By Max Greenfield
With four weeks to go, the playoff push is in full swing, with every at-bat potentially being a critical one.
This is a time when some players who underachieved can make up for that with one good month. I wanted to try to find a few players along those lines who could play a big role in September if they got hot. Using our expected statistics (calculated off batted ball type, velocity, and location, which is slightly different from the inputs used by Statcast), here are four candidates.
The Oakland Athletics’ young second baseman has been underachieving this year. Profar has a .214 batting average, 18 home runs and a below league average OPS of .704. Yet, based off our expected numbers, Profar should be hitting .272 with 20 home runs, and an .843 OPS.
One reason Profar could be seeing such a stark difference is that his batting average on fly balls is 70 points below the MLB average. Another is that he’s hitting .163 when hitting a ground ball or short line drive against a shift (in fact, his unshifted numbers are of a similar nature).
Profar could be on the right track. He’s hitting .333 in his last 10 games, with homers on the road against the Royals and Yankees and an extra-base hit in each of his last three home games.
The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder has had a decent rebound season after a tough 2018. He’s had a 1.6 bWAR (baseball-reference WAR) which is over 3 wins higher than what he had in 2018.
Fowler is currently hitting .249 with 16 home runs and a .780 OPS this year but based off our data, his expected numbers are a .292 batting average, with 20 home runs and a .903 OPS. To put that in perspective, he’d rank inside the top 30 with that OPS this year. If he could hit like that for a month, he’d be highly valuable to the Cardinals’ NL Central chances.
He’s trending the right way. He had an .849 OPS in August.
Another team in the middle of the NL Central and Wild Card race is the Milwaukee Brewers. Cain was a big contributor to the Brewers last year, posting a 6.9 bWAR, the second highest mark of his career.
But Cain has struggled in 2019 with a .251 batting average, eight home runs, and a .672 OPS. Though our expected numbers have him a little closer to league average offensively with .287 batting average, 10 home runs, and a .766 OPS. If Cain doesn’t hit a line drive, his offensive production is well under MLB average.
In the past Cain was able to have well above league average production on ground balls, but that has not kept up this year His hard-hit rate is down too.
Some of that may be explainable by injuries to his knee, thumb, and most recently his oblique. Cain’s defensive value is still very high, as he has 18 Defensive Runs Saved, most among centerfielders. Now, the Brewers are looking for his offense to match that
Jesus Aguilar, Rays
Aguilar struggled early in 2019 with the Brewers and the hope was that’d he’d find some success with the Tampa Bay Rays. While Aguilar’s numbers are better with Tampa, increase in batting average, and on base percentage, he’s still seeing below-average results in power.
Aguilar’s expected batting average is only 18 points higher than his .238 clip. However, his expected OPS is .780, which is 70 points higher than his actual OPS of .710. Aguilar has 12 doubles and 10 home runs. Our expected numbers give him 15 and 12. The Rays could use a little extra carry on his fly balls this month to boost their postseason hopes.