So far it looks like Jonathan Villar will handle duties at second base in 2018 for the Milwaukee Brewers. After a poor season in 2017, he needs to bounce back.
Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs looked into the performance stacked up against his breakout 2016. It is not pretty. But, there is always chance for a comeback in the coming season. The question is can he? The good news is that he probably cannot get worse. The Milwaukee Brewers need improvement.
The 2017 Season
A .241 average is really not that bad. That might be blown a little out of proportion. But what is believable is his 30 percent strikeout rate. That increased 10 percent from the year before. That translates to about 40 less points in the batting average. To show the reach this has on Villar’s game, his 62 steals in 2016 turned into 23 last season.
In terms of value according to Fangraphs, his hitting dropped from a 15.8 to -16.4. That results in a -0.5 WAR as opposed to 3.1 the year before. So yes, last season was not kind to the potential starting second baseman. But that is one year for Villar, there is another one coming soon.
What Caused The Drop Off?
It is fairly obvious that the clear issue here is the strikeouts. It could just be a string of bad luck, or it could be a growing issue. But, the numbers point to the latter. There is nothing that cannot improve, however.
The likely culprit is the amount of swings he took in 2017. Villar swung at just over 47 percent of pitches he saw, up almost five percent from the previous year. In turn, his percentage of swings at balls out of the strike zone rose by five percent as well. That results in his soft contact going from 20 percent in 2016 to 27 percent last season.
Can Villar Bounce Back?
To be honest, he can. Not only that, I expect him to. It is a bold statement, but it is true. The numbers point to the fact that if he can be more patient at the plate, or even just lessen the strikeouts, he will be great once again.
Despite a .241 batting average, his BABIP sat at .330. That means he is getting on base when he can get the bat on the baseball. That is good news for the Milwaukee Brewers. That is a consistent number for him too, in 2016 his .285 batting average couples with a .373 BABIP.
To put that number in perspective, Mike Trout hit .306 last season with a BABIP of .318. Villar crushes that difference and it is not even close. So if the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff can get him to strikeout less, they have a perennial superstar on their hands.
They need it too. A slow offseason for the Milwaukee Brewers and the improving NL Central mean everyone in the lineup needs to produce. The talented team can certainly win the division if everyone plays to their potential.