NFL Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 144-81

After a slow start, I thought I recovered nicely last season to come up with a pretty solid season winning percentage. And now I can use PFF stats. So yeah, since nobody donated to my Patreon (except one, thanks Dad), I couldn’t pay for a PFF account to better analyze these picks, so I just went and got a job with them. Go figure. But anyway, picks are back and I’m off to a slow start, as I picked the Falcons to beat the Eagles on Thursday night, which didn’t happen so let’s hope this goes better.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns

This season of Hard Knocks may have been the best ever. It was funny, interesting, and eye-opening. It really makes me root for this Cleveland Browns team. However it also showed me another thing: Hue Jackson is a shitty head coach (great guy, though, would not mind having a beer with him). That coaches meeting from the first episode was all I needed to see to know why the Browns are 1-31 under Jackson. So despite the fact that the Steelers won’t have Le’Veon Bell, I still think they beat the Browns, though the influx of talent will make this a close game.

Projected Score: Steelers 31 Browns 24

Cincinnati Bengals vs Indianapolis Colts

San Francisco 49ers v Indianapolis Colts

Frank Reich’s debut as an NFL head coach comes at a perfect time as Andrew Luck is back from a shoulder injury that many believed could derail his career. We have yet to see whether that holds true, but Colts quarterbacks (Jacoby Brissett and Scott Tolzien) carried the 6th worst PFF grade in his absence. In 2016, the last time we saw Luck, Colts passers carried the 4th best PFF grade. So Luck makes a huge difference. It’ll be a challenge against the Bengals, who I think will quietly have one of the NFL’s best defenses. It’ll be interesting to see how Andrew Luck is protected against that vaunted defensive line. I think the Bengals come away with this one.

Projected Score: Bengals 24 Colts 17

Tennessee Titans vs Miami Dolphins

Another head coaching debut, Mike Vrabel now has the reins of the Titans and will begin his tenure in South Beach against the Dolphins. A lot has been made of the Titans trying to become the Patriots 2.0 by acquiring all their old players (Logan Ryan, Dion Lewis, Malcolm Butler, even Vrabel himself played 8 years there), but obviously they’re not going to replicate the same results. Marcus Mariota had a weird season last year, as he appeared to struggle with 13 touchdowns and 15 picks, but PFF actually graded him pretty well at 76.2 (for comparison, Kirk Cousins was a 70.0 and Cam Newton was 66.5). I think they get the win against the Dolphins, who are returning Ryan Tannehill but seemingly nothing else.

Projected Score: Titans 27 Dolphins 21

San Francisco 49ers vs Minnesota Vikings

I probably should abstain from this one like I did Clemson-Texas A&M yesterday because I’m working this one for PFF, but my work doesn’t start until well after the game ends so I think I’m okay to pick this. The Vikings are my pick to win the Super Bowl this year and they go up against Jimmy Garoppolo and his unbeaten record as a starting quarterback. Something has to give. I think I’m going to go with the Vikings, as I think they’re much more well-rounded.

Projected Score: Vikings 31 49ers 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Jameis Winston’s 3 game suspension for groping an uber driver begins and it’ll be Ryan Fitzpatrick taking on the Saints. I’m not going to lie, this game is going to get ugly. Yes the Bucs have a revamped defensive line, but the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in football and loads of weapons like Michael Thomas and last year’s rookie of the year Alvin Kamara. They’re going to be fine even without Mark Ingram, who is serving a 4-game suspension for PED’s.  Saints win easily.

Projected Score: Saints 38 Buccaneers 14

Houston Texans vs New England Patriots

The Texans are getting a LOT of key contributors back from a season that was lost due to injury so I think this will be a fun game as they take on the Patriots. But it’s still the Patriots, even with all the players they lost from last season. So I think they still win, but I think the Texans will make them sweat.

