Baseball is great because of its capacity for strangeness, and here are some of the strange things that could happen this year.
Happy Opening Day! If you, like me, root for a team that’s more than likely going to finish in last place, you’re probably looking for something to become emotionally invested in once your team is 20 games back at the All-Star Break. Baseball is better when the outcome matters.
There are always story lines to follow each season, individuals to root for, but for those of use who get enjoyment sorting through leader boards and doing Play Index searches on Baseball Reference, there’s always the hope for weird stats. Here are some things that could (and should) happen in 2019.
Khris Davis hitting .247 again
This is an obvious one. For the past four years, Khris Davis’ batting average has been exactly .247. No other qualified batter has ever finished four consecutive seasons with the same batting average. Becoming the first to five consecutive season would further extend his lead on the consistency leaderboards.
Currently, the only projection system to have Davis at .247 is ZiPS. Steamer has him at .241 and PECOTA has him hitting .246. I don’t know what would be worse, Davis getting within one measly point of .247 or him having a really weird BABIP year and hitting .278 or something boring.
Really, with all the changes that MLB is implementing, we need something to remain constant. Even if most of these changes are for the better, too much change all at once is hard to deal with.
Willians Astudillo recording more strikeouts on the mound than at the plate
What brought folk hero Willians Astudillo to the fore is the fact that he never strikes out and he very rarely walks. In the modern game, there’s tons of hand-wringing over the rise of the three-true outcomes, but Astudillo pushes back against that all while being a generally delightful player to watch.
His existence is a statistical anomaly as long as he’s existing, and he’s bringing some form of joy to baseball fans with too much time on their hands. He’s also a virtuoso. In 26 games, he played every position except for first base and shortstop. That’s every position including catcher and pitcher.
In Astudillo’s one inning of work, it did… uh…. not go well. He gave up five runs and didn’t strike anyone out, but I’m confident that if he gets two or three innings of work, he can record more strikeouts on the mound than at the plate. Last season, he only struck out three times, so all he would have to do is strikeout the side once. That’s totally doable.
If Astudillo doesn’t get enough innings to accomplish this, he could also become the first hitter with 100 plate appearances to triple more than he strikes out since the 1950’s. This is something Astudillo did in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011 when he hit three triples and struck out twice in 220 plate appearances.
Terrance Gore: 30 SB, 0 PA
Since 1871, there have been 13 players to successfully steal a base in a season without recording a plate appearance. There have been just five players to steal two bases without swinging the bat. Herb Washington had two such seasons, stealing 29 bases in 1974 and 2 the following year. Though he’s listed as a designated hitter on Baseball-Reference, Washington never had a major league plate appearance.
Per his SABR Bio, Washington, a track player who hadn’t played baseball since high school, was one of six dedicated runners the A’s experimented with between 1967 and 1978. Washington was the second track star turned baseball player. Allan Lewis was the first, and though he got 31 career plate appearances, he swiped seven bags without getting into the batter’s box in 1973.
It seems impossible that this record will ever be broken considering that in an era where every team is carrying 13 pitchers and each bench player needs to be able to play six positions to get a job. Having a guy dedicated to fulfilling one very specific (and frankly, not useful) role, would be wasteful, but it’s not as if the Royals are playing for anything. If anyone could do it, it’s Terrance Gore.
Gore getting to 30 stolen bases with or without a plate appearance might be unreasonable, but Gore could certainly get to 8 which would put him ahead of Allan Lewis. Heck, even if he gets one without stepping up to the plate, that would put him in small company.
Nick Vincent continuing to get more whiffs on his fastball than Aroldis Chapman
When Aroldis Chapman arrived in 2010, he defied what we knew about the human body. It shouldn’t have been possible to throw 103 mph fastballs and have some idea of where it’s going. His combination of otherworldly velocity and devastating movement on his slider have allowed him to carry a career strikeout rate of 41.7, the highest such rate of any pitcher since Chapman’s rookie year, just barely edging out Craig Kimbrel by a tenth of a percentage point.
Nick Vincent is a reliever who signed a minor-league deal with the San Francisco Giants this offseason. He’s been pretty good throughout his career, but he’s also in a position where he’ll need the Giants to choose him over Breyvic Valera or Trevor Gott or else test his chances on the market. His fastball hovers around 90 mph, and while that might be 10 mph slower than Chapman’s it’s been a better pitch in one key area.
Four-seam fastballs, 2016-18
89.9 mph avg. velocity
30.8% whiff rate
100.0 mph avg. velocity
30.3% whiff rate https://t.co/lh6eQVx4fy
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) February 21, 2019
It’s not just that Vincent had a higher whiff rate on his fastball in one year. He’s been doing this for three years. It makes absolutely no sense because it’s not as if Vincent’s fastball has a lot of movement—it’s relatively straight—and yet, major league hitters have had a tougher time making contact with it than Chapman’s.
Vincent can absolutely continue to edge out Chapman in this one specific area. He just needs to get playing time.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.