Is Yoshida real? That's what the extensive statistics say (2023)

May 9, 2023

Is Yoshida real? That's what the extensive statistics say (1)

Cole Jacobson


After the Red Sox signedMasataka Yoshidafor oneFive-year, $90 million contractthis offseason – her representativeBiggest order everAward to position player moving to MLB from Japan - Trade opinion outside of Bostonit was mixed at best. After all, Yoshida was short (1.70 meters tall, 176 pounds).via Baseball Reference). He was old by rookie standards, turning 30 the following July. More importantly, he was unproven, having excelled in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) for years but never faced the best competition in the world.

Shortly after the start of his rookie season in Boston, it appeared the naysayers couldn't be more right. As of April 19, Yoshida had played in 13 career games and hit a paltry .167/.310/.250 at home for a .560 OPS.

But as of April 20, Yoshida changed things. He's had a hit in all 16 games he's played since then, and his 28 hits and 48 total bases in that span are the most in MLB. 438/.479/.750 with five home runs since April 20 (1.229 OPS) and leads all players with at least 40 plate appearances in batting average and OPS. His return is one of the main reasons Boston ranked third in MLB with 5.8 runs per game this season and why it wasnamed AL player of the weekfor the 1st-7th Boruse.

So what changed for Yoshida? Is your 16-game hitting streak (and counting) just noise from a small sample size? Or there are serious signs of their breakout, which has helped the 21-15 Red Sox stay in a slumpAL East historically competitiveafterHe is widely tipped to finish last.Will anyone stay for the second time in a row? We dive into Yoshida's approach and extensive stats to find out if Boston's $90 million man is the real deal.

Masataka Yoshida, 𝗠𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗼 𝗠𝗮𝗻

– Red Sox (@RedSox)December 15, 2022

Does Yoshida have the power?

To begin the story of Yoshida's trade, we can go back to December 2022, when he was first signed by Boston. What did scouts and executives say about him then and which of his words turned out to be true?

We will begin with those who opposed Yoshida. The unnamed MLB executives largely agreed on what they saw as the weaknesses of Yoshida's game: a lack of power and limited defensive capabilities. The latter trait has proven correct this season. Yoshida is in the 12th percentile of Baseball Savant's "Outs Above Average" metric (though, to be fair, the rookie left fielder misses).A hard wall to get used to). But the former trait fluctuated throughout the year.

After a World Baseball Classic in which Yoshida hit two home runs and 13 RBI - the last of which - in seven gamesset a WBC singles tournament record– Yoshida's stock couldn't be higher. Yoshida specifically hit a crucial hat-trick at home in the semifinals against Mexicoranks as the best in WBC historyfrom, and he andShohei Ohtanithey were the only onesAll-Tournament-TeamSelection of Japan's champion team.


— World Baseball Classic (@WBCBaseball)March 21, 2023

But early in his MLB career, that power wasn't there. His plate discipline has been impeccable, as he was benched in just 8.6% of his plate appearances through April 19th. However, when he did make contact, he failed to get the ball off the ground. He only hit .275expected trumpeting rateduring that time, about Statcast and his averageoriginal store-5.1 degrees was the second-lowest among 276 players with 25+ balls hit during that stretch, up slightly from last yearJean Segura(-6,0).

However, since April 20, Yoshida has steadily reversed that trend. His average launch angle during that span is 5.9 degrees, significantly higher, though still below the MLB average of 12.1. As a result, he was able to consistently hit balls to the interior with a 730 xSLG that nearly tripled compared to his first 13 games.

To simplify it even more, when you catch the ball, good things happen. And Yoshida has been doing it much more often since April 20, suggesting there's a lot more to his 16-fight winning streak than just luck. On April 19, Yoshida was just onebarrelin a record 58 participations (1.7% rate). Since then, the barrel/PA ratio has been 12.7%, more than seven times higher than in the first 13 games.

Here's a summary of how several of Yoshida's extended hit metrics have taken a notable turn since April 20 (seeMLB Glossaryfor detailed explanations of any conditions):

Yoshida's extensive hit counts before vs. from April 20, 2023

  • .182 expected batting average vs.0.403 xBA
  • .275 expected slugging percentage vs..730 xSLG
  • .271 weighted average base vs..517 FEAR
  • 85.1 mph average exit velocity vs. 93.0 mph
  • 21.5% odor percentage vs. 10.5% scent fee
  • Average launch angle -5.1 degrees vs. 5.9 degrees
  • 32.6% of severely affected vs. 59.3% of those seriously affected
  • 1.7% Barrel/PA vs. 12.7% Barrel/PA

Yoshida has led MLB in scoring since 4/20. at (min. 40 PA)

Yoshida may never be a 40-year-old home run hitter, but he has shown lasting signs in recent weeks of making consistent, hard contact, a far cry from where he should have started his career.

"It's amazing what he's doing right now," the Red Sox first baseman saidhouses Triston disse Ian Browne da "It started slowly. I think everyone expected to have their problems from the start. But now we see him taking his step and doing what he wants. And you know, when he's there, he can lead a lineup."

What did Yoshida really change?