Projected Score: Patriots 28 Texans 24

Jacksonville Jaguars vs New York Giants

The Jaguars had a fantastic season on defense last year and basically everyone from that unit is back. The Giants are getting ODell Beckham back and Saquon Barkley will be making his debut but it won’t be enough as Jacksonville’s defense suffocates them and leads them to a victory. It won’t be a bloodbath like their opener against the Texans last year, but it will still be a relatively easy win.

Projected Score: Jaguars 34 Giants 17

Buffalo Bills vs Baltimore Ravens

It’s going to be a long season for the Bills, especially if they think Nathan Peterman was the best option at quarterback. I get not starting Josh Allen right away, because based on his up-and-down preseason, he could use some time on the bench, but did you have to trade AJ McCarron? I don’t know, man. The defense should be solid but the offense is going to struggle and I think the Ravens will win easily.

Projected Score: Ravens 28 Bills 10

Kansas City Chiefs vs Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs

The Pat Mahomes era has officially begun and it comes against a very tough Chargers defense. Cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams will have their hands full with Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins running under Pat Mahomes’ passes, but he’s only going to be able to get the ball down there if the offensive line holds up, which is going to be tough with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming off the edge. I think the Chargers win a fun back-and-forth affair.

Projected Score: Chargers 31 Chiefs 28

Dallas Cowboys vs Carolina Panthers

It’s the end of an era, as the Cowboys will play a game without both Jason Witten (retired) and Dez Bryant (released) for the first time since 2003. They take on the Panthers, who remain mostly unchanged from the team that made the playoffs last season. I think it’s going to be a low-scoring game, as both teams bring strong defenses to the table, but I think Carolina is going to come out on top.

Projected Score: Panthers 20 Cowboys 17

Washington Redskins vs Arizona Cardinals

Alex Smith debuts for the Redskins after a career year in Kansas City against the Cardinals, who get David Johnson back from a wrist injury. The Cardinals are a tough team to place this season. Sam Bradford is the new quarterback after Carson Palmer retired and while he is an accurate passer and has played well when on the field, his problem is he can’t stay on the field. There’s also a lot of talent on the Arizona defense but they did lose a BIG piece in Tyrann Mathieu this offseason. I think I’m going to go with Washington this week.

Projected Score: Redskins 24 Cardinals 20

Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos

This is a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch but both teams could not look more different. The Legion of Boom has pretty much completely dissolved while Denver is starting Case Keenum at quarterback. Seattle still doesn’t have an offensive line so I think I’m going to pick a Von Miller-led defense to take apart this Seahawks offense and lead the Broncos to victory.

Projected Score: Broncos 23 Seahawks 17

Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers

The oldest rivalry in the NFL is renewed with some new faces in Chicago. Matt Nagy is at the helm and he has a brand new toy after the team sent to first rounders to Oakland for Khalil Mack. All of a sudden this Bears defense looks formidable for the first time since 2012. But the Packers are also getting Aaron Rodgers back and their young secondary looks like it could have a similar effect on this year’s team as it did for the Saints last year and I think I’m going to take Green Bay.

Projected Score: Packers 28 Bears 20

New York Jets vs Detroit Lions

The first Monday Night game of the year features a couple debuts. Sam Darnold is the new rookie quarterback getting the start for the Jets while Matt Patricia is making his head coaching debut for the Lions. Darnold looked really sharp in the preseason and was doing things you don’t see 30 year-olds do. The Lions are in a similar position to the Cardinals in that they have some talent with a rookie head coach but I have no idea what to make of them. So I think I’m going to pick the Jets to come away with the win.

Projected Score: Jets 23 Lions 14

Los Angeles Rams vs Oakland Raiders

The other Monday Night game, this is going to be a blowout. I’m picking Oakland to pick first in the 2019 NFL draft as they have absolutely no defense, especially now that they’ve traded Mack. Meanwhile the Rams stocked up on talent in the offseason. This won’t be close, Rams win.

