Was 2017 or 2018 the “real” Josh Reddick?
With Josh Reddick being hit by a baseball yesterday, I decided to take a deeper look into the curious case of Josh Reddick. The good news? His hand seems to be fine.
Josh Reddick's hand is fine, by the way. Said today he got hit on the outside of his right hand near his pinkie. Was a tad sore yesterday, but nothing serious— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) March 6, 2019
Josh Reddick joined the Astros as a free agent in 2017 and crushed it, producing his highest wRC+ of his career (128), and narrowly missing his career year in fWAR (3.4 vs 3.6). His triple slash came in at an all-star worthy .314/.363/.484. A quick glance to his BABIP (.339) makes it easy to guess that these results were somewhat luck driven, but optimism that Luhnow had once again pulled off his magic was everywhere.
Unfortunately, in 2018 he was unable to repeat that success sputtering to a .242/.318/.400 triple slash which was good for a just below league average 99 wRC+. His BABIP this time clocked in at an “unlucky” .258, which could be a driving factor for a below average season.
So which is the real Reddick? Luckily for us, Fangraphs has a profile and quick opinion on Reddick:
Profile: The 31-year-old Reddick has been about the same player for the past six seasons. He’s usually around 15 homers, eight steals, and a .260 AVG in a 500 PA. His profile is not going to change. It’s tough to find a new red flag. Over his career, the lefty batter has some platoon issues with a .678 OPS vs lefties and .785 against righties. This difference isn’t new. His 16% K% last season is a four-year high but well below his career high of 27%. Both his BB% and HR/FB were near career highs. He’s boring and predictable. (Jeff Zimmerman)
The Quick Opinion: Reddick projects to continue to put up boring but useful production like he’s done his whole career.
From a quick glance, the years were night and day difference, with one being well above his career average and the other being significantly below career average. As Fangraphs mentioned for his career, Reddick has been fairly consistent, with the .226 and .314 batting average seasons aside, he’s stayed within .021 of the .260 number they tossed out there, every year since he’s been a full-time player. He did have one season with 32 hr’s but has been between 10 and 20 every other year.
With all of this said, Steamer’s projections of .262/.330/.424 doesn’t seem to be a shocking projection and is further reinforced by every projection system on Fangraphs (6 total) – having a high and low of .261-.267/.328-.332/.411-425.
So why write an article on a foregone conclusion on a boring slightly above average player? Honestly, because in my gut, that doesn’t feel like the full story. Reddick walked and struck out more than he has in the past 4 years. At age 32, maybe Reddick has simply lost a step.
I figured I would start by checking his speed, figuring a change in BABIP can be driven by speed, but he held very consistent in sprint speed (27.7 fps vs 27.9) and time in home plate to 1st (4.24 vs 4.20), which reinforces more of the same consistency.
This is all I want for Christmas... https://t.co/vebxUMwFFo— Joey Gallo (@JoeyGallo24) December 5, 2018
Lefties have definitely struggled mightily due to the shift to the point of some giving a public outcry for the banning of the shift. But Reddick actually performed better with the shift on. In the past 3 years, he was the following amounts HIGHER in wOBA when shifted (2016 - .043, 2017 - .082, 2018- .071). I started to believe that maybe this was the classic case of pessimism based on my eye test vs actual facts, maybe Reddick was simply unlucky.
As I switched gears and began looking into statcast’s batting data, my stomach turned as my gut feeling may have been more justified than I hoped.
In 2018, based on xWOBA, Josh actually got slightly lucky with his wOBA clocking in at .334 compared to his xwOBA of .326. That’s not a significant difference, but it definitely does not scream poor luck.
Unfortunately, it only got worse from there, Reddick had a drop in Exit Velocity to not only the lowest in his career (85.2), but to the bottom 8% of all of baseball.
Digging deeper, I didn’t find a notable difference in what Josh was swinging at. His %’s were more or less in line with career average for zone swings, outside of zone swings, contact %. The only aspect that seems like an outlier was whiff %, which was up 1.8% (from 15.6 to 17.4). His batted ball profile also showed signs of struggle with his line drive % dropping by almost 10% since last year. All of which was spelling this was a decline for Reddick, not simply BABIP driven.
In looking for a root cause, I remembered that Reddick did suffer resulting in a trip to the Disabled List due to an infection in his knee on 05/23/2018, and returning on 06/06/2018. I started looking into month by month splits, and unfortunately did not find a trend supporting the notion that the decline in performance was based on his injury. Here was his xwOBA by month (albeit a month is small sample size to judge performance, but I figured it was the best indication for the effect of injury his performance).
I’m generally optimistic, and fully admit I went into writing this article hoping for a positive perspective and that his 2018 was an unlucky season and predicting a bounceback in 2019. Unfortunately, I don’t see it. This is not to say that Reddick is a terrible player, but leads me to believe that 2018 was the norm that I would expect to continue more than an anomaly.
My gut-feel prediction is Reddick will come in around .250/.300/.380 unless he is used more in a platoon scenario with the added depth in our outfield. He will have a slight uptick to his batting average as his BABIP luck evens out, but is unlikely to repeat his HR stroke with the batted ball profile he put up in 2018. He will produce slightly below league average offensively, and will still hold down right field with solid defense and the spiderman-esque plays we’ve grown accustomed to.
Let me know your thoughts. Is there something I missed? Was I too harsh?