Because the Rangers Thrive, Marcus Semien Continues To Wrestle


Marcus Semien
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports activities

Writing about playoff tendencies is dangerous enterprise. The complete postseason, up to now, contains 36 particular person video games. Within the common season, the league hit the 36-game mark on April 2. If you happen to regarded on the stolen base success fee that early into the season — 88% by these first 36 video games — you’d have thought we had been in for an absolute free-for-all beneath the brand new guidelines. Writing about particular person gamers is much more harmful. Probably the most that anybody has performed on this postseason is 13 video games; 13 video games into his season, Matt Chapman led the majors in WAR. Jorge López hadn’t given up an earned run. Nobody on the Rays knew what it felt wish to lose a recreation. Mookie Betts had a 13-game stretch in mid-April the place he slashed .184/.298/.306. Shohei Ohtani had a .538 OPS over 13 video games in mid-Might.

However, we will’t not write concerning the postseason. It’s the postseason! The pattern dimension will at all times be small, however we should attempt to make sense of it anyway, to search out that means within the small pattern weirdness. And on that word, it’s time to speak about Marcus Semien.

By means of 58 postseason plate appearances, Semien has a 43 wRC+. Out of 36 gamers with a minimum of 30 PA within the playoffs, that ranks fifth-worst, forward of solely Martín Maldonado, Jeremy Peña, Evan Longoria, and Johan Rojas, hardly the form of firm that the two-time MVP finalist normally retains. Together with Longoria and Rojas, Semien is the one certified hitter with a wRC+ under 100 in all three collection up to now; his finest efficiency got here within the ALDS, wherein he slashed .214/.267/.286 with a .247 wOBA and a 50 wRC+. After ending fourth within the AL in extra-base hits in the course of the common season, he has simply two within the playoffs. He has but to hit a house run. His .038 remoted energy would make even Myles Straw shake his head. On high of that, he hasn’t stolen a base both, though that most likely has one thing to do together with his .276 OBP.

Each hitter goes by chilly streaks, and Semien is not any exception. Certainly, the veteran has a little bit of a repute for inconsistency; he has bounced forwards and backwards between “MVP candidate” and “league-average hitter” every season since 2019. Even this yr, when he was one of the crucial dependable gamers within the recreation all through the common season, he had some stretches like this:

Semien’s postseason wOBA is .237. Each level under the dotted purple line represents one other 12-game stretch over the previous three seasons when he was equally unproductive. It’s not frequent, however it occurs, and there’s actually no must sound the alarms. After busting out of his newest chilly stretch round recreation no. 400 on the graph, he hit for a .371 wOBA over the remainder of the season.

What’s extra, Semien is exhibiting a number of basic indicators of onerous luck this October. His .217 BABIP is 70 factors under his profession common, regardless that his line drive fee is means up at 26.1%. His pull fee is low, however it’s solely down on groundballs, so if something, you may need thought his BABIP can be larger than typical. On high of that, he has walked as many occasions as he has struck out, and his 10.3% strikeout fee is the second lowest within the postseason (min. 20 PA).

The Statcast anticipated metrics additionally provide cause for optimism, although you must dig a little bit deeper to search out it. Semien’s xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA are all considerably larger than his precise stats, however they’re nonetheless not notably inspiring:

Semien Is Underperforming

Metric Precise Anticipated
AVG .192 .266
SLG .231 .341
wOBA .237 .309

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

However there’s some extra small pattern dimension weirdness happening right here. Stats like batting common, slugging proportion, and even wOBA work with a restricted variety of inputs. Common outdated batting common is a binary system; each enter is both “hit” or “not a success.” In the meantime, slugging proportion and wOBA solely differentiate between varieties of hit, not high quality of hit. In different phrases, a base hit off the scoreboard and a dribbling infield single are equally useful. In the identical vein, an out is at all times simply an out, whether or not it’s a scorching liner or a can of corn.

Anticipated stats are an entire different animal. The distinction between a base hit off the scoreboard and an infield dribbler might be monumental; so can the distinction between a hard-hit line out or a lazy pop fly. Thus, a couple of pop outs or weak grounders can tank a batter’s anticipated stats in a small pattern dimension, and a few no-doubter house runs could make them shoot again up. In Semien’s case, it’s the previous. He has put a couple of too many non-competitive balls in play, and that awful contact is overshadowing all of the high-quality contact he has made.