Projected Score: Rams 42 Raiders 14

So that’s it for my picks this week. Like I’ve said many times, I’m going to keep trying to do this every week, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Wonderlic Test: Football’s Most Puzzling Test of Players

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The Wonderlic Test is something that the NFL has potential Draft prospects take in order to test their intelligence. We often hear about leaked scores and which players performed well and which didn’t. The test is 50 questions and you have 12 minutes to complete it. Well, I took a sample Wonderlic while I was taking a break from writing my papers and guess what?

I’m in the 97th percentile among NFL prospects. Put me in coach!

I got a 38 on the Wonderlic, which actually ranks pretty well. Only one prospect has ever scored a perfect 50 on it, that being former Harvard punter Pat McInally back in the 70’s. McInally was a 5th round pick by the Bengals in the 1975 NFL Draft and went on to be their punter for a decade. The worst was former LSU corner Morris Claiborne and former Iowa State running back Darren Davis, both of whom scored a 4. Davis went undrafted and ended up playing in the CFL while Claiborne was made the 6th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Claiborne was overall a bust with Dallas but he started showing some signs of being a solid corner upon joining the Jets. Here are some notable players who did really well on the Wonderlic.

Ryan Fitzpatrick-48

Ben Watson-48

Eric Decker-43

Blaine Gabbert-42

Calvin Johnson-41

Carson Wentz-40

Here are some guys who compared with me. Mind you, my score was a 38.

Eli Manning-39

Matthew Stafford-38

Colin Kapernick-38

Andrew Luck-37 (Yes, I scored higher than the supposed “genius” Andrew Luck)

Josh Allen-37

Tony Romo-37

Joey Bosa-37

Jared Goff-37

Drew Bledsoe-36

Sam Bradford-36

Aaron Rodgers-35

Jonathan Ogden-35

Tom Brady-33

And here are some guys who did really poorly.

Morris Claiborne-4

Frank Gore-6

Vince Young-6

Kelvin Benjamin-7

Terrelle Pryor-7

Bobby Wagner-8

AJ Green-10

Darrelle Revis-10

Leonard Fournette-11

Keyshawn Johnson-11

Jamal Adams-11

The best Wonderlic score in this year’s Draft class that has been leaked is Josh Allen’s 37. Another thing for draft pundits to gush over. The worst? Lamar Jackson’s 13. Granted, hardly anybody in the recent classes have been leaked, so it’s probable that there are better and worse scores. But having taken the test myself and seen what others have scored, what do I think of the Wonderlic?

I think it’s a poor method of projecting success in the league. Typically quarterbacks do really well on it but even that can’t project who is going to be particularly good. Ryan Fitzpatrick got a 48 and he’s just a quality backup. Blaine Gabbert scored a 41 and he was awful as a starter. Donovan McNabb scored a 14 and he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks the Eagles have ever had and was one of the best of the 2000’s. Terry Bradshaw scored a 15 and he’s a 4-time Super Bowl champion and a Hall of Famer. Yet there are other quarterbacks who did pretty well at it, like Eli Manning’s 39 and Carson Wentz’s 40 that went on to have successful careers. A lot of the questions are word associations or recognizing patterns in sequences. Hell, I couldn’t even finish mine (my last two answers were not recorded because I ran out of time) because of the 12-minute time limit. There are also plenty of players who did poorly on the Wonderlic and had great careers. Frank Gore had one of the worst Wonderlics of all time (6) and he’s the 49ers all-time leading rusher and a future Hall of Famer. Bobby Wagner is arguably the best linebacker in the game today and he scored an 8. AJ Green is one of the best receivers in the game and he got a 10.

My point is, Draft analysts really shouldn’t take any stock into how a player does on the Wonderlic because it really doesn’t do a good job of projecting who’s going to be good. In fact, I’m not even sure why it’s even administered because none of the questions I answered had anything to do with football.

