Michael A. Taylor's Numbers are Weird

The improvement in Michael A. Taylor's production at the plate this year has been a welcome surprise. I really hope the Royals are going to cash in on it and trade him. The more I look at what he is doing, the less I believe it is sustainable. Most of the improved numbers are coming from a higher walk rate and a lower strike out rate than he has ever shown in the past, and if you walk more and strike out less that will pretty naturally lead to better overall numbers. The problem is that none of the things I would expect to cause fewer strike outs and more walks is happening.

For his career, Taylor's walk rate has stayed in the 6 to 7.5% range until this year's 10.9%. The strike out rate has been a little less stable mostly being in the low 30% range until the last two seasons when it was 27.3% both years. Right now, it is sitting at 23.2%. Generally, I would expect that sort of shift to come from patience at the plate, being more selective. But the swing rate overall, in the zone, and out of the zone have all been pretty similar to historic rates. Also, his contact rates are not improved significantly. He is making a little bit more contact on balls in the zone, but that's about it. He is seeing fewer strikes overall, only 40.3% of the pitches thrown to him have been in the zone, the lowest of his career, but it was 40.7% last year and not a huge difference. A bit better contact rate in the zone might improve strike out rate some, but not walks, and especially not by the amount he has improved.

The other thing that really stands out to me is that his contact is worse than it has been in previous years. When Michael hits the ball, the average exit velocity has been 86.9 mph, the lowest of his career. His hard hit rate is also the lowest of his career. His batted ball numbers look quite bad too. He is hitting more fly balls and a lot more infield fly balls, so you would expect more of the balls he has put into play to turn into outs. That is not the case, as his BABIP is .341 and above league average. Baseball Savant uses the batted ball profile to give him and expected batting average of .236 versus the actual .271, so if he regresses to his current batted ball profile all of the gains we have seen in production this year are likely to disappear.

It is possible that I am missing something and the pitch types he is swinging at has changed because he is identifying them better, but he is seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance than last year, so even something like that seems very unlikely. Overall, I have a natural distrust for players over the age of 30 suddenly doing things that we have not seen before. Salvador Perez in 2020 and 2021 showed a new level of power that seems to be real though, so it is not impossible. I just don't think that Micheal A. Taylor is actually a good hitter now, and I would be trying to unload him before the mirage disappears.

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