MForgive the typos and formatting issues, I’m doing most of this from my phone.
It's late in the year, the Royals are WAAYYYYY out of contention and have been for the majority of the season. I normally write 2-3 fanposts a year but this year have not really participated much on this site.
I wanted to take a few minutes, though, to shine a bit more light on one of the few bright spots from this season; Ryan O'Hearn and his performance over his first 30 games.
(massive, indisputable and completely necessary small sample size alert here)
O'Hearn has been... good, in his first 30 games. Using fangraphs batting leaders and sorting by wRC+, you find names at the top you would expect. Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, etc.
One name you will not find is Ryan O'Hearn. The default on fangraphs is "qualified" (502 At bats at the end of the season. I believe they pro-rate this throughout the season to 3.1 per game played). Ryan O'Hearn is not qualified, he has only 113 PAs as of this writing. You can, however, drop the number of PAs required. I set it to 110 and the magic happens.
If you sort by wRC+, you see Ryan O'Hearn come in at #7 at 161 (100 is average). Some of the names below him on this list are Aaron Judge, Jose Ramierz, Matt Carpenter, Manny Machado and Free Freeman. More impresive, to me, is if you sort by ISO (isolated slugging). O'Hearn is #1, a .364. The next best is .329. If we look at other stats we see he is not outside of the norm for the top of this list.
I compare him to the top 30 hitters who have qualified in the following stats:
This will give us a closer look at how he's performed (again, this is a massively small sample size, though plate discipline numbers do tend to stabalize fairly quickly).
BB% - 11.5
K% - 27.4
ISO - .364
If we take a look at the average rates of the top 30 qualified hitters in baseball by wRC+, we see the following numbers:
BB% - 11.63
K% - 20
ISO - .239
Fangraphs library defines an "Above average" BB% to be 10% or higher. 20% is an average K% (though it's known
that K% is up the last few seasons somewhat, I would say looking at this an argument could be made that 20% is above average, and move the remaining classifications down a bit too, but that is for brighter minds than me to work out).
An ISO of .140 is "average", and BABIP is considered average at around .300. It's not surprising that the best hitters in baseball are at or above average in all of these statistics on average.
If we compare O'Hearns numbers, a few things jump out:
His walk rate is almost identical to the average walk rate of the top 30 hitters. This is very encouraging for his future as plate discipline numbers tend to stabalize fairly quickly.
His ISO is insane, and is unsustainable. Since 2000, only 7 times has a player had an ISO at or above his .364 over a full season (and 5 of them are Barry Bonds). Digging deaper only 70 times has a player carried an ISO for a full season that was over .300. Ryan O'Hearn is not the next Barry Bonds.
His BABIP is actually low. Going into 2018 he had never had a season in the minors with a BABIP below .300. This suggests a little bad luck in batted balls.
The bad news here, however, is his K%. Looking back at 2017, only 14 players who qualified had a higher K%. Those 14 players DID, however, average a 115 wRC+, and the standout is Aaron Judge and his 172 wRC+ while striking out 30.7%
of the time last season.
Also worth nothing, his K% and BB% are fairly consistent with what he produced in the minors throughout his career, as are his batting average (.263) and his OBP (.354).
I don't really know if there are any conclusions that can be drawn from this data. O'Hearn is a player who in his first 30 major league games has looked like an All-Star slugger. His stats from his first 30 games are compareable to the best hitters in the game today. The question is if he can continue to produce at anywhere near this level.
The best season by a Royal since 2010 (by wRC+) is Gordon's 2011 campaign where he carried a 140 wRC+. Is it possible
O'Hearn could challenge that sometime in the coming years?
That's an awful lot of hype for a player who has only played 30 games, and I admit the most likely outcome is that he falls way back to Earth, but it's September in a year where the Royals are destined to lose over 100 games. I think I'll allow myself some rose-colored glasses for a few months, getting to know the 2019 Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger winner cut his teeth.
This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.