What happened to Rays super outfielder Randy Arozarena?
Randy Arozarena was an unstoppable force throughout the 2020 playoffs. Out of 84 plate appearances, he tripled .377 / .429 .831 with a wOBA of .515 backed by xwOBA of .467. Advanced metrics aside, Arozarena was a force to be reckoned with for any opposing pitching team. Even though teams were planning the game around him as the Rays’ main offensive threat, he improbably set all-time records for hitting and homing in the playoffs (he did so with the benefit of two additional Wild Card matches).
Before even winning the ALCS MVP and hitting three more bombs in six games World events, Arozarena torched the entire Yankees pitching staff for stats above their already high hitting rates in the playoffs, including an OPS of 1.371, wOBA of 0.561, and xwOBA of 0.508. Included in his reign of terrorizing the Yankees was a trio of homers, including a bomb stalled by Gerrit Cole.
While Arozarena’s 60-plus home run pace was unbearable over the course of a full regular season, his dominance of baseball’s top pitchers has led many to believe that Arozarena’s 2020 playoff results could be the start of. something bigger. He entered the year as – and still is – the odds favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year award without yet breaking through 130 or 45 days. entered thresholds in any season prior to this one.
However, his maintenance of pole position has more to do with the lack of standout contenders than Arozarena’s own continued dominance. Randy’s 2020 storybook playoffs have run out of steam in a more pedestrian 2021, as Arozarena is now triple .265 / .356. / 418 with just seven home runs on more than twice as many bats as he had. done in the previous playoffs. To be clear, Arozarena wasn’t bad; he still has an OPS 27% above the league average and has all the power in the world, with an average exit speed in the MLB’s 80th percentile with a maximum exit speed this season of 112.6, the placing in the 88th percentile.
Surprisingly, despite the overall drop in production, Arozarena has been more selective this season than last year. He’s beating at 27.1%, a little worse than his post-2020 rate of 22.6%, but slightly higher than his 28.9% mark in the 2020 regular season. Plus, he’s walking harder than ever. right now, having earned a free pass in 10.2% of his plate appearances this season, up from 7.9 and 7.2% in the 2020 regular and playoffs, respectively.
However, Randy’s expected metrics and batting data paint a picture of an even worse hitter than his already dramatically depressed counting stats might suggest. So far, Arozarena’s wOBA has been better than his xwOBA by a bigger margin than every other hitter except ten in the majors, suggesting that his regression from the previous playoffs is even bigger than his it does not appear at first glance. Randy’s rough start to the 2021 campaign has skeptics sounding like Mars Blackmon, attributing Arozarena’s Ruthian push to its now legendary “power boots. “
Joking aside, the most damning metric in Arozarena’s advanced statistical profile is her free-falling ability to control her launch angle. Last regular season, Arozarena posted an average launch angle of nine degrees, which fell to eight degrees during her scorching playoff run. This season, that number is at seven degrees, quite close to its previous averages.
However, last regular season, 32.6% of Arozarena’s batting balls came out of bat between eight and 32 degrees, the definition of the sweet spot according to Statcast, a rate that would have been right in the middle of the pack. he had received enough bats to qualify for the rankings. In the playoffs, 23 of Randy’s 77 batted balls were hit between eight and 32 degrees for a similar percentage of 29.9 hit points. Arozarena’s moderately optimized launch angle distribution, combined with his elite propensity to kick shit out of baseball, led to a preponderance of laser beams all over the pitch.
This season, it’s not his average throw angle that’s hurting him this year, it’s the overall distribution of his batted balls. His sweet spot percentage fell to just 24.3 percent, the fifth worst score in the majors among 124 skilled hitters. The fact that Arozarena wasn’t even worse is a testament to his combination of elite power and speed which led to some extra bleeds and singles in the infield than a slower or weaker hitter. might not have won otherwise.
The pitch angle distribution of Arozarena’s batting events tells an even clearer story than its spray chart. The last playoffs, Arozarena has been rewarded by rarely hitting balls well outside the optimal launch angle window of 10-20 degrees:
These shots (marked in red) were typically hit well enough to split a gap or clear a fence, considering his average exit speed of 99.9 mph on sweet spots and his average exit speed of 93.8 mph overall.
This season’s chart spread is much wider, with more pop-ups around 60 degrees and larger groupings around three and -20 degrees:
Although he recorded a good number of hits on balls hit flat, a small percentage of those he hit directly into the ground led to hits and are unlikely to generate doubles and triples even. ‘he reaches the base. Additionally, although sweet spots generally lead to better results than unsweetened spots, not all unsweetened spots are of equal value. The overwhelming preponderance of cut bullets straight into the ground at around -20 degrees completely undermines Arozarena’s overall offensive value, and in particular its power output. These are infield singles at best, and not what the Rays are looking for from the strongest bat in their roster.
Still, Arozarena is a great hitter when he finds the right spot; he’s hitting 1,314 on sweet spots, including six of his seven home runs this season, it just doesn’t happen with the same frequency as it does in the playoffs or the regular season. Plus, its non-soft areas are further away from that range than ever before, leading to far too many completely unproductive hit balls. There may be a mechanical issue he needs to sort out, a problem with his approach, or a lack of timing contributing to Randy’s sudden decline, but either way, he has to start lifting the ball again if he hopes or return to its former glory.
For a Yankees team that struggles like they do, having one of their biggest rivals at a major bat is a small blessing.