Buy or Sell – Alec Bohm BABIP Regression & Tarik Skubal Pitch Mix
When scrolling through the FanGraphs leaderboards and then the Razzball Player Rater, we find Alec Bohm near the bottom of the hitters. Bohm sat right outside the top-100 ADP on NFBC between Dansby Swanson and Kenley Jansen in the final two weeks of draft season. It’s a safe assumption that Bohm isn’t providing the value based on his ADP, so we’ll help decide whether we should buy or sell.
On the flip side, we have Tarik Skubal who went right after pick 280 near my homeboy Trevor Rogers. Skubal made some intriguing changes, partly with the support of the new Tigers pitching coach. I noted I was buying into Casey Mize’s changes last week, so let’s see what we make of Skubal in 2021.
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Alec Bohm (1B/3B – PHI)
After Alec Bohm’s solid debut in 2020, the NFBC ADP market pushed Bohm just outside of the top-100 picks at pick 109 between Dansby Swanson and Kenley Jansen. With that ADP, we needed to buy into the potential of Bohm though some would argue sell with the high BABIP. Bohm finished with four home runs, 24 runs, 23 RBI, and one steal with a .338 batting average and .881 OPS. His .410 BABIP boosted his high batting average in 2020. Meanwhile, Bohm recorded an 8.9% walk rate and a 20% strikeout rate.
This season, Bohm has almost identical counting stats yet a much worse batting average in more plate appearances. Through 249 plate appearances, Bohm has four home runs, 26 runs, 29 RBI, and three steals with a .229 batting average and .581 OPS. At first glance, we noticed the BABIP regressed to .299, which impacted Bohm’s batting average. Bohm’s walk rate dropped to 5.6% with an increased 26.9% strikeout rate. That’s not great to see the strikeout rate increase since Bohm typically recorded strikeout rates around 16% or below in his minor league career.
So What Changed With Bohm?
Anytime a hitter’s strikeout and walk rates change, we head towards plate discipline. Alec Bohm’s zone contact rate dropped to 82.2% down from 87.9% in 2020. However, Bohm’s contact rate remained almost identical around 76-77%. Bohm lowered his chase rate slightly with a 29.6% O-Swing% down from 30.1% in 2020. All of this is quite interesting that Bohm is making less zone contact yet chasing less and that’s possibly contributing to the higher strikeout rate.
After a very fortunate 2020 season with a high BABIP, Bohm’s BABIP regressed. However, the batted ball profile looks similar with an increased line drive rate at 26.2% yet a slightly lowered 51.2% ground ball rate. Sometimes, when seeing a hitter have a lowered BABIP, we’ll head towards line drive rate and speed. Interestingly, Bohm holds a 71st-percentile sprint speed as a bigger hitter with a linebacker build at 6-foot-5 and 218-pounds. With more seasoning, Bohm’s batting average and BABIP should rise.
Bohm Not Boom
Given Alec Bohm’s size, he doesn’t hit for much power or hasn’t yet. At Double-A in 2019, Bohm hit a career-best 14 home runs. Bohm’s barrel rate dropped to 7.7% down from 10.3% in 2020. Meanwhile, Bohm’s maximum exit velocity jumped 2 mph to 111.6 mph in 2021.
In 2020, Bohm crushed fastballs and breaking pitches yet struggled against offspeed pitches. Well, in 2021, the opposite is occurring. Bohm is struggling against both fastballs and breaking pitches, but he’s performing better against offspeed pitches. The table below shows us the drastic differences versus different pitches.
Although Bohm’s hard-hit rate increased slightly to 48.2%, his .256 wOBA looks awful as that ranks in the bottom 4% of the league. However, Bohm’s .417 xwOBAcon is almost identical to his .418 xwOBAcon in 2020. That indicates that when Bohm makes contact, the quality remains even though the production isn’t quite what we expected.
Should We Buy or Sell Bohm?
After Bohm batted fourth or fifth in the lineup, the Phillies gradually moved him down to the bottom third of the lineup. Regardless, Bohm should continue playing every day unless his production drops significantly. The reason why I’m considering buying rather than selling involves Bohm’s hot June with a .359 batting average and .734 OPS. That’s quite intriguing after Bohm hit .207 in April and .200 in May. Bohm’s BABIP is also rising with the recent success.
As noted earlier, it seems Bohm received some misfortune and hopefully, his zone contact moves closer to his 2020 line. In dynasty leagues, this is a perfect time to acquire Bohm for those in need of a corner infielder. The same goes for redraft leagues as he ranks No. 150 on the Razzball Player Rater amongst all hitters near Luis Urías and Micahel A. Taylor. Let’s hope he can heat up in the second half of the season.
