We're roughly one-quarter of the way into the MLB season, which means a lot of the statistics are reaching a large enough sample to be illustrative of successes or failures.Here's a list of players with outlier statistics and whether their performance will continue.Taylor Ward, Angels Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images Sport / GettyWonky stat: 249 wRC+ (1st in MLB)To say the 28-year-old Ward is enjoying a breakout would be a massive understatement. Not only does he lead all of baseball in wRC+, the most reliable statistic in measuring a hitter's performance, but he also leads in AVG, OBP, and SLG.Entering this season, the outfielder didn't have much of a major-league track record. Over 159 career games spanning back to 2018, Ward had posted a .230/.305/.388 slash line. That equated to a 90 wRC+, or 10% worse than the league average.So what's changed? Well, most importantly, he's walking more. One-third of his career walks have come this year alone. That usually indicates a hitter is being more selective, and Ward has definitely changed his approach. Instead of swinging at 27.2% of pitches outside the zone between 2018-21, Ward is now offering at merely 18.6%. That puts his chase rate in the 99th percentile among all major leaguers, according to Baseball Savant.As a result, he's seen a 4.4% bump in contact rate and a 4% dip in whiff rate. Additionally, when he does expand the zone, he's making contact on those pitches 67.2% of the time as opposed to 56.5% previously.Pitchers have already begun adjusting, as Ward is seeing only 39.6% of pitches in the zone now in the month of May. To his credit, though, his approach has stayed identical. He's still swinging at 17% of those offerings, and, on pitches below the zone, he's still making good enough contact on them to post expected batting averages above .300.Can this continue? Yes. He almost certainly won't finish the season atop the league leaderboard in wRC+, and he probably won't even beat his teammates Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani. But Ward has shown a genuine change, and it's working.Nestor Cortes Jr., Yankees Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyWonky stat: 1.35 ERA (1st in AL)With all due respect to Cortes, if anyone out there had the former 36th-round pick on pace to win the Junior Circuit's ERA title, we're going to need to see the receipts."Nasty" Nestor has arguably put himself in a position to be the AL Cy Young front-runner after spending the last four years bouncing between teams. Entering this season, he had a 4.66 ERA over 172 career frames. Now, it looks like he's trying to double his career innings in a single season.So what's changed? The lefty started showing these changes last year, keeping his strikeout rate at an impressive 27.5% while reducing his walk rate to 6.7% over 93 innings. That's the same strikeout-minus-walk rate that Charlie Morton and Nathan Eovaldi posted last year, albeit over larger workloads.Somehow, though, Cortes has elevated beyond even that. What was so impressive about his sudden success last year was that he kept his strikeout rate at a very good level while cutting his walk rate, which gave him problems early in his career. Now, he's kept the walks low and elevated his K rate to 32.5%, sixth among qualified starters so far this year. And Cortes is doing it with a fastball that ranks in the fourth percentile by velocity.Interestingly, he isn't inducing weak contact especially well. He's in the 61st percentile in barrel rate, 44th in exit velocity, and 47th in hard-hit rate. But his increased reliance on an 86-mph cutter - Cortes now throws it 40.5% of the time after not even using it until 2020 - seems to create enough deception between his fastball to keep hitters off balance. Even further, he's staying ahead of hitters with impressive command, throwing a first-pitch strike 69.5% of the time - third in baseball.Can this continue? For a guy who throws a fastball that even Jered Weaver might scoff at, it's hard not to root for the success to continue. However, there's a reason why breakouts like this are so rare, especially in the modern, velocity-obsessed game. Ideally, Cortes will continue to be deceptive, and the fact that he doesn't throw as hard as other guys means he's able to stay healthier. However, are we really getting 150-plus innings of this?Marcus Semien, Rangers Cooper Neill / Major League Baseball / GettyWonky stat: ***38 wRC+ (2nd-last in MLB)***Semien has been terrible in pretty much every conceivable way. He's looking completely lost at the plate while also not helping his team defensively, costing 8.6 runs on offense and 0.5 on defense, according to FanGraphs. This is coming on the heels of one of the best seasons by a second baseman in recent memory, which earned Semien a massive seven-year, $175-million contract from the Rangers.So what's changed? Surprisingly, some of the underlying numbers don't look that bad. He's walking less, but he's also striking out less. So, while he isn't being as selective, Semien isn't really racking up Ks, either.His contact rate is still a respectable 78.9%, barely below his career norm of 79.6%. But the big problem here is that he's swinging a lot more, both on