MLBits: Correa’s Slow Start, Báez Even More Valuable Than We Thought, Capitol Confusion, More

Earlier today, I took a dive into the slow offensive start for Nico Hoerner, discovering that his underlying performance hasn’t been quite as bad as his overall slash line looks on the surface. In fact, he may be working on something very specific, and that process could be holding him back a bit right now in service of a better overall approach in the future. Just something useful to consider.

But because I’m a broken human being, I immediately had to know how Carlos Correa had begun his season, given our dashed dreams of the Cubs signing him out of free agency and plopping him down on the Wrigley Field dirt between second and third base for the foreseeable future …

Carlos Correa’s Slow Start

So how’s he doing? Well, so far? Pretty bad: .190/.277/.310 (78 wRC+). And he’s striking out an absurd 31.9% of the time (20.6 K% for his career).

With that said, Correa’s .269 BABIP is a career-low, despite the fact that his launch angle remains strong (11.2 degrees) and he has career highs in average exit velocity (92.4 MPH, 29th in MLB) and hardhit% (55.6%, 11th in MLB). Indeed, Statcast has his xwOBA at .308 compared to an actual wOBA at .271. So … maybe he also hasn’t been as bad as his results (even if he isn’t exactly killing it, either).

But make no mistake, that elevated strikeout rate is supported by the data. Correa is swinging at more pitches out of the zone than he has since 2016 and his zone contact rate (73.6%) is WAY below his career mark (86.5%). All of that together is leading to a career-worst 14.8% whiff rate and 31.9% strikeout rate. Gotta fix that before the Cubs sign him out from under the Twins this offseason thanks to the opt-out in his deal.

Tweaking Defensive WAR:

FanGraphs has updated the defensive components of their WAR calculation, replacing the legacy range component with the more accurate Statcast version of the metric (which takes into account initial positioning). But this isn’t only a forward looking change, it also applies retroactively back to 2016, so some past WAR numbers will look different today than they would have yesterday. And while most new calculations are within +/-1 WAR of their prior figure, some players have had much larger changes.

For example, Carlos Correa gained an additional TWO WAR for his shortened 2018 campaign, which was initially scored as a 1.6 WAR season but is now up to 3.6. And Javy Báez’s excellent 2019 season (originally 4.3 WAR) has been bumped all the way up to 5.9 WAR. That’s the fifth biggest increase for any player in a given season.

But that’s not all. Báez’s cumulative improvement from 2016-2021 actually improved by a total of +4.5 WAR (3rd biggest increase), meaning that his 17.8 WAR with the Cubs was actually 22.3! He was even better than we thought! Reverse the trade! Go back and sign him! Also Correa! And also make sure Nico Hoerner gets enough starts! 

This is not actually that big of a deal – the Cubs aren’t making decisions based on publicly-available WAR and this doesn’t change what we saw everyday for 6 years (we all already know how good Báez was defensively) – but it is very interesting to look at retrospectively. As you can imagine, some players were actually dinged by the change. Didi Gregorius, for example, lost 6.2 WAR over the five year period, Paul DeJong lost 3.3, and Marcus Semien lost 3.2 WAR. Pretty wild stuff.

Trading Joey Gallo?

The Yankees offense has not quite been the power house for which they had been hoping (99 wRC+, .350 SLG), and they might already be looking at changes via trade: “One scout put it simply: ‘They need more contact, fewer strikeouts. They need guys who can hit.'”

So whom might they be dangling? According to Jon Heyman, Gleyber Torres, Josh Donaldson, and perhaps most of all Joey Gallo:

“Gallo is yet another big talent who may not fit New York. The Yankees talked to the Padres about a trade for Gallo this spring, but are believed to have been seeking a return befitting his ability, not his recent achievements.”

Ultimately, a trade may work best.

“New York is a challenge for him. It gets in his dome,” another scout said.

If the Yankees were willing to sell low, a left-handed, power-hitting outfielder who can play all three positions and has great marks for base running and defense could actually be a nice fit for this contact-oriented, righty-heavy Cubs team. Buuuut the Yankees are not interested in selling low, the Cubs already have too many outfielders for the roster, *and* Brennen Davis is lurking at Triple-A Iowa.

Also, while I’d love to introduce some left-handed power to this lineup, the Cubs don’t have to go only to the extremes with power/whiff guys (Patrick Wisdom and Joey Gallo) next to contact/low-K types (Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner). So I think this is a big fat pass for the time being. Just interesting that he (and Torres and Donaldson) may all soon be shopped.

Havoc at the Capitol

Wanna hear something *crazy*? The Nationals had one of those “parachute into the stadium” stunts planned yesterday for Military Appreciation night – you’ve seen it done at Wrigley Field before – but they, and the FAA, forgot to tell the Capitol Police … so the Capitol complex was evacuated because of an apparent threat.

According to The Washington Post, “An all-clear was quickly given, and six members of the Army’s Golden Knights landed safely on the outfield grass before the Nationals took on the Arizona Diamondbacks.” Wild.

Christian Yelich Still Sucks

The Brewers acquired Christian Yelich from the Marlins for next to nothing ahead of the 2018 season, and he went on to become the NL MVP in 2018 and runner-up in 2019, slashing .325/.414/.632 (170 wRC+) during that stretch.

So at the outset of the 2020 season, the Brewers signed him to a massive 9-year, $215 million deal, with the big money kicking in this season ($26M/year for the next seven years). Since signing that deal, Yelich has hit .231/.358/.391 (105 wRC+).

What a shame. 

So what’s going on? Well, the short version is Yelich is hitting the ball as hard as anyone in baseball, but pretty much all of it is beaten straight into the ground (if that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the same problem the Cubs team – as a whole – has right now).

Again, I just feel awful. 😛 

Odds and Ends:

•   This isn’t the most exciting triple-play you’ll ever see, but who doesn’t like watching triple plays?

•   There’s more difficult defensive plays out there, but I am such a sucker for over the shoulder diving grabs. There’s something so perfectly Baseball about it:

•   The Savannah Bananas are kind of like the Harlem Globetrotters, but for baseball. You may have seen the video of a batter coming up to the plate with his bat *literally* on fire, and they even Harlem Shake, like it’s 2012:

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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