Tuesday, March 5, 2024
AnalysisCincinnati RedsMLBNational LeagueNL Central

Kyle Farmer’s Breakout in 2021 Deserves Recognition

via www.allproreels.com – Kyle Farmer Rounds the Bases – Marked For Reuse

Overview

Over the offseason, the Cincinnati Reds did not acquire a shortstop despite there being many considered available. Shortstop was a position of need in the eyes of many (including myself), so the inaction of not getting one drew a lot mostly deserved criticism towards the front office.

With Freddy Galvis not being retained over the offseason, the top of the depth chart for the Reds at shortstop was Kyle Farmer, who many viewed as nothing more than a bench bat. Coming into 2021, he sported a career 74 wRC+ with fine, but not spectacular defense.

However, in 2021 he has a 99 wRC+ and is able to handle shortstop surprisingly well, posting 4 outs above average with a 79% success rate at short. The eye test, despite being extremely flawed, also holds up for Farmer. These statistics usually round out to a 2 WAR player over a full season of play, which is a bit above average. An average, every day regular is something that is often overlooked in baseball, yet it is valuable. Farmer specifically has been huge for Cincinnati this season, leading them to a a 16-10 record in July, tying the Astros and Rays for the best record last month. His 201 wRC+ during that 16-10 run was second among qualified hitters, and his 1.5 fWAR was 4th best in baseball.

How Sustainable Is This?

Going into July Farmer had a poor BA/OBP/SLG/OPS slash of .213/.282/.310/.592. As of August 1st, those numbers are .263/.329/.414/.743, each just about average. He had five, 3-hit games over the month of July, which is more than he had over the entire season preceding the month. 13 of his 32 hits were for extra bases despite having just eleven combined in April, May, and June.

It is very possible Farmer is still the bench player with uninspiring statistics we saw in the past and is just having a hot month, as most major league hitters have at some point in their career. However, something I noticed while doing research for this article is that Farmer is swinging at more pitches and not missing at the rate he did in years past. He’s walking at a low rate (his OBP of .329 gets boosted by being top of the league in HBP), but is striking out less than the average player.

He’s chasing more pitches than the average batter (21st percentile), but swinging and missing at a favorable rate (80th percentile). He is also hitting more to the opposite field (25% in 2021, 19.6% in 2020). That in it’s own could explain some of the success. He’s rarely shifted on, but when he is on the receiving end of a shift, he posts a .421 wOBA. 59 plate appearances is not a large sample size, but an anomaly that large can’t be ignored.

Launch Angle

Farmer’s average exit velocity in 2021 is 87.1 which is well below average. Oddly, his xwOBA and it’s related stats are about average due to Farmer’s elite launch angle and sweet spot percentage (what % of batted balls are between 8 and 32 degrees.) Farmer hits a lot of line drives, but they aren’t hit very hard (relative to league average). Farmer’s average launch angle in 2021’s BBE is 15.8, optimal for line drives.

You might notice this is a very similar sequence to Adam Frazier, who was an all star this year. Frazier and Farmer both have elite sweet spot%, yet poor barrel%.

Here’s Farmer’s July 31st home run

This breakout seems “real” to an extent. In recent years, Farmer has had a good launch angle and it might finally be catching up to him considering his recent success (he had been underperforming his xStats for a while). Of course he won’t have “Ruthian” months where he posts a 200 wRC+ all year, but I still see Farmer as an above average defender who you can rely on a 90-95 wRC+ from.

I also want to note, no matter how Farmer performs the rest of the year, you have to applaud his effort and the recent success he’s had. He was put in a bad situation by the Reds and was scrutinized heavily by their fanbase. Being an average player statistically this far into the year has exceeded the expectations of many and has contributed to the team success. Even with the uncertainty of the future, Cincinnati may have found their shortstop for the time being.