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Josh Reddick - Small Sample Size or the Real Deal?

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A deeper analytical dive into Josh Reddick’s resurgance

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As you may have heard, Josh Reddick is off to a hot start for the season. His current line?

.375/.4423/.528 rounds out for a absolutely dominant 162 wRC+. and 0.8 WAR

You may also remember, last season he sputtered to a:

.242/318.400 line for just below league average 99 wRC+ and 1.1 WAR for the entire year.

So which is the real Reddick? Should you buy into his hot start or it is a small sample size mirage buoyed by luck?

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

2019 High Level overview:

Starting with the obvious, if anyone thinks his .375 batting average is sustainable, I have a bridge to sell you. Reddick has benefited from some good fortune with a .393 BABIP to start the season. His current triple slash is the highest of his career in AVG, OBP, and SLUG, and 32 year olds are generally not known for breakout seasons especially after 11 years in the league. But before we dismiss the changes as small sample size static, let’s take a deeper look into the other advanced analytics.

Currently, Reddick’s BB% is sitting at 7.7%, slightly down but roughly in line with his career average of 8.3%. His strikeout rates have always been above average, but the 10.3% he’s rocking this season is 6% better than his career average.

Digging a little further as to the cause of those numbers, it appears Reddick has taken a much more aggressive approach increasing his O-Swing % to 36.7% (6.5% over career average), his Z-Swing % to 71.7% (8.9% over career average) - making his overall swing % up to 54.9% (compared to a career average of 46.1%).

Being more aggressive is one thing, but that does not really mark an improvement, just a difference in approach. What is more surprising, is despite the added aggressiveness, his contact %’s are significantly up as well. From that perspective his O-Contact % went up 7% (71.7 -> 78.7%), his Z-Contact up 5.9% (89.1% -> 95%) and his overall contact numbers jumping 6.5% (83.2% -> 89.7). This explains the drop in strike-out rates, and it is interesting to me that he is taking significantly more time setting up between pitches (pace from 22.4 -> 26.4).

So we’ve established he’s been more aggressive, and made better contact, but not all contact is made equally.

That’s where it gets even more interesting. This is the hardest Josh Reddick has hit the ball since his 2015 season, with his exit velocity coming jumping 3 MPH from last year (85.2 -> 88.2). Unsurprisingly, his Barrel % has increased by 0.8%. And despite what I’ve heard again and again, Reddick has actually increased his GB% compared to his career (35.1% -> 36.5%) but has also had his best season in his career so far in LD% (28.6% vs career 21.0%).

I’m a big believer in xWOBA, and I was shocked to see that while it’s indicating he’s been lucky (.411 wOBA vs .382 xWOBA), there’s significant indications that it’s not all luck driven. Based on xWOBA, this is what Reddick’s estimated line should be based on how he’s been hitting the ball:

.345/.393/.501 !!

I will be honest, I was shocked by this. With eliminating luck, he’d still be having an amazing year. There’s a significant difference in his aggressiveness and the time he’s taking between pitches, so despite the extremely small sample size, has me cautiously optimistic that he could actually have not only a better year than last year, but even in the year where he was viewed as a “steal” in 2017,

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Discussion

So everyone this off-season was shouting from the roof top for a trade of Reddick. We’re now looking at a player on the opposite end of the spectrum who has produced almost the same value as he did in all of last year. We still have Alvarez and Tucker (and a spattering of others - Straw, Fisher, etc) who could use an opportunity. With Reddick’s value peaking again, would you trade him now, or trust in him continuing to be well above average (even with a decline for the good fortune he’s had so far this year)?