So I’m going to post two links. The first link is to the Wonderlic Test that I took. Granted it’s a sample but the questions are supposedly very similar to what the players have to take. There also may have been some improper coding done because a couple of questions I answered were repeats. The other link I’m posting is to a list of players and their Wonderlic scores so you can see how you did compared to some notable NFL players.

https://samplewonderlictest.com/

http://wonderlictestsample.com/nfl-wonderlic-scores/

So that’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think of the Wonderlic in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also be sure to let me know how you did!

 

General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of each storyline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Josh McDaniels Burns the Colts

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This was a fun experience for me when the news broke. I had just gotten done with a workout and I checked my phone and saw that Josh McDaniels, whom everybody assumed was going to be the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, had backed out of the agreement they’d had in place in order to return as offensive coordinator of the Patriots. I told my Colts-fan buddy that I’d been working out with “hey, McDaniels rejected the Colts” and he was incredulous and didn’t believe me. I showed him my phone and he went on a tirade that lasted through our post-workout dinner, which accumulated to about an hour of rage. Plus a large portion of my Twitter feed is Colts fans who were irate about the decision so that gave me even more pleasure, which was huge for me because the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles still stings a bit. But here’s a live look at how I’ll be arriving to classes tomorrow:

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That would be dancing on peoples’ graves. But that’s the asshole Pats fan in me. Here’s what we know about the McDaniels situation.

The Things We Do Know

From what I’ve gathered, Kraft reportedly “sweetened” McDaniels’ contract to entice him to return, which obviously worked. I wonder what the added stipulations must have been. From what I’m reading from Adam Schefter’s ESPN article about it, apparently the late push the Patriots made to retain him was very aggressive. It was also a better decision for McDaniels from a family perspective, as he doesn’t have to uproot them and move them out to Indianapolis as he’s had a few weeks to think over the decision since interviewing for the job during the Wild Card Round. Ultimately, he felt uncomfortable with moving his family out of New England. We also know that the Colts had already hired McDaniels’ assistants who are now under contract. Whether or not they can be fired right away is unknown to me, but if not, that puts the Colts in a REALLY bad position. It’s interesting to me, though, that the Colts hired the assistants McDaniels wanted before actually inking McDaniels to a deal. You would think they’d have their guy set in stone like all the other teams do before going out and hiring the people he wants.

What We Don’t Know

The biggest question for me is whether or not Andrew Luck’s health played a factor in backing out of the Colts job. Luck missed the entire 2017 season after having offseason shoulder surgery and according to Chris Mortensen, there are doctors who aren’t sure that Luck’s shoulder is totally healed and that he may need more surgery done on it. But if the Colts’ franchise quarterback is having shoulder issues that could derail his career, that seems to be a pretty legitimate reason to back out of the job. He’d be setting himself up for disaster, especially considering this will be his second gig. The first was such a failure that another failure would likely prevent him from ever getting a third chance. I also think it’s possible that working under Jim Irsay wasn’t ideal for McDaniels. Irsay’s history with drugs and alcohol have been well-documented and perhaps McDaniels wasn’t comfortable with a loose cannon like him being his boss when he’s been so used to a guy like Robert Kraft all this time. But the biggest thing that we don’t really know that intrigues me is what this means about Bill Belichick’s future in New England. McDaniels has stated before that the ideal situation for his next head coaching gig would be as Belichick’s successor with the Patriots. Is it possible that Belichick may be gone soon? His contract is up after 2018 but given his success with the Patriots, if wants to keep coaching he’s going to get an extension. So perhaps McDaniels may be aware that Belichick is considering calling it a career after next season and doesn’t want to burn the opportunity to replace him by taking the Colts job. There’s a lot to digest here.

So What Do the Colts Do Now?

