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Randal Grichuk’s Powerful 2015 in a Historical View

Being a part of the fantasy baseball community often leads to inquiries from peers interested in insight on St. Louis Cardinals roster and playing time considerations. Other times, players just come up in discussions among friends.

Coincidentally, on Friday, as I was finishing up with my article announcing outfielder Randal Grichuk as The Cardinal Nation’s St. Louis Rookie of the Year, I heard from my pal Trace Wood, a man with a very sharp baseball mind.

Wood, proprietor of The Long Gandhi, started asking me questions about Grichuk, but it took me awhile to understand exactly where he was coming from.

In his independent analysis, Wood suspected Grichuk has considerable potential in the power department despite his propensity for the strikeout. Trace then quantified it and put it into a historical perspective that really grabbed my attention.

He looked for the best single seasons of all age 17-23 MLB players since 1901, those with at least 300 plate appearances, isolated power (ISO) of .250 or more and a slugging percentage of at least .525. To cover the high-strikeout population, Wood only chose those with an at-bat to strikeout ratio of four or less (in other words, a strikeout rate of 25 percent or higher). The list is sorted by ISO.

Hitter ISO AB/SO G PA Year Age Tm AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Reggie Jackson 0.333 3.87 152 678 1969 23 OAK 549 123 151 36 3 47 118 114 142 0.275 0.410 0.608 1.018
Troy Glaus 0.320 3.45 159 678 2000 23 ANA 563 120 160 37 1 47 102 112 163 0.284 0.404 0.604 1.008
Bryce Harper 0.319 3.98 153 654 2015 22 WSN 521 118 172 38 1 42 99 124 131 0.330 0.460 0.649 1.109
Giancarlo Stanton 0.318 3.14 123 501 2012 22 MIA 449 75 130 30 1 37 86 46 143 0.290 0.361 0.608 0.969
Mike Trout 0.290 3.64 159 682 2015 23 LAA 575 104 172 32 6 41 90 92 158 0.299 0.402 0.590 0.991
Bob Robertson 0.277 3.98 117 451 1970 23 PIT 390 69 112 19 4 27 82 51 98 0.287 0.367 0.564 0.931
Giancarlo Stanton 0.275 3.11 150 601 2011 21 FLA 516 79 135 30 5 34 87 70 166 0.262 0.356 0.537 0.893
Mike Trout 0.274 3.27 157 705 2014 22 LAA 602 115 173 39 9 36 111 83 184 0.287 0.377 0.561 0.939
Randal Grichuk 0.272 2.94 103 350 2015 23 STL 323 49 89 23 7 17 47 22 110 0.276 0.329 0.548 0.877
Wily Mo Pena 0.268 3.11 110 364 2004 22 CIN 336 45 87 10 1 26 66 22 108 0.259 0.316 0.527 0.843
Chris Davis 0.264 3.35 80 317 2008 22 TEX 295 51 84 23 2 17 55 20 88 0.285 0.331 0.549 0.880
Miguel Sano 0.262 2.34 80 335 2015 22 MIN 279 46 75 17 1 18 52 53 119 0.269 0.385 0.530 0.916
Wilin Rosario 0.260 4.00 117 426 2012 23 COL 396 67 107 19 0 28 71 25 99 0.270 0.312 0.530 0.843
Evan Longoria 0.259 3.67 122 508 2008 22 TBR 448 67 122 31 2 27 85 46 122 0.272 0.343 0.531 0.874

From 115 years of potential qualifiers, just 12 players made the grade, including two twice – Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout. Of the 14 instances since 1901, four occurred during 2015. They were accomplished this season by Trout, Bryce Harper and two rookies – Minnesota’s Miguel Sano and Grichuk.

This high-K, high power list is headed by a Hall-of-Famer in Reggie Jackson and includes three players on an early path toward Cooperstown in Trout, Stanton and Harper. At the other end are less notable players Wily Mo Pena and Wilin Rosario.