pitches inside and outside the zone. The former Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner is swinging at 78.6% of pitches in the zone (a year-over-year increase of 7%), but also 34.4% of pitches outside the zone (up 8.6 percentage points). In total, Semien is swinging at more than half of the pitches he sees now (53%) versus his career average of 44.3%. That's typically the swing rate of a slap hitter, not a slugger who hit 45 homers last year.So, it's really no wonder that the quality of contact has taken a nosedive, given that he's expanding the zone at a rate he hasn't since his first 21 games in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox back in 2013. As a result, he ranks dead last with a .184 expected batting average and .239 expected wOBA and second last with a .290 expected slugging.It's also worth noting that hitting ahead of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. last year likely helped Semien, but not as much as you'd think. He's still seeing roughly the same amount of pitches inside the zone as he did in 2021, and now he's hitting in front of Corey Seager, who's performing just fine after a relatively quiet start. So lineup protection isn't the easy answer one might expect.Can this continue? There's no chance this keeps up. Semien might never be as good as he was last year when he finished third in MVP voting. But it seems like he's trying to live up to his nine-figure deal in every single plate appearance lately. He'll have to readjust his approach to increase his quality of contact. Otherwise, Baseball Savant including 2015 Grady Sizemore - the final year of the once-promising speedster's career - in Semien's "similar batters" section might be more than just ominous.Zack Greinke, Royals Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyWonky stat: 9.8% strikeout rate (last in MLB)It's been a decade since a qualified starting pitcher had a strikeout rate in the single digits (Henderson Alvarez, 9.8% in 2012). Even Mark Buehrle, perhaps the last pitch-to-contact God, never posted K rates below 10%.But Greinke isn't just not missing bats - he's succeeding without missing bats. He's walking barely anyone and not giving up that many homers, either.So what's changed? A lot of people are going to point to his velocity dip. His 88-mph fastball sits in the fifth percentile in the majors. However, that's been happening for a few years now, and Greinke never really featured blow-you-away velocity. Here are his average fastball velocity and percentile ranks since 2015, when he finished as NL Cy Young runner-up: Year Velocity Percentile 2015 92.3 46th 2016 91.9 36th 2017 90.8 24th 2018 89.5 13th 2019 89.9 12th 2020 88 5th 2021 89 8th 2022 88.8 5th So, Greinke has been dealing with incredibly similar velocities over the past two years. Here's how those years panned out versus what's happening this season: Year K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP 2020 24.5% 3.3% 0.81 4.03 2.80 2021 17.2% 5.2% 1.58 4.16 4.71 2022 9.8% 2.2% 0.41 3.48 3.27 What's changed, then, might not actually be entirely up to Greinke. Last year, he was a pretty similar pitcher by velocity. But he was getting more strikeouts, giving up more walks, and surrendering way more homers, which hurt both his ERA and FIP. Interestingly, though, league-wide HR/9 has dropped from 1.26 last year to 0.99 this year thanks at least in part to the deadened ball. But that doesn't account for Greinke's incredible ability to suppress dingers far beyond what the ball seems to be causing.In lieu of missing bats, he's missing barrels. Some analytics indicate that hitters have almost all the say regarding quality of contact, but it seems to be a factor pitchers can also influence. Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried has made a career out of avoiding barrels with elite chase rates, ho-hum velocity, and strikeout numbers.He's throwing his off-speed stuff less than his breaking balls now, and he seems to be finishing his slider in the strike zone more often as well. Other than that, Greinke's relying on his defense - which ranks sixth in the majors, according to FanGraphs - to get outs for him, and it's working.Can this continue? It's hard to say. Eventually, the 38-year-old will be finished. But for now, he's found a way to suppress hard contact without walking anyone. The lack of strikeouts almost doesn't matter if you can do those two things.Copyright © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Welcome to the fourth edition of theScore's MLB Power Rankings for the 2022 season.1. New York Yankees Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 25-9 7-3 +69 3 (+2) The Yankees continue to fire on all cylinders. New York owns the best record in baseball, thanks to an offense ranking first in wRC+. