After a dreadful start to the season, Kendrys Morales has rediscovered his stroke. In fact, he’s played as well as former Blue Jay and the man he was brought in to replace, Edwin Encarnacion.
It’s May 17, 2018. The Blue Jays have suffered a 10-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics and fall to .500 after an encouraging start to the season. Amid the recent struggles of the team, no player has it worse than Kendrys Morales.
How bad, you ask? Morales is batting .146 with an abysmal .499 OPS. What’s worse, some kid named Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is batting .414 in Double-A, and fans are clamouring for his promotion (they still are) – at the expense of Morales of course.
Fast forward to today, and Cuban veteran has arguably been the Blue Jays’ best hitter in 2018. Slowly, but surely, he is regaining the trust of the Blue Jays’ faithful. In fact, perhaps to the surprise of many Blue Jays’ fans, he is actually performing as well as Edwin Encarnacion. Consider the following stats:
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Player A (105 games): .232/.319/.477, .796 OPS, 27 HR
Player B (105 games): .260/.340/.462, .802 OPS, 18 HR
Although Player A has hit more home runs in 2018, the OPS of the two players suggests that Player B has actually slightly outperformed Player A. That is, Kendrys Morales has actually slightly outperformed Edwin Encarnacion in 2018.
Underneath Morales’s resurgent season, what is most encouraging are his Statcast numbers – more specifically, how hard he hits the ball. Whether you’re an old-school baseball guy or a saber metrics guru, everyone can agree that if you hit the ball hard, you’ll probably be successful.
Well, according to Baseball Savant, Kendrys Morales ranks in the Top 10 for average exit velocity (92.9 mph). Above him are hitters like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and J.D. Martinez. Just below him are guys like Christian Yelich, Manny Machado, and Mookie Betts. In summary, he’s been a pretty darn good hitter this season.
In a disappointing season, Morales’s resurgence comes as a breath of fresh air. While he’ll never replicate the tenure Edwin Encarnacion had in Toronto, he’s been just as good as the man he was brought in to replace in 2018. Actually, when you consider the fact that Morales pitched for the Blue Jays, he’s been better.