On the surface, San Francisco Giants third basemen Evan Longoria has not been great this season. But here is why he’ll be OK.
His stats do not jump off the page; however, a breakout could be in the making, which would be huge for the San Francisco Giants.
Nearly halfway through the season, Longoria is batting .248 with a .718 OPS. This would be a career low in OPS, and one of his worst seasons in terms of batting average. There is reason to believe he will perform better than this.
Basing Longoria’s season on statistics is a fair way to evaluate him. His stats have not been great; however, if we focus on the process, rather than the results, it seems likely he will break out at some point this season. I know, this is hard to do in a results-oriented business such as baseball.
Currently, Longoria has 16 doubles and 10 home runs. This is OK production in a lineup that has a number of above-average hitters. So, from this standpoint, he is still posting fine power numbers. However, this is not the reason to believe in a Longoria breakout.
When the season began, Longoria was swinging at everything. This is a good approach if you make contact. However, Longoria was not making contact. He probably could not even make contact with the broadside of the barn. As a result, his strikeout rate was very high.
Since then, Longoria’s strikeout rate has improved and is closer to his career norm. So, making contact is not an issue for him. In addition to this, Longoria’s .280 BABIP this season is nearly 20 points below his career average, so some progression to the mean is expected.
The big thing for Longoria is how he is hitting the ball. The traditional stats do not convey this point. According to Fangraphs, Longoria is making hard contact nearly 47 percent of the time. This is huge spike compared to previous seasons, and would be a career high in this category. Contrarily, Longoria’s medium and soft contact rates are down. If you watch Longoria hit, he makes a lot of loud outs — these stats support this idea.
Similarly, Longoria’s average exit velocity is 90.1 MPH. Pretty cool, huh? This stat alone does not reveal too much; however, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Freddie Freeman are in the same neighborhood in terms of average exit velocity. Longoria is hitting the ball hard enough.
Longoria’s quality of contact is not the issue. If there is one area where Longoria’s bat could improve, it is his launch angle. Longoria has a history of hitting a lot of ground balls — this season is no different. He would stand to benefit from getting more lift on his swing.
Brandon Belt had a goal of hitting more balls in the air prior to this season. That approach is paying dividends for him. It is easy picturing Longoria realizing a similar benefit.
Anyways, Longoria’s bat looks to be fine by many measures. He is consistently making good contact. It would be nice if he took an extra walk or two.
However, if he continues making good contact, he will find holes. Longoria is the type of player we will appreciate a bit more when he starts finding those holes.