But hey, wouldn’t a career from Grichuk like Troy Glaus, Bob Robertson, Chris Davis or Evan Longoria – the four remaining names on the list – still be pretty good?

Sure, it is very early, but all things considered, what Grichuk was able to accomplish in his age 23 season stacks up quite nicely – even better than I had imagined.

Special thanks to Trace Wood for sharing the above table and his thought process.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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27 Responses to “Randal Grichuk’s Powerful 2015 in a Historical View”

  1. crdswmn says:

    Everyone on that list except Rosario and Pena take walks at a much higher rate than Grichuk, a few of them 2 or 3 times as much.

    While the power is certainly great, I don’t see Grichuk comparing favorably to any of the greats, or even the good, unless he improves in the walk department.

    I believe I posted on the message board once that with Grichuk’s profile so far (high power, high K, low walk) a good comp for him would be Wily Mo Pena.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I asked Trace about the walks.

      “I’m not a big believer in the predictability of a player’s future based on numbers that occurred when he was young, especially the importance of walk rates. Too many players go the opposite direction.”

      • crdswmn says:

        He has had very low walk rates throughout his minor league career as well. Walk rates stabilize very quickly as do K rates.

        Your friend’s rationale would apply then to all his numbers, yes? Which is basically what I have been saying all along, you cannot draw conclusions about Grichuk’s abilities going forward; He could be better, he could be worse.

        • longgandhi says:

          Hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes by butting in, but I thought I might clarify a couple of items.

          It’s not unfair to align Grichuk with Pena, for sure. But walk rates are not the only indicator that could portend a rise in prominence. For example, Grichuk’s contact rate in the zone is extraordinary for someone who doesn’t appear to be patient on the surface, around 5% greater than one might expect and better than just about everyone on the list above. His strikeout rate is largely tied with his ability to constrain himself from swinging at and/or make contact with pitches out of the zone.

          I agree with Blingboy’s assertion that there is a corresponding shift in the way hitters are pitched once they display the ability to hit for power. And we will probably see a trend in that direction as word gets around about him.

          My biggest concern for Grichuk going forward is that a very high percentage of his balls in play fell in (.365). That’s normally not sustainable although players with better foot speed tend to rate better than average in this regard and Grichuk certainly qualifies. However, how much of that was luck and how much was raw ability has yet to be determined so we could see a significant drop off in production without any change in his skills. Or, if he stops expanding his strikezone, we could see a dramatic rise in his production.

          The point of the exercise Brian mentioned in his piece was the Grichuk has extraordinary power, much more than perhaps his previous home run totals reveal.

          • blingboy says:

            Paul Goldschmidt is not any faster than Grichuk and he has a career BABIP of .355. That is over 2600+ PAs over 5 seasons. So, no, Grichuk does not have to regress. Don’t believe all that stat babble.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Stat babble? I think the neighbor kids are on your lawn. 😉

            • crdswmn says:

              There is plenty of babble that goes on here, but it has nothing to so with stats.

              Paul Goldschmidt strikes out less, walks more, has better plate discipline, makes more contact, hits line drives at a higher rate and fly balls at a lower rate, than Randal Grichuk.

              Paul Goldschmidt is Yo Yo Ma. Randal Grichuk is the 5th chair cellist in the Cleveland Orchestra.

              Troll better, Bling.

              • Bw52 says:

                Grichuk did quite a bit better in several statbabble categories;
                BABIP
                2014 .316
                2015 .365

                BB
                2014 4.3
                2015 6.3
                Groundout
                2014 39.2
                2015 37.2

