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Searching for 20/20 players in 2019

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It’s very scientific, I think.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

First, if you haven’t had a chance, check out Heath Capps where he gives an overview going into the 2018 season (I would note he called Christian Yelich AND Starling Marte as 2018 candidates!):

Or the year before that:

Or the year before that:

Predicting 20/20 seasons is actually very hard. In a time where the number of occurrences is increasing (five players did it 2014, four in 2015, nine in 2016 & 2017 and then 10 last year). 28 total players exist as members of the 20/20 club over the last five years, among those 28 players, 22 players did it once (AJ Pollock, Manny Machado, Tim Anderson, Ryan Braun, Andrew Benintendi, Keon Broxton, Jean Segura, Elvis Andrus, Christian Yelich, Brian Dozier, Starling Marte, Todd Frazier, Tommy Pham, Brett Gardner, Jose Ramirez, Javier Baez, Trevor Story, Carlos Gomez, Melvin Upton Jr, Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley and Francisco Lindor), three players did it twice (Will Myers, Jose Altuve and Paul Goldschmidt) and three players have done it three times: Mookie Betts and Michael Trout (who have each done it each of the last three years) and wait for it: Ian Desmond.

I’m going to approach this from a few different ways statistically…(and I’m open to other views in the comment section below)

Age

Average age of the 37 incidences: 27.27 years old.

Players 30 years of age and older achieved the 20/20 club six times (16% of the time) over the last five years (Ian Desmond did it twice over 30).

Players 25 or under achieved the 20/20 club nine times (24% of the time) over the last five years (Mookie Betts did it twice 25 or younger).

Conclusion: This means ages 26-29 are the remaining 22 times (59%). Herein lies your sweet spot in terms of age.

Batting Average

A BUNCH of players achieved this feat while batting north of .300 (Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Michael Brantley, Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Pham, AJ Pollock, Jean Segura, Michael Trout and Christian Yelich). Ironically, a few players (five) achieved this while batting below .250 (Tim Anderson, Brian Dozier, Bryce Harper, Wil Myers and Melvin Upton Jr.)

Conclusion: enough outliers achieved it with a sub .250 average BUT they typically are a “one and done” 20/20 candidate.

Patience at the Plate

In terms of drawing walks, in 11 of the 20/20 occurrences a player drew fewer than 50 walks, so 25 times a player was drawing 50+ walks. Additionally, five times a player drew over 100 walks. Strikeouts were all over the board, so no trend there.

Conclusion: not much of a correlation here, as the batters were able to get on base despite their walks or strikeout rates.

At-Bats

11 times a player went 20/20 with 600+ AB opportunities and five times a player did it with less than 500 AB opportunities (Michael Trout did it twice with less than 500 Abs). Eight players did it with under 550 AB opportunities (22% of the time).

Conclusion: this stat helps moderately, as candidates generally need at least 500 ABs (unless they are named Mike Trout). Ideally we are looking for players with 550+ AB, and 60 MLB players achieved this last year.

Hits

You need to get on base to steal a base right? Well Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Michael Brantley and Jean Segura each did it while getting on base 200+ times and amazingly Keon Broxton did it with under 100 hits (he was also one of the players who had less than 50 walks that year making his 20/20 in 2017 VERY impressive).

Seven players did it with under 150 hits (19% of the time). I thought there would be a strong correlation to singles as it’s easier to steal 2nd base as it is third base or home plate but it’s all over the board. The offset to singles is likely walks—and when you combine them it includes most players.

Conclusion: they probably need to have at least 150 hits, something that 50 MLB players did last year.

XBH

Interesting fact here: only three players who achieved 20/20 had less than 50 XBHs and NONE of them ever repeated (Andrew Benintendi, Keon Broxton, Tommy Pham). Perhaps we have found one connection: the ability to put some power on the ball (real Einstein breakthrough here) IS indeed important in making sure you get home runs.

Conclusion: this is crucial and 80 players had 50+ XBH last year.

Stolen Base percentage

Only Bryce Harper did it while successfully stealing less than 70% of the time (68%) while Mookie Betts, Michael Brantley and Michael Trout each stole successfully 90% of the time. Jose Altuve, Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gomez, Bryce Harper, Francisco Lindor and Jean Segura each did it while getting caught at least 10 times one season, each of them attempted at least 30 steals (only 20 players had 30 attempts last season).

Conclusion: you are looking for someone with a success rate of 70%+ and ideally less than 10 times getting caught.

Position

Technically this shouldn’t really matter but when you think of a typical 1B vs. a typical center fielder it becomes important. Paul Goldschmidt and Ian Desmond are the lone regular 1B that did it (the fewest of any non-catcher, non-pitcher position). Surprisingly 3B was the other rare one where Frazier, Machado and Ramirez each did it once. Next is 2B & SS (5 times each) and then outfielders are the high likelihood.

Conclusion: there is a 57% chance it will be an outfielder—beyond that, it’s likely a 2B or SS.

Team

I know some teams give a green light to steal and some do not, but there isn’t much of a correlation in terms of teams: Arizona, Boston and Milwaukee take top billings with four 20/20 occurrences, Cleveland and the Angels have three (cough cough Mike Trout), Colorado, San Diego, Texas and Washington have two and Baltimore, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Toronto each have one.

Given ALL of these facts I feel confident (ish) in these 5 statements

  1. Michael Trout AND Mookie Betts have a strong likelihood of repeating again (pause for dramatic gasps). Both sit in the sweet spot age-wise, they each did it the last three years. They fit just about each metric to repeat.
  2. These players from 2018 will likely NOT repeat: Tim Anderson (low on hits, XBH and walks), Starling Marte (age is against him), and Ian Desmond (he appears to be good every other year).
  3. Among the players who did it for the first time last year and have the strongest likelihood to repeat (in this order): Christian Yelich, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story and Javier Baez. Javier is an atypical candidate. He had a great season but his success rate on steals is 70% and he doesn’t walk much.
  4. Given a number of the metrics above, here are the players who had 550+ AB, 150+hits, 50+XBH, 25+ attempts, a .250+ batting average and 80%+ SB percentage...the likeliest 2019 20/20 candidates are (obviously assuming some modicum of their 2018 stats repeat into 2019): Whit Merrifield and Trea Turner. Players who meet all but one of those criteria include: Lorenzo Cain, Jose Peraza and Cesar Hernandez.
  5. There will be at least 1-2 random candidates who have a peak year. This part is a completely random guess and will revolve around anything from a player having a career season to a player who suddenly wants to increase steals through their own offseason work or directions from the manager. It could be a seasoned player who is usually elite like Alex Bregman, Charlie Blackmon or Ozzie Albies, OR it could come out of left field like a Mitch Haniger, Jose Martinez or Marcus Semien.

I’m not sure if this helps whatsoever, it’s the offseason and I’m eager to dig into any potential edge months before drafts begin.