Well there are a few options on the table here. Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is an option, as the Eagles’ defense has been terrific since he took over and he’s had moderate success as a head coach with the Lions in the past. I’ve also heard that Leslie Frazier could be a candidate. Frazier was on the Colts’ staff when they won Super Bowl XLI and also has head coaching experience with the Vikings. I’ve heard that several Colts fans want Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub. I really don’t know anything about the guy but the Chiefs’ special teams have been really good these last couple years, particularly in the return game. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich could also be a potential candidate after how successful his RPO’s were this season as well as the development of both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles leading them to a Super Bowl win. There are plenty of other options out there so just because McDaniels is out of the picture doesn’t mean the Colts are royally screwed.

So we really don’t know for sure why McDaniels changed his mind about becoming the Colts’ head coach except that Kraft sweetened his contract and he wasn’t comfortable uprooting his family from New England. Other than that we can only guess until people with more intimate knowledge of the situation step forward. But as a Patriots’ fan, this was very welcome news, especially after some of the crap that’s been coming out since they lost the Super Bowl. From the Malcolm Butler saga to the fact that Rob Gronkowski’s not only considering retirement, but his house was broken into and he was robbed of safes and guns. But getting to gloat around this Indiana University campus is something I’ll never take for granted and you can bet I’m going to get myself punched in the face before the day is out. That’s going to do it for this blog, let me know what you think about McDaniels punking the Colts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Measuring Luck in Baseball

So I’m sure you’ve seen the stats on certain players and thought “this guy can’t be that good, can he?” Or you’ve seen those one-year wonders that never came close to that level of production ever again. A lot of times, you can go back to advanced metrics to try and project who is due for a big breakout season or who might be in for a major decline. I’m going to try and do that here by using statistics to determine who the luckiest and unluckiest hitters in Major League Baseball are. Now I will preface this by saying that this may not be entirely accurate, as I have no way of gaining stats such as “bad hops that turn sure outs into base hits” or “plays where the defender robbed you of a base hit” unless I go back and literally watch every single at bat of every player in the Majors. That’s just not happening, I’ve got stuff to do. I will however, use the stats that I have gained from Fangraphs.com to try and find the best way to paint a picture for you as to who is the luckiest hitter in the game. Ideally, there would be a way for me to combine all of the following stats I will be using into one encompassing number, but my skills as a statistician just aren’t at that level. I will more or less be taking each stat that I think is important in determining luck and giving you the players who fall into these categories. So without further ado, let’s dive into the numbers.

BABIP

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Avisail Garcia had a career year in 2017, could he be due for regression? (photo credit: Detroit Free Press)

BABIP stands for “Batting Average on Balls In Play” and basically measures what a player’s batting average would be if you were to take their strikeouts and home runs out of the equation. This is probably the best stat we have towards measuring luck as it shows how often guys are getting hits when defenders have a chance at making a play on the ball. Here are the Top 10 players in the 2017 season according to BABIP:

  1. Avisail Garcia-CHW: .392
  2. Charlie Blackmon-COL: .371
  3. Jose Altuve-HOU: .370
  4. Tommy Pham-STL: .368
  5. Tim Beckham-TBR/BAL: .365
  6. Domingo Santana-MIL: .363
  7. Chris Taylor-UTIL-LAD: .361
  8. Aaron Judge-NYY: .357
  9. Marcell Ozuna-MIA: .355
  10. Dee Gordon-MIA: .354

Now a few of these guys I can safely say is due to skill at the plate, namely Blackmon and Altuve (my two MVP picks for this season) because they’ve been ranking highly on these lists for some time now. It’s guys like Garcia, Pham, and Beckham who make me nervous just simply because I hadn’t seen production like this out of them prior to 2017. Now for the Top 10 Worst BABIPs in the majors this season:

  1. Rougned Odor-TEX: .224
  2. Todd Frazier-CHW/NYY: .226
  3. Curtis Granderson-NYM/LAD: .228
  4. Maikel Franco-PHI: .234
  5. Jose Bautista-TOR: .239
  6. Ian Kinsler-DET: .244
  7. Scott Schebler-CIN: .248
  8. Albert Pujols-ANA: .249
  9. Joey Gallo-TEX: .250
  10. Yangervis Solarte-SDP: .258