                Linedrive
                2014 15.2
                2015 20.6

                flyball
                2014 45.6
                2015 41.6

                ISO POWER
                2014 .155
                2015 .272

                strikeout
                2014 26.7
                2015 31.4

                So using statbabble that tells me Randal Grichuk improved in most every catergory across the board except Strikeouts.Regular baseball stats tell the same thing better OBP,better OPS,SLG,BA,etc;etc;.To each his own particular mode of measurement.What i see is a kid with a very lively bat with power potentialto be a game changer who plays good defense and runs the bases fairly well.All these stats also say RG needs a little better plate discipline.That be worked on.Right now i think he is a 25-30 HR hitter with 500 ABs and maybe 70-85 RBIs.He needs to improve in RISP also.Along with the 500 ABS i think 140-160 Ks.The Question is can RG cut the Ks down to 100 over 500 ABs in time.He`s not a dave Nicholson or Mark Reynolds at this point in his young career and heres hoping coaching can help .

                • crdswmn says:

                  A higher BABIP is not “improving”, It means a lot of his hits were lucky and not because of skill. BABIP that high has to come down, and it results in lower numbers in some of the other categories. Some of the numbers you cited will come down when the BABIP comes down.

                  Normal BABIP is around .300. If he can maintain a BABIP of around .320, he can be a very good player.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    BTW, Goldschmidt maintains a higher BABIP because he hits more line drives, and less fly balls, and he makes much better contact both in and out of the strike zone. Line drives go for hits much more often than fly balls, and more often than ground balls. Someone who has a high fly ball rate along with a high BABIP is getting lucky more often than not. That is Grichuk’s profile, he is a fly ball hitter.

                    The only way Grichuk can maintain an above normal BABIP is to hit more line drives, less fly balls, and make better contact. His contact out of the strike zone is very bad. He makes more weak contact than Goldschmidt and he has a pull tendency, which makes him vulnerable to the shift. He must start hitting more the other way or he has no chance. Goldschmidt hits to all fields, and make little weak contact.

                    • Bw52 says:

                      Grichuks linedrive rate increased 25% in nearly triple the ABs from 2014.I call that improvement.Who`s to say what is skill and what is luck with babip? Goldschmidt is a exceptional player and D-Backs damn well get him some offensive help while he is still in his prime.He is a damn fine player.
                      You mentioned cthe only way for RG to improve is hit more linedrives and less flyball and make better contact.Well RG did improve in 2 of the 3 categories last season.So where are the stats concerning contact in and out of the strikezone?

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Yes, it did go up some, but LD rate takes much longer to stabilize than GB or FB rate and with his small sample size, his 2015 rate could be an outlier. LD doesn’t stabilize until 650 BIP (Balls in play), while GB and FB rates stabilize at 70 BIP. Doesn’t mean he can’t improve his LD rate, just means it is less likely. His career LD %, though still a small sample size, is 2% below average. We will need to see a bigger sample size to know if the 2015 LD rate is an improvement or an outlier.

                      His 2015 FB rate is still higher than average, which is 35%.

                      Contact rates are on Fangraphs, under Plate Discipline. You have to know what the averages are, which you can find here. http://www.fangraphs.com/library/offense/plate-discipline/

                      Average O-contact (out of strike zone) is 66%. Grichuk’s 2015 O-contact was 47% and his career rate is 49%

                      Who says what is skill or luck with BABIP? The batted ball profiles say it. Fly balls and ground balls are much more vulnerable to the vagaries of defense than line drives. That is why LD rate correlates more with BABIP than GB or FB rates. The higher the LD rate, the more likely BABIP is driven by skill.

                      I am not saying Grichuk can’t improve. His sample size is much too small to conclude anything at this point, but his current profile has some troubling aspects to it.

      • blingboy says:

        I suspect that much of any increase in a power hitter’s BB rate comes from getting pitched around more as his reputation is established. Grichuk isn’t there yet.

  2. blingboy says:

    I noticed Stanton’s age 23 season didn’t make the list. His 2013 ISO of .231 was too paltry.

    • Brian Walton says:

      He had to draw the line somewhere. How much more meaningful would the list have been if Stanton was listed three or four times instead of two? We already know he is really good.