Tarik Skubal (SP – DET)
Last week, we covered Casey Mize in my most recent article, so it only makes sense to touch on another Tigers pitcher in Tarik Skubal. Through 60 innings, Skubal has a 4.35 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 27.9% strikeout rate, and 10.9% walk rate. Skubal’s WHIP scares us, but it looks like fortune fell in his favor in 2021.
In 2020, Skubal finished with a 5.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 27.6% strikeout rate, and 8.2% walk rate in 32 innings. Interestingly, Skubal allowed a .253 BABIP with a 70.4% LOB% in 2020. Then in 2021, Skubal’s BABIP allowed jumped to .308 and he’s stranding more runners with 83.8% LOB%. That’s not surprising to see Skubal’s ERA drop with the higher strand rate yet his WHIP increased with the higher walk rate.
Changes for Skubal
Oddly, Tarik Skubal’s chase rate, zone contact rate, and swinging-strike rate dropped. Skubal boasts a 28.7% O-Swing% compared to 34.6% in 2020. Meanwhile, he allowed a slightly lower 79.5% Z-Contact% down from 81.5% in 2020. However, Skubal looks like he’s attacking hitters to get ahead of the count evidenced by a 61.1% F-Strike% and 45.2% Zone%. That indicates Skubal is likely making an effort to get ahead of hitters and pitch more in the zone.
The other change we noticed for Tarik Skubal involves a pitch mix change. It seems that the Tigers have emphasized the slider in 2021. Casey Mize swapped out his cutter for a slider. Meanwhile, Skubal increased the usage of his slider to 23.3% up from 15.7% in 2020. Skubal heavily relies on the four-seamer, which he uses 50% of the time. With the increase in slider usage, Skubal lowered the changeup usage to 9.6% down from 16.4% in 2020. That said, it’s interesting to see Skubal’s slider and changeup improve in terms of swinging-strike rate.
Skubal’s Plate Discipline By Pitch
Skubal’s zone rate also increased in 2020 with a 63.1% zone rate up from a 52.7% zone rate in 2020 on his four-seamer. On the flip side, Skubal’s zone rate on the slider dipped from 55.9% in 2020 to 52.1% in 2021. Hitters are also making less contact on the slider, which is helping him so far.
There was also a drastic drop in contact rates against Skubal’s changeup, which he uses under 10% of the time. Skubal’s changeup finished with a 72.2% Z-Contact% and 71.7% Contact% in 2020 then down to a 55.2% Z-Contact% and 53.5% Contact%.
When looking at Skubal’s pitch movement, nothing stands out other than 1.5 more inches of horizontal movement on the four-seamer in 2021. However, that’s a bit down from 2020 with 4.5 more inches of horizontal movement with his four-seamer.
Tigers New Pitching Coach
I stumbled upon a great article about the Tigers’ new pitching coach Chris Fetters in The Athletic by Cody Stavenhagen. It mentions how Skubal worked on a splitter at Driveline this offseason, but then Fetters and Skubal discussed ditching the pitch. Skubal focused on using a “more practical changeup,” as noted in the article. Last week, I noticed Casey Mize swapped in a slider while also seeing Skubal and Spencer Turnbull emphasizing their slider. It made me wonder about the Tigers pitching coach, and turns out that there’s a narrative to follow here. I’m a sucker for a good narrative that’s backed up by data, meaning I’m leaning buy more than sell.
Should We Buy or Sell Skubal?
Tarik Skubal made some improvements in 2021 while also receiving some fortune with his 83.8% LOB%. That will likely regress since it’s difficult to hold down a high strand rate throughout the entire season unless they’re in the elite category. Skubal is getting ahead of hitters with an increased first-pitch strike rate. Meanwhile, hitters seem to make less contact on the top secondary pitches in the slider and the changeup with a slight jump in swinging-strike rate. All positive trends for Skubal and fantasy purposes.
However, Skubal is pounding the zone with the four-seamer although hitters keep smashing it with a .604 xSLG and .424 wOBA. Over the past five starts, Skubal’s experienced recent success with a 2.67 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 38.1% strikeout rate, and 10.6% walk rate. When we add in the pitching coach narrative helping Skubal ditch the splitter, it helps validate some of the changes in the data. Skubal is still on the semi-regular streaming list, as one of the pitchers with seemingly better stuff over control/command pitchers. That said, I’ll buy into Skubal based on the data. See if someone is willing to sell and roster a starting pitcher to float into our lineups.
For more great Fantasy Baseball Check out Mick Ciallela’s Rest of Season Rankings! Mick was the No. 1 Ranker on FantasyPros.com for the 2020 MLB season.
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