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5 Sabermetrics Standouts Early In The 2024 Season

The 2024 MLB season is just a few weeks old, and we’ve seen plenty of players start their season out on the right foot. While we wait to see which hot streaks are for real and which ones will fade, I took a look at five players that I think could keep things going well into the summer and beyond.

**All stats updated prior to play on 4/13.**

Ivan Herrera: C – STL

The 23-year-old St. Louis catcher played in just 24 big league games coming into the 2024 season. Herrera has played in nine games this year and has looked like a solid bat in a lineup that needed depth beyond Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Coming into play on Saturday, Herrera was slashing .290/.294/.581/.875 for a 135 OPS+.

Herrera’s batted ball metrics imply there could be more to come. Among the 218 hitters with at least 25 batted balls this season, Herrera ranks 15th in xSLG (.601), 9th in xwOBA (.444), and 3rd in Barrel rate (21.4%) trailing only Bobby Witt Jr. and Shohei Ohtani. He is also striking out in just 14.9% of his plate appearances.

After posting a 55.3% ground ball rate prior to this year, Herrera has lowered that mark to 39.3% this year. He has subsequently raised his fly ball rate from 13.2% to 39.3% and his sweet spot rate from 21.1% 39.3%.

Herrera has nearly put it all together on offense to begin the season. He could take an even bigger step forward if he lowers his chase rate and works on his timing. His 36.2% chase rate is nearly eight percent above the Major League average. This has been the leading factor of his 2.9% walk rate despite swinging at 47.4% of all pitches thrown to him, a scratch above the league average.

Additionally, 50% of his batted balls and 54.5% of his fly balls have been hit straightaway. Since the start of 2023, fly balls hit straightaway have a leaguewide batting average of .203 and slugging of .574, as opposed to a .489 AVG and 1.746 SLG when pulled. Herrera has pulled just 27.3% of his fly balls. Increasing this rate can bridge the gap between his expected statistics and actual results.

Justin Turner : 3B – TOR

The veteran third baseman has remained consistent throughout his 30s, posting an OPS+ above 110 in every season in 2014. Now, in his age 39 season, Turner has begun his Blue Jays career with a .350/.460/.575 for a 1.035 OPS and 204 OPS+. He has become the sixth player in Blue Jays franchise history to slash over .350/.450/.550 in at least 50 plate appearances throughout their first 13 games with the Jays.

Turner’s 17.6% ground ball rate is the lowest among the 218 hitters with at least 25 batted balls. His fly ball + line drive rate of 76.5% is the highest on that same list. His 26 fly balls and line drives have an average exit velocity of 93.5 mph, and a pull rate of 42.3%. 32.4% of his total batted balls have been pulled line drives for fly balls, the 7th highest rate in baseball.

Turner is also one of 18 qualified hitters with more walks than strikeouts. His 16% walk rate is the 15th highest among the 195 qualifiers.

Throughout 2024, Turner has seen one of the healthiest doses of fastballs in baseball. 68.2% of all pitches thrown to Turner this year have been 4-seamers, cutters, or sinkers. This is the fourth highest rate in the league among the 213 hitters with at least 150 total pitches seen. Turner has responded by crushing these fastballs.

In 31 plate appearances ending on fastballs, Turner is hitting .346 with a .577 slugging. His expected numbers are even better, with Turner sporting a .376 xBA and .615 xSLG.

Colton Cowser: OF – BAL

On the other side of the age spectrum, 24-year-old Cowser has made a major impact for Baltimore to start his first full big league season. Cowser entered 2024 as the #34 prospect on Baseball America’s list, but the hype around him was overshadowed by several others in the Orioles organization.

In 30 plate appearances this year, Cowser is slashing .481/.500/1.037/1.537 for a 345 OPS+. Of course, his batted ball metrics do not suggest that he will remain *this* good, but they do say a lot about his sustainability as an everyday bat.

Among all qualifiers, Cowser ranks fourth in xBA (.368), fourth in xSLG (.720), sixth in xwOBA (.476), sixth in hard-hit rate (61.5%), and 13th in chase rate (15.4%).

