This won't be a long thread. I get to make "money" off of Jeff Sullivan, who is awesome at stuff like this and did all of my work for me.
But I thought the good Doctor might appreciate reading the original piece and my befuddled "huhhhh???" reaction.
So here's the initial piece, discussing just who Mitch Haniger is similar to so far in about 50 games:
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/mitch-hanigers-six-great-comps-and-one-bo... (I'd hyperlink it, but the link button is grayed out and I don't understand why)
Just trust me, this is a fun one. Copy it into the address bar and enjoy.
1) Mitch Haniger is most similar to Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Manny Machado, Mark Teixeira... (WOW...and all of these guys except Machado are minus speed (most are also minus fielders)
2) ...and...Trevor Plouffe.
How is that even possible that a hitter could be the same as seven MVP candidates (including Haniger as one because he's muh boy!) in all of the ways that statistically matter and over a long career...and be so...lame.
So while we wait for the Maniger to heal up, I decided to try to figure out why I can throw out Plouffe as a comp *angelic grin*
The stats they used tracked batted ball orientation (up/down), speed (solid contact), Z-Swing%-O-Swing% (strike zone judgment), and contact% (contact skill, duh)
That's almost everything that could encapsulate a hitter's make-up and control his results at the plate. I had a few thoughts as to how it is even remotely possible that Plouffe could have the same core metrics as Encarnacion or Harper or Bautista and yet be a below average hitter and I checked them all.
Is he more pull happy than those guys...less pull happy? Does he get most of his high-velocity hits on the ground? The surface indicators show nothing that would explain the difference.
It turns out there are several pieces of the hitting template that Sullivan missed and that should probably be studied further generally as a means of sharpening our player similarity systems.
1) Pitches per plate appearance
Trevor Plouffe: 3.82
Edwin Encarnacion: 3.97
This difference sounds small, but it's enormous over that many PAs. It says Plouffe may not swing at balls any more than Encar, but Encar is swinging at better strikes to hit, and is probably better at fouling off tough pitches when he has to protect the plate.
2) Average Velo is misleading: Check Velo on flyballs
Plouffe: 93.4 mph in the air, 88.0 on the ground
Encarnacion: 95.5 in the air, 83.9 on the ground
The means are almost identical, but Encar is getting more velo out of his flies than Plouffe and hard hit grounders more commonly turn into outs than hard hit flies.
3) Look beyond pull% to pull% on grounders vs. pull% on flies
First Plouffe batted ball chart:
The difference here couldn't be more apparent. Plouffe is hitting too many of his flies to the opposite field and pulling most of his grounders and liners. You won't hit for as much power that way and your BABIP will be much lower. Encar has a few more flies on the off-field side than the pull side, but the difference is less and he's bunching his liners down on the left field side.
To sum up...Encar grinds an at bat somewhat better than Plouffe, and he is better at getting a cripple pitch and yanking it to the pull side in the air than Plouffe.
So where is Mitch Haniger on this?
Pitches/PA: 4.01 (yeah baby!)
Velo in the air vs. the ground:
92.8 mph in the air, 78.2 on the ground (he has less raw power than Encar (we knew that) but what power he does have...it's all going into the air. He's maxing out his game.
Pull/Push Ground/Fly chart:
Perhaps it's too soon to judge, but it looks a bit more Plouffian than Encarish.
No two batters are alike, but I think if we start including stats like the ones I've outlined along with things like SwStr%...I think our comps will get better. I am fairly confident that Haniger is no Plouffe and that he should get taken off the list.
But thanks Sully...I haven't gotten to flex my stat nerd muscles much lately and that encouraged me to research.