Photo credit: By Hayden Schiff on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Now that a month-and-a-half has passed since the All-Star break, we can start to view some of the second half trends with some gravity. While the samples are still small enough to create some doubt about their meaning, one trend worth at least investigating is the emergence of several surprise power sources.
Heading into Wednesday’s games, there were nine hitters with a second-half Isolated Power of .300 or higher. Five of these hitters are mild surprises at most: Brian Dozier, Khris Davis, Freddie Freeman, Justin Turner and Evan Longoria.
The other four hitters — Jedd Gyorko, Ryan Schimpf, Yasmany Tomas and Brad Miller — are clearly unexpected members of the .300 Iso Club. Each has been a popular waiver wire target at some point during the second half, but what can we expect from them going forward? Will they be reliable power sources for the rest of this season and beyond?
Jedd Gyorko, 1B/2B/3B/SS, Cardinals (.355 second-half Iso)
Gyorko is likely perceived as the best power hitter of this group. He entered this season with some home run clout on his résumé, having hit 23 homers as a rookie with the Padres in 2013, and he is currently tied with Dozier for the major league lead in home runs for the second half with 17. In a poll I ran on Twitter, Gyorko was pulling away as the hitter out of these four who was most likely to hit the most home runs over the remainder of the season.
While Gyorko isn’t exactly an out-of-nowhere power source, there were few signs indicating that he was on the verge of becoming an elite home run threat. Even looking back at his second-half trends, it’s not clear what he is doing differently. Gyorko is hitting flyballs at only a slightly higher rate, and there haven’t been dramatic changes in his strikeout or pull rates. The most noticeable difference is the rise of his hard-contact rate (per FanGraphs), from 31.9 percent in the first half to 37.9 percent in the second half. While that’s an above-average rate, it’s not so high as to signal a change in how we think about Gyorko.
I suspect that Gyorko could have some 30-homer seasons in his future, but it’s hard to buy into the 40-plus homer rate he has embarked on.
Ryan Schimpf, 2B, Padres (.415 second-half Iso)
Schimpf has been providing power steadily over the last two months, starting on his extended home run binge just shortly after his major league debut in June. Owners had every right to be skeptical of Schimpf translating his gaudy Pacific Coast League power numbers to the Padres, given that he’s a 28-year-old rookie, but he has done just that.
Maybe opposing pitchers will eventually figure out how to keep Schimpf in the park, but so far, he is putting up stats that are completely in sync with his peripheral indicators. Schimpf is, to say the least, an extreme flyball hitter, as he is lofting flies at a 61 percent rate, according to FanGraphs. He is pulling those flies at a 63 percent rate (per StatCorner) that also defies belief. Those tendencies have conspired to limit Schimpf to a .268 BABIP, and Schimpf’s 28 percent K-rate and minor league numbers suggest that there is little reason to anticipate improvement in his .242 batting average.
I didn’t name Schimpf to my All-Adam Duvall Team, but he and Dozier are the closest thing you’ll find to the Reds’ slugger in the middle infield. He brought up the rear in my Twitter poll, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schimpf at the top of this foursome in the rest-of-season home run rankings.
Yasmany Tomas, 3B/OF, Diamondbacks (.381 second-half Iso)
In his 2015 rookie season, Tomas was a slap hitter who wasn’t much help with batting average or OBP due to wretched plate discipline and a poor contact rate. This year, he hasn’t been any more selective or prone to contact, but the quality of his contact has been greatly improved. For most of this season, Tomas’ ground ball tendencies have been near-normal, and in August, he has eschewed line drives for flies, hitting them at a 43.5 percent rate, according to FanGraphs. Tomas has been hitting flyballs with authority, launching them 296 feet on average, excluding popups (per Bill Petti’s Interactive Spray Chart Tool).
Though Tomas has picked up his home run pace lately, he has been a steady source of power for the vast majority of 2016. May has been the only month so far in which he posted a sub-.200 Iso. His lack of walks will hurt him in points and OBP formats, but in standard Roto leagues, Tomas has become a must-start third baseman or outfielder and a coveted power source.
Brad Miller, 1B/SS/OF, Rays (.303 second-half Iso)
After catching fire in mid-season, Miller has cooled off, going his last 11 games without a home run. Miller seemingly offers a cautionary tale for the other three players featured here. After appearing to be unstoppable for two solid months, batting .296 with 19 home runs over 53 games, he is hitting .190 with three doubles over his last 11 contest. Miller is striking out more often, having accrued 15 Ks in his last 46 plate appearances, but the potential for power still lurks, as he has maintained his flyball, pull and hard contact rates during his slump.
If you’re thinking of sitting Miller now that the homers have vanished, you should reconsider getting him in your lineup. For close to half a season, Miller has been pulling balls at a dramatically higher rate and hitting them farther and harder than he has previously in his career. If someone has actually dropped him, by all means, scoop him up.