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2020 Texas Rangers hitters xwOBA update

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Checking in on the Rangers’ hitters xwOBAs this year

Los Angeles Dodgers v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

We are 39 games into the 2020 MLB season — a season that has gone extremely poorly for the Texas Rangers — and while 39 games isn’t a huge sample size, we can still take a look at what guys have done thusfar statistically.

Let’s take a look at how the Ranger hitters are faring in xwOBA this year. xwOBA, as we have discussed, is the level of production a player would be expected to have given his quality of contact (based on exit velocity and launch angle) combined with his walks and strikeouts.

A wOBA of .330 is generally average, though this year, across the league, the average wOBA is lower — .317. And wOBA isn’t park-adjusted, so these do not reflect the park effects of the stadiums the Rangers have played in.

Ronald Guzman — .455

Derek Dietrich — .369

Nick Solak — .365

Jose Trevino — .361

Shin-Soo Choo — .349

Leody Taveras — .346

Joey Gallo — .336

Isiah Kiner-Falefa — .319

Elvis Andrus — .313

Jeff Mathis — .312

Eli White — .303

Anderson Tejeda — .288

Danny Santana — .286

Rob Refsnyder — .267

Willie Calhoun — .266

Scott Heineman — .259

Yadiel Rivera — .252

Rougned Odor — .248

Adolis Garcia — .115

It is noteworthy that, in looking at this list, and comparing it to actual wOBAs for the Rangers, only two hitters have an actual wOBA better than their xwOBA — Anderson Tejeda, at +.043, and IKF, at +.003. Everyone else is underperforming their wOBAs.

In several cases that’s by a significant amount — Elvis is at -.088, Dietrich at -.085, and Willie at -.079. Nick Solak’s xwOBA indicates he’s been a quality hitter, but his actual wOBA hasn’t — he has a .050 spread. Jose Trevino is at -.053. Every Ranger is at at least -.025 other than Tejeda, IKF, Ronald Guzman (-.005), and Adolis Garcia (-.016).

I have no idea why the spread is so big. And while the league as a whole is underperforming their xwOBAs — only two teams, the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox — have a better wOBA than xwOBA — the Rangers are uniquely bad in that regard. Texas has the biggest spread between wOBA and xwOBA in the league, at -.044. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the next worst, at -.038.

In perusing the list...Ronald Guzman is tearing it up in his return from the Alternate Training Site. It is also just 29 plate appearances, though, so that grain of salt you want to take that with is a hefty one. Still, for a guy who will be out of options after this year, and who would be potentially in danger of losing his 40 man roster spot if he didn’t hit, the signs are positive, and one has to hope he can continue to keep hitting over the final three weeks of the season.

Solak is a hitter, he’s supposed to hit, and xwOBA says he is hitting. That’s good.

Jose Trevino...he’s a glove-first catcher. He’s a guy who is considered, to borrow Chris Woodward’s favorite adjective, elite defensively, but whose bat has been in question. His .308 actual wOBA on the season is good enough for him to be a major leaguer — it would have ranked him 19th out of the 30 catchers in 2019 who got at least 300 PAs — but his xwOBA of .361 would have tied him with Yasmani Grandal for the third highest wOBA among that group in 2019.

Again, small sample size...it is 73 plate appearances, and as a slow-footed righthanded hitter, he’s generally going to be expected to underperform his xwOBA. But with his glove, he doesn’t have to hit much to be a quality starting catcher, and the data from this year is promising.

Speaking of guys who don’t have to hit much to be a quality starting major leaguer...Leody Taveras has made an immediate impression with his glovework in center field this year. It may be because the Rangers have not had a really good defensive center fielder in a while, but just watching Leody out there makes you want to have him in center every day regardless of how he hits.

But Leody’s bat has shown some promise. Again, tiny sample size (just 48 plate appearances), but he has a .319 wOBA and a .346 xwOBA so far. If Leody can maintain a .310-.320 wOBA over the course of a full season, with his defense and speed, he’s a 3-4 win player. And if he’s a .340-.350 wOBA guy? With his glove, he’s a 4.5-5.5 win guy.

(Please note I’m not saying that Leody is actually a .340-.350 wOBA guy right now, or that he will be next year. I’m simply trying to put these numbers in context.)

Speaking, once again, of guys who don’t have to hit much to be a quality starting major leaguer...Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the subject of much discussion, and much dispute, this spring and in summer camp, as the debate raged over whether or not his bat really improved to the point he could be a viable major league regular. IKF has 143 plate appearances this year — third most on the team, behind Nick Solak* and Joey Gallo — and his expected numbers and actual numbers are around league average. Like Leody and Trevino, IKF’s glove is good enough that, whether he’s at second base, shortstop or third base, he’s an average to above-average regular if he can put up a 310-320 wOBA.

On the negative side of things...Joey Gallo has taken a step backwards. His .336 xwOBA isn’t what you would expect from him, nor is his .311 wOBA. He’s not a bad player if he puts up a wOBA in that range, but he’s not a cornerstone player, either, a guy you want to build your franchise around.

Willie Calhoun’s .266 xwOBA is bad. Its not as bad as his actual wOBA, but its still not good, particularly given that he’s here to hit. Its been a snakebit season for him, and at this point we just have to hope he can get a week or ten days worth of games under his belt after he comes off the injured list, and then can start fresh in 2021.

Then there’s Rougned Odor. He’s been bad all the way around. His expected numbers are bad. His actual numbers are bad. Nick Solak and Isiah Kiner-Falefa can both play second base and are performing. Odor is not.

Odor had a chance this year to show he was part of the future of this team. He’s been awful. As with everyone else, its a limited sample size, but he had to produce in that limited sample size, and he has instead been awful. And it appears that the Rangers are ready to move on from him.