      If Trace was trying to rig the data simply to highlight Grichuk, he could have just drawn the ISO line at .270 instead of .250. Better this way, including guys like Pena and Rosario as a reminder that Grichuk could become them instead of Stanton.

  3. Bw52 says:

    Grichuk had good season and he can do better47 XBH in 89 hits
    BA up 31
    slg up 148
    obp up 51
    ops up 199
    babip up 49

    nobody improved in as many categories as RG.If he continues to improve i think the Cards can live without him turning into Eddie Yost.

    • Brian Walton says:

      It is good he showed improvement this season because his 2014 introduction was below expectations. It will be very interesting to see what he can do in a full season of play in 2016, especially if he can stay healthy.

  4. Bw52 says:

    I think his walk rate will slowly improve but i think he will always be a guy will 100 or so k`s a year .Seems he took too many called 3rd strike the last few weeks as he did all season.I like his aggressive approach compared to standing at the plate with the bat glued to your shoulder.I think Piscotty will be the one with the better batting eye who will be more selective.If Heyward returns that would be a pretty solid OF (Holliday,Grichuk,Piscotty,Heyward,Jay,Pham)..Now sign a FA INF (Gordon Beckham,Kelly Johnson,someone who can back up at 2B-3B-SS) and find a better backup Catcher and decide if you want to bring Mark Re3ynolds back for cheap (he did okay and only cost 2 million).What to do with Brandon Moss and Matt Adams.Adams 5 years younger but Moss offers more power and some versatility 1B-OF.I say sign Moss and let him and Adams battle it out.Power bats are in demand right now so non-tendering Moss would be giving him away for nothing.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Moss has a contract for 2016, so can’t be non-tendered.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Adams is an interesting case. He has a really nice batting stroke. But a bad body and limited to 1b. Can he stay healthy and play a full season?

      • Brian Walton says:

        Jumbo, your statement is incorrect. As an arbitration-eligible player, Moss certainly could be non-tendered. He won’t be, but he could.

        • Bw52 says:

          I thought i was right Brian.Thanks.I hope Cards keep Moss around because the more i read about team needs from other teams i see more options for Heyward to land.Seattle,Angels,Boston,Baltimore,NYY,Mets,Cubbies,SD,White Sox,Cleveland all have need of a solid OF bat.Angels are looking for a LH bat for OF.I think someone will throw big dollars at Heyward (Angels or Cubbies) .Angels need his defense and bat for 1 more hurrah and to fix their bullpen,Cubbies could sign Heyward for several reasons(1.Helps Cubbies OF defense and adds a solid offensive player in his prime 2.Takes said player away from Cubbies biggest rival thus weakenibg STLouis
          3.Cubbies have lots of money to spend..Possible darkhorse team for Heyward-Boston -would Heyward play well in Boston.Yes he could be a new version of Dwight Evans in RF.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Despite his projected salary via arbitration, it sounds like Moss has trade value if the Cards decide they don’t want to keep him.

            • Bw52 says:

              I think Cards should keep Moss around.LH bat with some power who can play 1B-OF.If Cards decide Adams is the 1B with Piscotty getting time at 1B also then keeping Moss would be smart considering Holliday,Jay and Grichuk all had injury issues this season.Plus like you does have some trade value.he did hit 19 HRS last season.

  5. Bw52 says:

    Thanks for the link CRDSWMN.It seems like RG has more plate discipline coaching ahead.He is still young and coachable.I expect good things from RG in the future.

    • crdswmn says:

      You are welcome.

      If Grichuk can learn to make better contact with those balls out of the strike zone that are hittable, and avoid the ones that aren’t, that will help both his strikeout rate and his ability to hit the other way. He also needs to swing at less pitches, his swinging strike rate is way high. The low and away breaking balls are the ones that kill him. Better pitch recognition will help that. The walk rate needs to come up to improve his OBP and that’s where avoiding swinging at the unhittable pitches comes in.

      Grichuk has some very visible holes in his offense, which need to improve for him to be the type of hitter that people want and expect.

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