Written By: Jack Gray
In the last 11 games, the White Sox Catcher has posted an inadequate .130 Batting Average while simultaneously having the highest On-Base-Percentage in baseball. How?
Nearly 35 games into the season, Major League Baseball has already presented some obscure and unlikely trends such as batting averages plummeting, the Dodgers looking lackluster, and the sudden spike of pitchers throwing no-hitters. There is, however, a phenomenon happening with Chicago White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal that might just be the weirdest—and perhaps the most exciting.
The 32-year-old veteran from Cuba has had an efficient career with teams like the Dodgers, Padres, and Brewers, but in his second season with the White Sox, he is showing signs of dramatic regression at the plate. . .or is he? Although Grandal has posted a Batting Average of .130, which is the worst in the league for a minimum of 100 plate appearances, he is appearing in headlines today for another reason: his plate discipline and ability to draw walks. Currently, he carries a Base on Balls Rate of 29%, the highest in the league by nearly 5.2% (the next highest is Max Muncy with 23.8%). For reference, the highest Walk Rate last season was Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals at 20.9% and the league average was 9.0%.
If you are curious why this is so strange, consider this—in the past 11 games, Yasmani Grandal has maintained a .130 Batting Average (the 6th worst Batting Average in the league during this time span), but during this stretch, he has an On-Base-Percentage of .512 (the highest in the league during this time span). The catcher has been walked an astounding 19 times in the past 43 At-Bats yet only recorded 3 hits.
There is plenty of speculation as to why this is happening—Grandal is a well-known slugger who also is not much of a threat on the base paths, so there is always an incentive to not throw him a meatball down the center of the plate and instead let him take first base, and his Hard-Hit Rate is actually the highest it has ever been in his career at 53.1%. Not only that–he is averaging his highest Exit Velocity this season as well (93.5 mph). Considering these metrics and the fact that his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is only .114, there is a lot of evidence to support that he is getting very unlucky. Luckily for Grandal, he has relied on his stellar veteran-like plate discipline to still find ways on base and to provide his team with scoring opportunities. Certainly his averages will regress to the mean eventually, but his BA/OBP split is the most exciting thing to watch in baseball currently solely because of its absurdity.