game is the only one in sports I am willing to watch.