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MLB Stat Leaders: Grandal is Walking Over Everyone

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One of the weird MLB stat leaders thus far into the 2021 season has been Yasmani Grandal and his .135/.393/.344 slash-line. Entering the second year of a four-year $73 million deal with the White Sox, Grandal has been the subject of one of the weirdest stat lines through the end of May.

Grandal, despite having a sub .150 batting average and a less than encouraging .176 expected batting average that sits in the bottom 1st percentile of the league. For his career, Grandal came into the 2021 season with a 14% walk rate and an impressive 23.8% strikeout rate; Grandal currently sits with a 29.8% walk rate and is striking out 26.2% of the time, good for a 1.14 BB/K ratio.

Graph Source: Fangraphs.com

Yasmani Grandal, among hitters with 100 plate appearances, has the lowest batting average and his 124 wRC+ makes him one of only one other hitter to have a wRC+ over 100 with a sub .200 batting average, the other being Jordan Luplow. Among catchers, Grandal ranks just outside the top 10, with an fWAR of 1.0 being a contributor on both offense and defense. However, among many things being looked at by fans on MLB stat leaders is the batting average of the players and despite Grandal walking at a league-leading rate with second-place Max Muncy trailing by 9.8%.

MLB Stat Leaders: Batting Average Isn’t Everything

Even with a poor batting average, Grandal is able to have a wRC+ well above league average which should be all you need to know of how good batting average is when judging a player. Grandal coming into 2021 had a career-high batting average of .247 over a full season (batted .297 in 60 games his rookie year), over the years the contact rate for the White Sox catcher has been on a slight decline since his career began.

Graph Source: Fangraphs.com

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Grandal’s O-swing sits at 17.3%, which is the lowest of his career to date; Grandal is also managing to swing the bat only 26.1% of the time with pitchers giving Grandal pitches in the zone 46.4% of the time. The stats on Grandal become increasingly more baffling when you look at how the career zone-swing rate of 57.7%, but through 2021 the switch-hitting catcher has swung at pitches in the zone 40.7% of the time, which is obviously strange for one of the MLB stat leaders who many aren’t giving enough recognition too.

What To Think About This

With almost every player there are several “but x”, whether it be Fernando Tatis Jr.and the questions on defense or Grandal’s teammate Nick Madrigal and questions about his power, and that “X” for Grandal there is the questions about the plate discipline being a bit too extreme and being “too patient”.

In 2020 Grandal had a solid .230/.351/.422 slash line with a 116 wRC+, which means this year he is technically having a better year despite the batting average taking a nosedive. The hard-hit rate for Grandal sits at 51.6%, which is a career-high (and by a good margin); with more contact, we could see a somewhat vintage Grandal that we saw as a 4-5 WAR player given how the defense has yet to fall off completely.

Graph Source: Baseball-Savant.com

The batting average is obviously a huge worry. Still, as the season progresses, we might see a slightly more aggressive Grandal possibly increasing the swing rate on zone pitches that, as previously mentioned, has plummeted 7% from his career average. Tony La Russa has had Grandal spending most of the season batting 6th in the lineup where he has 99 plate appearances and only has 29 PA’s batting higher than 6th.

Almost a quarter of the way through his second season on the south-side, White Sox fans will be hoping for a reclaiming of the contact numbers, as well as just showing the willingness to swing at pitches in the zone that we saw in his time as a Dodger and brief stint with the Brewers.

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Murray is a college student attending Humber College for Sport Business, can be found on Twitter at @_MurrayBrown