Of the 46 balls Semien has put into play, 13 have had an xBA under .020 – simply over 28%. Equally, 20% of his batted balls have had an xBA under .010. Within the common season, these percentages had been simply 15% and 11%, respectively. There’s no defending that form of contact; there’s no such factor as “dangerous luck” on balls in play when the balls in play are hit so poorly. However on the finish of the day, one out is only one out. A popup isn’t any worse than a routine groundout, regardless that the popup goes to have a harsher impact on a hitter’s anticipated stats. Extra to the purpose, being a superb hitter is extra concerning the high-quality contact a batter could make, reasonably than the low-quality contact he doesn’t make.

And Semien remains to be making high-quality contact at an identical fee. His line drive fee is up. He’s pulling balls within the air as a lot as ever. On all balls in play with an xBA above .020, he has a better xBA and an identical xwOBA as he did all year long. About 26% of his batted balls have had an xBA over .500, in comparison with 24% within the common season, and 9% have had an xBA over .800, in comparison with 10% within the common season. He’s nonetheless making good contact, however it’s tougher to see that, as a result of his poor contact has been worse than typical.

Semien needs to be simply effective, however it’s value wanting into all that low-quality contact a little bit additional. The most important drawback has been the mixture of popups and weak fly outs; thus far, practically one-third of his fly balls haven’t gotten out of the infield. Right here’s a compilation of all his batted balls with an xBA under .020, cut up into two movies as a result of MLB Movie Room caps any supercuts at 10 clips:

As you may need picked up, most of these pitches had been fastballs, and practically all had been within the strike zone. They diversified by way of velocity and precise location, however ten of 13 had been four-seamers, and all however one landed within the zone. Eight had been even within the coronary heart of the strike zone, as outlined by Baseball Savant.

4-seam fastballs aren’t a brand new drawback for Semien. Over the previous two years, the one providing he has a worse wOBAcon towards within the strike zone is the sweeper, and the pattern dimension is way smaller for that pitch:

Bother with the 4-Seam

12 months Semien vs. FA in Zone Semien vs. All Different Pitches in Zone League vs. FA in Zone
2022 .324 xwOBAcon .377 xwOBAcon .396 xwOBAcon
2023 .315 xwOBAcon .415 xwOBAcon .418 xwOBAcon

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Two of the three groups Semien has confronted within the postseason took a four-seamer–heavy strategy. The Rays threw him four-seam fastballs on 18 of 32 pitches, and the Astros tossed him a four-seamer 43.4% of the time. Curiously, Houston lived outdoors the zone towards him, giving him little or no to work with, however which may be why he swung so aggressively when he did get a fastball within the zone. The Orioles, for his or her half, leaned on the slider, throwing him one of many two breaking balls for 21 of 56 pitches. He did nicely to put off sliders and sweepers, swinging solely seven occasions (33.3%) and chasing solely thrice (21.4%). Maybe after so many breaking balls, he was a bit too aggressive when he noticed a fastball down the center.

Opposing groups have achieved nicely in executing their varied plans towards Semien thus far within the playoffs. On the identical time, he’s nonetheless drawing his walks, making frequent contact, and hitting the ball with authority as usually as ever. He has created his personal dangerous luck with so many popups, however he’s additionally been the sufferer of some good defensive performs and a few well-positioned fielders.

Semien was arguably essentially the most useful participant on the Rangers all through the common season, taking part in all 162 video games and main the workforce in WAR. By means of 12 video games within the playoffs, he has been the least useful participant on the roster. However postseason narratives can change within the blink of a watch. Look no additional than Nick Castellanos, who had the very best OPS amongst certified hitters within the NLDS and the bottom OPS amongst certified hitters within the NLCS. Maybe the Diamondbacks have a grasp plan of their of personal to carry Semien at bay, however it’s simply as attainable he’ll flip a couple of of these popups into house runs, turning round his postseason narrative on the identical time.

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