It's easy to quantify what's been running better for Yoshida lately—along with the other metrics mentioned above, his lower whiff rate and higher launch angle have paid dividends. ButBecauseDid the beginner's advanced metrics start going up like this? The answer lies in your approach.

While participating in a three-game stretch at Milwaukee from April 21-23, Yoshida vacated his position after consulting with the coaching staff. A small adjustment showed him seeing the ball much better than at the beginning of the season. Hence the numbers you saw above: Yoshida not only makes more contact, he also makes harder contact when he puts his racquet on the ball.

Since that trip to Milwaukee, Yoshida has scored at least one goal in every game.

"I'm picking which balls to swing at, so I guess I'm good," Yoshida told Browne. "I focus on my form, especially my posture. So in terms of stance, I step back a bit with my right leg. So it's more comfortable for me to see the ball. I haven't changed anything swing-wise."

In fact, it's the change in stance, not the swing, that has fueled Yoshida's explosiveness thus far. After all, the swing was successful enough to set the WBC record for RBIs. But Yoshida's attitude adjustment came from what manager Alex Cora calls "the hitting group," led by assistant hitting coach Luis Ortiz.

"Especially with Luis, they talked about it and made some adjustments," Cora said. “You can see the arms are a little bit looser where they are. We find out who he is.

Disc discipline at its finest

What did the scouts who supported Yoshida's signing say? The biggest focus has been on discipline and the ability to hit the bases loaded backed up by his outstanding 80/41 K/BB ratio and 447 on-base percentage in the most recent NPB season.

"For us, what really stood out from every angle, from the angle to the power outage, is just the quality of the pitching," Red Sox director of baseball Chaim Bloom said shortly after the signing. "There is a unique combination of contact ability and discipline in the strike zone and the ability to impact the baseball that we believe can really impact the game at the major league level."

“I say it's like the JapaneseJuan Soto,” former MLB outfielderAdam Jones, Yoshida's teammate in Japan for a brief stint, The Athletic reported in November. “He can hit the ball at any pitch and at any speed. Like Soto, he hits everything – and he doesn't walk or swing out of the zone.”

While Yoshida's ability to hit for power improved throughout his streak, his elite discipline was on display from day one. Yoshida was benched in just 8.5% of his plate appearances, the fourth-lowest percentage among 188 players with more than 100 plate appearances. That's largely due to his selective approach at the plate, as he chased just 21.8 percent of his pitches out of the strike zone — a ranking in the 83rd percentile, well below the MLB average of 28.4 percent.

And even when he was hunting, good things happened. Yoshida hit the ball on pitches out of the zone on 79.2% of his shots, ranking fourth out of 215 players with at least 50 of those shots. Expanding to all pitches, Yoshida's contact ability still stands out. His 16.0% whiff rate is in the 91st percentile, much better than the MLB average of 24.7%.

dealing with the heat

But when it comes to Yoshida's ability to make the jump from Japan - that's where he hit. 327/.

“What we saw really, really clearly when we saw him pitch in the varsity in Japan was that they were throwing 95, 96 [mph]. And there are very few poor guys who can do that [in Japan], and he was handling those pitchers very shrewdly,” Scott Boras, Yoshida's agent, said in December. "[He] showed power and had the same level of zone control and speed as other pitchers, so those are things that really impress him."

"I think the strongest thing," added Red Sox hitting coach Pete Fatse, "is the ability to hit fast."

Pitchers play harder in MLB than anywhere else, but the Red Sox staff felt Yoshida would be well-equipped to take the hit. In plate appearances ending in pitches at least 95 mph, Yoshida is currently averaging . 435 of beat, . 739 slugging percentage and . PA.

Yoshida's improvement over the move

As for the not so fast pitches? Therein lies arguably the biggest difference in Yoshida's production since the start of the season.

Although Yoshida generally struggled early, his performance against 4-seam fastballs was strong. Prior to April 20th, Yoshida had a .350 average, .458 OBP and .500 slugging percentage in 24 plate appearances that resulted in 4 hits.

Most notably, the turnaround has been in Yoshida's performance against break and off-speed pitches, which Baseball Savant defines as pitches that include sliders, curveballs, changeups, splitters and sweeps. Yoshida had a lot of trouble with those pitches early in the season, getting just one hit in 19 at bats that ended on those pitches.

Since then, Yoshida has dominated those fields with a batting lineup of around .409/.462/.818 in 26 plate appearances.

Yoshida vs. speed break/off shots before vs. from April 20, 2023

  • 053 batting average vs. .409 batting average
  • .172 expected batting average vs. 0.404 x BA
  • .143 OBP vs. .462 OBP
  • .105 slugging percentage vs. .818 slugging percentage
  • .229 expected slugging percentage vs. .857 xSLG
  • .127 weighted average base vs. 0.521 WOBA
  • Expected .222 woBA vs. .532xwOBA
  • Average launch angle -5.1 degrees vs. 11.1 degrees

These differences are clear and provide a clear picture of the exact progression of Yoshida's hitting streak. Yoshida has always been able to match the speed, as Boston has always believed. But if his improvements in the dirtier stuff continue, Yoshida could prove he's worth every penny Boston spent on him — a whopping nine billion of them.

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