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are becoming the Empire State's version of the Bash Brothers, while Anthony Rizzo continues to look like a bargain re-sign. The pitching has also been stellar, with New York's starters owning an AL-best 2.93 ERA and the bullpen also leading the Junior Circuit by WAR, according to FanGraphs.2. New York Mets Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 23-13 5-5 +35 2 (-) There hasn't been much movement with the Mets in the last two weeks. However, Pete Alonso's bat came alive. The star slugger has recorded five multi-hit games this month with four homers and 12 RBIs to go along with a 1.025 OPS. On the flip side, Francisco Lindor has come back down to Earth slightly. He's registered just eight hits in the same period with a pair of long balls. New York will need both guys at their best to reach its full potential.3. Los Angeles Dodgers Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 21-12 5-5 +70 1 (-2) It wasn't a pretty week in Tinseltown for the Dodgers as they dropped series to the Pirates and Phillies. Despite the losses, the bigger concern is Clayton Kershaw's injury. The 34-year-old is optimistic he'll spend the minimum 15 days on the injured list. But it's hard not to worry about his absence extending beyond two weeks with his recent injury history. With Andrew Heaney also on the shelf, Los Angeles is suddenly looking very thin in the rotation and will need its vaunted lineup to carry the club to victories after recently dropping two of three to the lowly Pirates and only winning a pair of games in the last seven.4. Los Angeles Angels Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 24-13 7-3 +57 7 (+3) The big question entering the season was whether the Angels had enough pitching to contend in the AL West. The early returns are very promising as Los Angeles ranks inside MLB's top five in ERA (3.17). Shohei Ohtani is leading the pack atop the rotation. But strong contributions from free-agent signings Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen combined with positive results from young arms Patrick Sandoval and Reid Detmers should have Angels fans feeling good about the team's prospects moving forward.5. Houston Astros Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 23-12 9-1 +40 13 (+8) The Astros took a big jump thanks to an 11-game winning streak. Yordan Alvarez and Justin Verlander played significant roles in the surge. Alvarez went deep five times with a 1.071 OPS during the stretch. Meanwhile, Verlander looks like he hasn't missed a beat after coming back from Tommy John surgery, giving up just two earned runs over 14 2/3 innings during his team's hot stretch. He owns a 1.55 ERA in six starts this season.6. Milwaukee Brewers Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 22-13 5-5 +28 6 (-) It's been quite a week for the Brew Crew. Josh Hader broke another saves record, and Christian Yelich hit for his third career cycle. After two down years, the former NL MVP is showing glimpses of his 2018-19 dominance. Yelich either leads or ranks second among qualified Milwaukee players in average, OBP, wRC+, and WAR, while Hader looks untouchable yet again with zero runs allowed and a 0.57 WHIP over 13 consecutive saves to start the year.7. San Francisco Giants Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 20-14 6-4 +33 5 (-2) The Giants are quietly taking care of business in a similar fashion to last season. It'll never be particularly flashy, but San Francisco has built an extremely well-balanced roster that consistently applies tremendous pressure on opponents. LaMonte Wade Jr.'s return has been a welcome one for the Giants. The 28-year-old is giving the club a jolt, registering a 136 wRC+ through his first eight games of the campaign.8. San Diego Padres Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 22-13 6-4 +16 8 (-) Manny Machado is an early-season NL MVP favorite thanks to a blazing start. The five-time All-Star leads the majors in batting average (.359), OBP (.443), WAR (2.8), and is second in OPS (1.029). It'll also be interesting to see if Robinson Cano has anything left in the tank as a bench player/designated hitter.9. Tampa Bay Rays Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 21-14 6-4 -1 10 (+1) The Rays closed the gap on the Yankees and leaped past the Blue Jays in the standings after winning three of their four series in May. With upcoming sets against the Tigers, Marlins, and Rangers, things should only get easier for them. A four-game showdown with the Yankees near the end of the month should be a true test of how good this club is. Still, Tampa Bay's annual process of winning without stars continues to be successful.10. Minnesota Twins Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 20-15 5-5 +12 9 (-1) The Twins are scuffling a little bit as injuries mount to their core roster. Minnesota is without Carlos Correa, Miguel Sano, and Chris Paddack, and it's managing the workload of Byron Buxton, who is hampered by a knee issue. Still, the Twins sit atop the AL Central thanks to recent contributions from Royce Lewis and Jorge Polanco. A soft upcoming schedule should help keep a gap between them and the White Sox while their stars heal.11. Toronto Blue Jays Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-17 3-7 -15 4 (-7) It's been a rough stretch for the Blue Jays, who ended a five-game skid in Tampa over the weekend. They still haven't won a series in May on top of losing nine of 12. This month has been ugly for the Blue Jays' bullpen, with their conglomerate posting an 8.0 strikeout-minus-walk ratio (which ranks third-last) and negative-1.19 win probability added. Toronto's