Todd Frazier has been very high on this list for the last few years now yet he is still a productive player, being worth a WAR of 3.0 this season, which is above average. You’ll also notice some other big names on this list, such as Jose Bautista, Ian Kinsler, and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Pujols’ production has been on a steep decline ever since he signed a huge contract with the Angels back in 2012 so his inclusion isn’t unfathomable here. It’s guys like Kinsler being on this list that surprised me.

Quality of Contact

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Joey Gallo was about as all-or-nothing a hitter as you will find in 2017 (photo credit: Fan Rag Sports)

Typically when a ball is hit hard, it suggests that the hitter got a good piece of it or squared it up really well. We all see those plays where a guy absolutely smokes the ball and it’s hit right at the third baseman for a quick out, which affects their batting average the same way as a strikeout despite not missing the ball. This is an imperfect tool because sometimes, you get guys like Giancarlo Stanton who are just flat out stronger than everyone and could hit a hard hit ball on a check swing. A ball is considered hard hit when it travels at roughly 100 mph off the bat. Below is a list of the guys who hit the ball hardest in 2017. I want you to keep in mind that the best hitters have contact rates of about 40-45-15:

Player                           Hard Contact                       Medium Contact                  Soft Contact

Joey Gallo-TEX                        46.4%                                        38.9%                                  14.7%

Aaron Judge-NYY                    45.3%                                        43.5%                                  11.2%

Paul Goldschmidt-ARI          44.3%                                         44.3%                                  11.3%

Corey Seager-LAD                  44%                                           43.1%                                 12.9%

Nicholas Castellanos-DET      43.4%                                     45.1%                                  11.5%

Cody Bellinger-LAD               43%                                          43%                                      14%

Miguel Cabrera-DET             42.5%                                       47.5%                                   9.9%

Matt Carpenter-STL            42.2%                                       45.7%                                    12.1%

Khris Davis-OAK                  42.1%                                        44.4%                                    13.5%

Chris Davis-BAL                  41.5%                                        45.7%                                   12.8%

One thing I want to draw your attention to on this list is Joey Gallo. Yes, he hit the ball hard the most consistently, but he also had the highest percentage of softly hit balls among guys in the top 10 as well as the lowest percentage of medium hit balls in this group. Gallo was a go-big-or-go-home type of swinger this season, as also evidenced by his 41 home runs and 196 strikeouts on the season. Here are the guys who hit the ball softly the most frequently in 2017:

Player                      Hard Contact                         Medium Contact              Soft Contact

Jose Peraza-CIN              21.4%                                        52%                                      26.6%

Jose Reyes-NYM                26.7%                                        47.2%                                    26.1%

Manuel Margot-SDP         25.4%                                     48.7%                                    25.9%

Yangervis Solarte-SDP      31.1%                                     43.8%                                   25.2%

Billy Hamilton-CIN          16%                                         59%                                      25%

Dee Gordon-MIA               16.1%                                      59.2%                                  24.7%

Didi Gregorius-NYY         23.1%                                       52.4%                                 24.4%

Odubel Herrera-NYY       29.4 %                                     46.3%                                  24.4%

Cesar Hernandez-PHI      22.1%                                    54.4%                                  23.5%

Todd Frazier-CHW/NYY             32.2%                                      44.6%                                 23.2%

A few guys on this list won’t be considered for “luckiest” or “unluckiest” because a lot of times this soft contact is a result of them playing to their speed. Guys like Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon often drop down bunts because they are freakishly fast, so using their soft contact against them isn’t really fair in this case. You may also notice a couple guys in the top 10 softest hit balls who were also in the top 10 worst BABIP: Todd Frazier and Yangervis Solarte, so you can pretty much rule these two out for consideration for “unluckiest.” They just aren’t hitting the ball hard and it’s hurting them.