52.4% of Cowser’s batted balls have been fly balls or line drives. They have an average exit velocity of 95.6 mph. Among the 251 hitters with at least 10 fly balls and line drives this season, Cowser’s .673 xBA on them ranks third highest, and his 1.588 xSLG ranks second highest.

Cowser has also been a plus defender for the O’s, posting two Defensive Runs Saved and one Out Above Average in 43 defensive innings. His 70th-percentile spring speed has also made him a threat on the basepaths.

With other outfield prospects such as Heston Kjerstad and Connor Norby soon to come and Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander already in Baltimore, Cowser appears to be setting himself apart from the rest in the early goings of 2024.

Reid Detmers: Starting Pitcher – LAA

Entering his third full Major League season after being selected in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, Detmers showed flashes of success towards the end of 2022 before regressing in 2023. After his first three starts of 2024, Detmers is rocking a 1.04 ERA and 1.46 FIP. He has yet to give up a home run, and his 31.3% K-BB% is the 4th highest among qualified starters.

In his three starts this season, Detmers has upped the usage of his 4-seam fastball. After using it 43.2% of the time in 2023, he has used it 50.4% of the time in 2024. His 4-Seamer has a 39.4% Whiff rate against it, the highest rate among the 41 pitchers with at least 50 swings against their 4-Seamer this year. Opponents are hitting .100 with a .150 against it in 23 plate appearances.

As for his secondary pitches, opponents have hit .162 and slugged .189 against Detmers’ slider, curveball, and changeup. His combined Whiff rate on these three pitches is 35.3%, which is above the major league average.

Detmers has also induced lots of weak contact in his three starts. After having an average exit velocity against of 89.9 mph in 2023, it is down to 85.9 mph in 2024. 22.6% of all batted balls against Detmers have been fly balls below the hard hit threshold of 95 mph. Since the start of 2023, such batted balls have a leaguewide .119 batting average and .165 SLG. Detmers’ 22.6% rate is the 12th highest among the 157 pitchers with at least 25 batted balls this year.

Detmers is dominating the strike zone much more than in years past. Although he has only thrown at only a 45% clip, down from 51% last year, he is getting better results when he throws there. In 2023, opponents made contact on 79.9% of their swings against Detmers on pitches in the strike zone. This year, that number is just 65.5%, the sixth lowest among all qualifying pitchers. The 14.4% drop in Zone Contact percent represented the seventh lowest drop among all pitchers who qualified in 2023 and are currently qualifying in 2024.

Ryan Yarbrough: Relief Pitcher – LAD

Anyone who has ever seen Ryan Yarbrough pitch knows exactly who he is. He pounds the zone, pitches to contact, and induces softly hit balls. Among the 188 pitchers with at least 1500 batted balls allowed throughout the statcast era, Yarbrough’s 84.4 mph average exit velocity ranks the lowest.

This year, he has continued this style of pitching, but with added movement to his most commonly used pitch. In 2023, Yarbrough’s sinker averaged 24.9 inches of downward movement, similar relative to years past. In 2024, it is averaging 30.9 inches of downward movement, the fifth most among the 69 pitchers with at least 50 sinkers thrown this year.

From 2018-2023, Yarbrough threw a total of 42 sinkers with at least 30 inches of downward movement on 2,492 total sinkers thrown. In 2024, he has thrown 51 of such sinkers on only 84 sinkers thrown. This has helped raise the ground ball rate on Yarbrough’s sinker from 35.9% in 2023 to 46.7% in 2024.

Yarbrough has also upped the usage on his curveball from 26.1% in 2023 to 33% in 2024. Opponents have hit .115 against it and slugged .231. They also have an xBA of .122 and xSLG of .226. His Run Value of 3 on his curveball is tied for the most in the majors, and its RV/100 of 4.1 ranks third. Overall, Yarbrough has a 3.07 ERA and 2.89 xERA in 14.2 innings pitched.

Follow us @Diamond_Digest for more throughout the season!

Featured Image: @Orioles / Instagram

Daniel Curren

Daniel Curren is a senior studying communication/sports journalism at Springfield College in Massachusetts. He is a rare but proud Red Sox fan from New York and has a passion for all things sabermetrics. He also co-hosts Above Replacement Radio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube.

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