offense has also struggled the entire season, ranking dead last with a .562 OPS and dismal .185 AVG.12. St. Louis Cardinals Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 19-15 5-5 +37 12 (-) The Cardinals need more from Steven Matz. St. Louis handed the lefty a four-year, $44-million deal in free agency, but the 30-year-old has struggled to a 6.40 ERA through seven starts. On the offensive side of the ball, outfielder Juan Yepez looks like a keeper. The 24-year-old slugger is off to a torrid start in his rookie campaign, posting a 193 wRC+ with a pair of home runs in his first 11 games.13. Chicago White Sox Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 16-17 6-4 -30 18 (+5) The White Sox are getting healthier, and the wins are coming too. The South Siders won seven of nine before running into the buzzsaw Yankees. Luis Robert has been in fine form since returning from a groin strain, and Tim Anderson is making an early push for another batting title. Losing Lucas Giolito to COVID-19 came at a bad time, but playing 10 of their next 14 games against sub-.500 teams should help supplement losing their ace.14. Philadelphia Phillies Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 17-18 6-4 +18 15 (+1) Despite being unable to play the outfield due to a small tear in his right elbow, Bryce Harper continues to mash out of the DH spot for the Phillies. The lineup is one of the toughest in baseball, ranking fifth in home runs (44), third in runs scored (172), and sixth in wRC+ (112). If the pitching can be even league average, the Phillies should soon be able to apply pressure on the Mets in the NL East.15. Atlanta Braves Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 16-19 5-5 -14 14 (-1) The defending champions haven't found their footing yet. Atlanta sits 17th in offensive rating, according to FanGraphs, while the pitchers have posted a weak 4.15 ERA despite strong peripherals. The club has also played most of the season without Ronald Acuna Jr., who's currently sidelined again with a groin injury. The best is yet to come for the Braves.16. Seattle Mariners Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 16-19 4-6 -8 11 (-5) The Mariners lost nine of 13 games and have dropped in the rankings as a result. Compounding matters, they've demoted former top prospect Jarred Kelenic after he slashed .140/.219/.291 in 30 contests to start the season. Right-hander Logan Gilbert also returned to Earth, giving up seven earned runs over his last two starts after surrendering two in his first five games combined.17. Arizona Diamondbacks Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-17 6-4 -15 26 (+9) The D-Backs appear to have a real formidable duo atop the rotation in right-handers Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. Both hurlers have already amassed 1.2 WAR with sub-2.00 ERAs. Offensively, Daulton Varsho looks like an extremely valuable piece as he can play catcher and outfield while possessing an intriguing blend of power and speed.18. Cleveland Guardians Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 16-17 6-4 +5 22 (+4) The Guardians entered 2022 with low expectations, but they're playing better than advertised due to contributions from the always-stellar Jose Ramirez and a bunch of surprises. Steven Kwan and Owen Miller got off to torrid starts to begin the year, but it's been Josh Naylor and Andres Gimenez stepping up lately. The pair have combined for five homers, 12 runs, 24 RBIs, and 1.4 WAR in 78 plate appearances this month. Franmil Reyes has also woken up, posting a .333 batting average and 154 wRC+ over his past 11 games.19. Colorado Rockies Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 17-17 3-7 -28 19 (-) Colorado's early-season success was quickly exposed at the hands of a three-game sweep by the Giants. It shouldn't surprise that the Rockies rank in the top 15 in MLB in homers and runs scored since they play half of their games at Coors Field. Consequently, the pitching has been taxed yet again. Rockies hurlers rank 29th in ERA (4.91) and dead last in strikeout rate (17.9%).20. Miami Marlins Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 15-19 3-7 +10 17 (-3) It's been a lackluster stretch for the Marlins, who have lost 11 of 14, including five of six to the D-Backs. After signing him to a four-year deal in the offseason, Miami is getting absolutely nothing from Avisail Garcia (.211/.244/.289). Jorge Soler, another big-ticket addition by the Marlins, is producing a .188 batting average and 0.2 WAR. To make things worse, Jesus Luzardo, who finally seemed to be breaking out, went on the IL with a forearm strain, which is always a red-flag injury for a pitcher.21. Boston Red Sox Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 13-21 3-7 -12 16 (-5) Things have been so woeful at Fenway Park that manager Alex Cora shaved his beard in hopes of sparking something in his team. Boston has since won four of six, but it still sits last in the AL East behind the Orioles. If things don't turn around, Xander Bogaerts could be gone by midseason. Trade rumors involving the three-time All-Star are starting to surface.22. Baltimore Orioles Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 14-21 5-5 -31 25 (+3) The Orioles have a 7-7 record this month thanks to some pretty good baseball. Bruce Zimmermann leads the way for the pitchers, allowing just six earned runs over 17 innings during the stretch. The left-hander owns a 2.72 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP this season and is emerging as the club's No. 1 starter with John Means out for the rest of the campaign.23. Texas Rangers Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 14-19 5-5 -13 24 (+1) It's been a winning month for the Rangers so far, and their victories haven't been cakewalks either. Texas took two games from the Phillies before playing well against the Yankees in New York. Brad Miller's and Eli White's recent performances have helped, but the Rangers' biggest surprise might be Martin Perez. The southpaw was terrific Sunday in a win against the Red Sox, lowering his ERA to 2.01 - sixth-best in the AL among qualified starters.24. Oakland Athletics Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 15-22 5-5 -19 23 (-1) With Ramon Laureano's return from suspension, the Athletics may now possess one of the most athletic outfield duos in the league in Laureano and Cristian Pache. Those two could save the team a handful of runs throughout the rest of the season. However, there are some real concerns about Oakland's ability to score runs. The A's rank 27th in home runs (22), 25th in runs scored (122), and dead last in wRC+ (77).25. Chicago Cubs Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 13-20 4-6 -11 20 (-5) It shouldn't be a reason to panic, but Seiya Suzuki has hit the skids of late following a torrid start to his rookie campaign. The talented Japanese outfielder is hitting a paltry .170/.228/.283 with zero homers and three RBIs over his past 15 games. Perhaps more discouraging is the 19-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that stretch. Pitchers were always going to adjust; can Suzuki minimize those weaknesses?26. Detroit Tigers Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 12-23 4-6 -33 21 (-5) The Tigers lost 10 of 12 games before winning a series against the Orioles. Detroit's biggest issue this season has been a toothless offense. The club's hitters own the second-worst slugging percentage in the majors while going deep an MLB-worst 16 times with their home games at cavernous Comerica. The struggles have caused 2021 breakout Akil Baddoo to get sent down already, and Spencer Torkelson might be next if he can't lift his 68 wRC+. The team isn't this bad, but a horrible start might be the difference at the end of the year for a group with playoff aspirations.27. Kansas City Royals Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 12-20 4-6 -43 27 (-) Despite finally connecting on his first homer of the season, Whit Merrifield continues to rank as one of the worst hitters in baseball in 2022. The two-time All-Star owns a 32 wRC+, better than only two other qualified hitters. Zack Greinke is also still among baseball's most interesting players to watch, but for increasingly odd reasons. The 38-year-old somehow finds himself pitching to an impressive 3.52 ERA despite a laughably low and league-worst 8.9% strikeout rate.28. Washington Nationals Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 12-24 3-7 -36 28 (-) When will Juan Soto get some help? Seven of his eight homers this season have come with nobody on base. The 2021 NL MVP runner-up isn't getting much from Nelson Cruz. The 41-year-old slugger finally looks like he's at the end of his road, slashing .194/.279/.298 through 33 games.29. Pittsburgh Pirates Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 15-19 5-5 -56 29 (-) The Pirates have a winning record in May thanks to the offensive prowess of Ben Gamel and Daniel Vogelbach. Seven multi-hit games this month, including two three-hit contests, have pushed Gamel to an .816 OPS. Vogelbach has gone deep three times this month to add to his team-leading total of six. File 'taking two of three over the Dodgers in May' as Pyrrhic victories this team can look back on when they hit the century mark in losses.30. Cincinnati Reds Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 9-26 6-4 -65 30 (-) The Reds went 6-4 following a dreadful 3-22 start to their season. Brandon Drury has come out of nowhere to pick up the offense with Joey Votto and Jonathan India sidelined. The veteran has seven round-trippers with an .854 OPS. Meanwhile, Connor Overton has been a spark for a struggling rotation. The right-hander posted a 1.59 ERA with 1.05 WHIP across three starts.Copyright © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Greinke isn't striking out anyone, making him an outlier in MLB
Zack Greinke collects one strikeout over six innings of one-run ball, surrendering only three hits to the Cardinals
Welcome back to MLB DFS, Money Monday edition. It s me, Cousin Timmy, and I m here to keep your Monday nice and green. We have a six-game main slate on FanDuel tonight with first pitch set for 6:40PM ET in Miami. If you’re a Mike Trout fan or are dying to see Zack Greinke pitch 5 innings without a strikeout, you’ll have to tune-in on an empty stomach as KC @ STL and LAA @ CWS start before lunchtime on the West Coast. Please, blog, may I have some more?