Pop Up %

freddie1

Had Freddie Freeman not missed a large chunk of the season due to injury, he may have been a leading candidate for NL MVP (photo credit: AJC.com)

Pop ups can be killers and often happens when a guy tries to get the ball airborne and dips his back shoulder a little too much. I often find that pop ups can be a good indicator of a guy who is due for a big home run season, because usually when the ball is popped up, the hitter got a little too far under the ball. And when they hit those balls that are skied in the air with terrific hang time, you can probably guess that if they squared it up properly, it’d be going a long way at a more horizontal level. It will just take a little bit of tweaking in their swing to turn those pop-ups into bombs. I must also clarify that a ball is considered a pop up as long as it remains in the infield or fieldable by an infielder. Here are the guys who popped out most frequently:

  1. Todd Frazier-CHW/NYY-18.5%
  2. Jose Reyes-NYM-18.1%
  3. Tommy Joseph-PHI-18.1%
  4. Byron Buxton-MIN-17.7%
  5. Yangervis Solarte-SDP-17.4%
  6. Giancarlo Stanton-MIA-16.9%
  7. Alex Bregman-HOU-16.7%
  8. Jose Bautista-TOR-16.5%
  9. Maikel Franco-PHI-16.3%
  10. Jonathan Schoop-BAL-16%

I should also note that Schoop was number 11 in soft contact. This surprised me, especially considering the fact that he hit 32 home runs this season. But once again, Frazier and Solarte appear on a list they don’t want to appear on for futility. I was surprised at first to see Stanton on this list, but then I got to thinking about it and it started to make sense as, considering the guy was chasing 61 home runs, he probably hit a few pop ups trying to get to that number. Here we have the guys who hit the fewest pop ups in 2017:

  1. Freddie Freeman-ATL-0%
  2. Joey Votto-CIN-0.5%
  3. Shin-Soo Choo-TEX-0.9%
  4. Nicholas Castellanos-DET-1.6%
  5. Domingo Santana-MIL-2.1%
  6. Miguel Cabrera-DET-2.5%
  7. Christian Yelich-MIA-2.5%
  8. Buster Posey-SFG-2.8%
  9. Chris Davis-BAL-2.9%
  10. Dee Gordon-MIA-2.9%

Freddie Freaking Freeman didn’t hit a single popup this season. That’s just unbelievable to me. That’s a guy who is totally fundamentally sound with his swing on every single hack he takes. Not surprised to see Dee Gordon on this list. As a guy who bunted for more hits than anybody else (he had 18 bunt hits, next closest was Buxton at 11), I’m sure he was trying to hit the ball on the ground as much as humanly possible. This is how I imagine a discussion between Gordon and Marlins manager Don Mattingly would go.

Line Drives

daniel-murphy

Daniel Murphy has hit .334 since joining the Nationals in 2016 (photo credit: CBS Sports)

This is the last stat we will consider when trying to determine luck. There really isn’t a definitive way to consider a line drive except by the eye test. I’m not going over every single swing to clarify information, so I trust the guys at Fangraphs have these numbers up to par. Typically a line drive is affiliated with hitting the ball perfectly. Here is a list of the guys who had the highest percentage of line drives in 2017:

  1. Daniel Murphy-WAS-27.6%
  2. Domingo Santana-MIL-27.4%
  3. Miguel Cabrera-DET-27.3%
  4. Jed Lowrie-OAK-27.1%
  5. Shin-Soo Choo-TEX-25%
  6. Joe Mauer-MIN-24.9%
  7. Chase Headley-NYY-24.9%
  8. Corey Seager-LAD-24.8%
  9. DJ LeMahieu-COL-24.7%
  10. Nicholas Castellanos-DET-24.5%

