Hand to God, I have no idea how this is going to go. I haven’t looked at anything until I’m sitting here to write this. It’s something I’ve wanted to explore wholly out of curiosity, given the many Cubs-Carlos Correa rumors, and the likelihood that they actually will pursue him (at some level) after the lockout ends.
When we talk about Correa, we usually talk about his age (only 27), his stellar glove (Gold and Platinum Glove winner in 2021), his fantastic offensive production (128 wRC+ for his career as a shortstop), and his general inability to stay healthy for a full season. You know all that stuff. But what I wondered is whether there was any other random stuff we should be noting. You know, any weird splits – home/road, righty/lefty, pitch types, day/night, etc. – or any weird Statcast data?
Again, I have no idea how this is going to go, but I wanted to check it out, and I figured you might want to take the ride with me.
As a righty who played his home games at Minute Maid Park, you immediately wonder if Correa got a boost from the Crawford Boxes in left. Not really!
Although Correa sports a bit of a split (.277/.364/.481 at home (134 wRC+), .276/.349/.480 (123 wRC+) on the road), that’s more or less in line with a lot of players who develop comfort at home. His ISO is nearly identical at home and on the road, as are his strikeout rate and BABIP. His batted ball data is also really similar at home and on the road. The only stat with a meaningful difference is the walk rate – he walks 9.9% of the time on the road, and 11.7% at home. I believe there are studies that suggest there’s a slight home-field advantage with the strike zone, so that’s probably a factor. Otherwise, Correa is the same hitter at home and on the road. It’s kinda crazy how much his numbers match up, actually.
(Also, without a huge split there, you maybe feel a little less worried that his success in the 2016/17 era was due solely to the sign-stealing home cookin’.)
You might as well move on from this one pretty quickly. Although Correa does sport a traditional platoon split, he still wrecks righties for his career (.271/.345/.484, 125 wRC+). Against lefties, he’s at .289/.384/.472, 136 wRC+. Generally speaking, he strikes out a little more against righties and walks a little less, but he hits for more power against righties, which balances it out a bit. There’s really not much weirdness or concern here. I suspect this is going to be a theme.
Included this simply because I found something fun: Correa was almost never shifted on until the 2020 season, when teams suddenly shifted on him nearly 20% of the time. And he struggled against it. That was probably at least a partial factor in his down season (I mean, it was two months, but whatever).
But then in 2021, he started KILLING the shift. So teams kinda stopped doing it. Not sure if he made an approach change or what, but it’s just kinda funny to see in the data.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but: not much to see. Generally, Correa is a typical good hitter: exceptional against fastballs, pretty solid against everything else. The lone exception is the curveball, where he was negative every year except 2017 and 2021. Not STARKLY negative, but it was clearly his worst pitch (and he sees it about 10% of the time). He has bad numbers against the splitter, too, but few pitchers throw one. He sees it only about 2% of the time.
Although this has transitioned quite a bit over the past decade, the Cubs do still play a few more day games than the average club, so I wondered. Here, there actually is a bit of a healthy split for Correa – .269/.345/.466 versus .295/.381/.517 – except those better numbers are the day numbers. So, in theory, Correa would benefit from playing a few more day games.
Hold your horses on “weird,” because I’ll just start with “eye-popping.” Carlos Correa’s 2021 Statcast percentiles … red, uh, is good:
That’s about as good as it gets for a guy across the board. There really isn’t anything on this front that would give you immediate concerns about his productivity in 2021. By the metrics, it was earned: he really was a stud at the plate, and really was a stud in the field.
And that’s actually the story that holds as you go back through his data since the advent of Statcast: it generally tracks with his results. Good and bad, it’s been the case for Correa that there aren’t really flukey batted ball outliers, relative to his production. His two down years – the pandemic 2020 season, and a roughly average 2018 season – corresponded with some mediocre to bad contact data. His ability to take walks and not strike out a ton kept his floor up, but, like pretty much all of the best hitters, Correa’s peak production will go only as far as the quality of his contact.
The defensive data is strong throughout, though, at least according to Statcast. Their system has pretty much always loved him. Super elite. And DRS, for that matter, has also always been high on Correa. It’s only UZR that has rated him as pretty mediocre throughout his career (2021 notwithstanding). Take that for whatever it’s worth, but it might make me take a second look at UZR rather than at Correa.
I suppose if you stretched to find something upon which to comment in the Statcast data, it would be that Correa’s Barrel rate – the rate of contact made at an ideal launch angle/exit velocity combo (i.e., the type almost always resulting in extra bases) – isn’t top tier. It’s generally pretty good, but not elite. The thing is, he generally makes up for it with a very healthy volume of line drives. Correa hits for power, but I don’t know that you would call him a “power hitter.” He’s just a “good” hitter.
Well this was worthless!
OK, it actually isn’t worthless, since the very exercise confirmed that there aren’t any weird or flukey red flags in the data on Correa. Which means we already know the big concern with him: his health.
Correa has played at least 148 games just twice in his career (though you can give him credit for playing the full shortened year in 2020). In isolation, that might not be a huge concern, but when a younger guy misses as much time as he has for back issues, that does give you pause. Buster Olney has suggested that was a concern for teams early in free agency, and it will have to be addressed with any team that is considering a 10+ year offer. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think there’s any question you’d look at Correa’s career so far – the consistent splits, the high-level success, the extremely good defense at shortstop – and be happy to bet on him in free agency for a great many years.