Not surprised to see Daniel Murphy on this list. The guy hits lasers and ever since 2015 he’s been one of the most consistently solid hitters in the game. Chase Headley was a bit of a surprise for me, I always knew he was more of a doubles guy but he’d been having his struggles with the Yankees this season. Now we have the worst at hitting line drives in 2017:

  1. Hunter Pence-SFG-13.4%
  2. Javy Baez-CHC-15.4%
  3. Manny Machado-BAL-15.8%
  4. Giancarlo Stanton-MIA-16%
  5. Mark Trumbo-BAL-16.1%
  6. Yasiel Puig-LAD-16.1%
  7. Scott Schebler-CIN-16.2%
  8. Rougned Odor-TEX-16.3%
  9. Yangervis Solarte-SDP-16.4%
  10. Carlos Beltran-HOU-16.4%

Hunter Pence had the lowest line drive rate by a WIDE margin, a full 2% below Javy Baez for the next lowest rate. Yet again, we find Solarte on a list that he REALLY doesn’t want to be on. It was well documented throughout the season that Manny Machado struggled and we may now have the reason why: he’s not hitting line drives, third worst rate in the majors.

And now the moment this article has been building up to: the Luckiest and Unluckiest hitters in baseball for the 2017 season. I don’t have a clear-cut singular number to round all of these stats into, but I tried to find the guys who found themselves ranking highly the most frequently in these specific categories.

Luckiest Hitter: 

Hosmer_e8lpxjnp_ycjvjaqp.jpg

Eric Hosmer was the luckiest hitter in 2017 (photo credit: MLB.com)

Eric Hosmer-1B-Kansas City Royals

This may have come as a bit of a surprise to some of you because Hosmer didn’t appear in any of the Top 10’s for the chosen stats. However he wasn’t far off from making all of them. Hosmer slashed .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI, all really impressive numbers for a guy set to become a free agent. However, those numbers were inflated by a .351 BABIP, 14th best in the Majors out of 144 qualifiers. He also was 15th in soft-hit balls at 21.8% and was 116th in hard hit balls at 29.5%. He was 49th in pop-up rate at 7.2%, which isn’t too bad, it’s right around average, and his line drive rate was 22.2%, which ranked 36th. So for any team that is ready to hand Hosmer a $100M contract this offseason, I say buyer beware, he’s due for regression.

Unluckiest Hitter:

Super angry Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers 2017_1492802100716_9568344_ver1.0_1280_720

Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera had terrible luck in 2017 (photo credit: ClickOnDetroit)

Miguel Cabrera-1B-Detroit Tigers

I knew there had to be some explanation as to why Miggy was having such a shitty season. Cabrera’s slash line was .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI. It seemed to be the symptoms of getting older (despite remaining one of the most baby-faced players in the game) but it turns out, the baseball gods hadn’t been doing Cabrera any favors. His BABIP was .292, which was 97th in the Majors out of 144 qualifying players, his line drive percentage was third best at 27.3% and his pop up percentage was 6th best at 2.5%. Only Justin Turner hit the ball softly less frequently (9.8%) than Cabrera did (9.9%). Cabrera also hit the ball 7th hardest this season at a 42.5% rate. While the lower home run totals may be concerning, I expect Cabrera to have a bounce back year in 2018. He’s a much better hitter than what his base stats showed this year and these advanced stats proved it to me that his 2017 season was probably just an aberration.

Thank you for bearing with me being a gigantic super nerd with all these stats. I had a lot of fun doing this and it answered a lot of questions for me. I’ve always had a soft spot towards guys with shit luck simply because that was me in high school. I used to hit the ball right at guys so often that I eventually gave up and stopped swinging the bat in the hopes of getting walked. It worked for a little while (I had a two-game stretch where I got walked 7 times in 8 plate appearances. The one appearance that I didn’t walk was when I swung at the first pitch. I hit a hard ground ball right at the shortstop.). Do you want to see more blogs like these? Did you absolutely despise it because you hate nerds? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.