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Bryson Stott, serving up hits left and (a lot left) and right

He’s hot now, but will it (and can it) last?

Cincinnati Reds v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Small sample sizes are always fun to look at, especially when they involve players that we have started to create into a fan favorite. Bryson Stott has starting getting that treatment of late, using his apparent anointment as postgame antics maker to curry favor with the fanbase. He’s also used a nice little hitting streak to get in the good graces, his 17 game ride tying the franchise mark to start a season.

There is a certain jadedness (?) to the streak though, to any streak, really, that begins a season. The first thing one finds him/herself asking is - can it last? Whenever a hitter goes on for this long, it doesn’t seem real enough to go on as long as it does. When it happens to begin a season, particularly with a player who is “young” like Stott is, the next question that comes to mind - is this start a change he can sustain?

The first question is easy to answer: no. Stott will not have a 162 game hitting streak this season. No matter how well he is going right now, there is just no possible way he can get a hit in every single games this year, the sheer preposterousness of thinking about it boggles the mind. However, it’s the way Stott has been playing makes you wonder if he can keep the start going. Is he doing anything new this year? Has his approach changed? Is he doing anything differently? Let’s try and see if we can come up with an answer.

For me, the first thing I thought was that the new rules on shifting have helped Stott a great deal. After all, one look at his BABIP number of .491 suggests there has been more than just a modicum of luck involved in how he gone off to start the year. You don’t get a BABIP number that high without a few things breaking your way. Naturally, that would make one have the assumption that the shift elimination has helped a few more groundballs have snuck through on his pull side. Well, the numbers don’t really back that up too much. According to Baseball Savant, Stott was hardly shifted at all in 2022 and when he was, he actually performed better with a shift on than he did without (.338 wOBA shifted vs. .276 wOBA non-shifted). One gander at his spray chart from a season ago and you can see why he wasn’t shifted.

You can see that there wasn’t much really reason to play a pull shift on Stott last season as there wasn’t really a discernible pattern. This year, there has been a bit more change in where he is hitting the ball, a change that could explain a bit why the BABIP is so high.

Stott’s outs have been more of the pull variety, but you can a concerted effort to use all of the field when hitting the ball. At first, my initial thought was that a lot of those balls you see seemingly dropping in in front of the left fielder would be flares, Texas Leaguers for those of a certain age, but a quick check on them from this page shows that some of those exit velocity numbers are approaching 100 miles per hour. All of this can probably confidently answer the question that comes from thinking about the shift with a firm “no”. He’s not benefitting from the elimination of the shift as much as one might think for left-handed hitters. So, it is safe to assume that the BABIP will likely come down from the lofty heights it’s currently at, affecting his overall numbers in the long run. But what about how he’s hitting? Let’s go there now.

It’s pretty well known that Stott’s 2022 was a tale of two seasons. He made the team out of spring training last year, but he struggled so badly to begin the year, he was almost unplayable and had to be sent to Lehigh Valley. When he came back up, he wasn’t able to flourish until after Joe Girardi was fired and Rob Thomson let him play with regularity. That makes comparing his current season with last year a little difficult. As much as we don’t want to ignore how he performed to start the year, we almost have to as the season felt very Jekyll and Hyde. So, we’re going to do the time honored tradition of cherry picking stats.

Why? Because I want to.

In all honesty, you can start Stott’s 2022 season with June 1, which was when he was pretty much done platooning with anyone and was just left alone. By starting there, we can see if there is anything he’s doing differently and compare them. Start with the surface level numbers:

2022: 388 PA, 8.0 BB%, 16.5 K%, 48.3 GB%, 34.7 FB%, 17.0 LD%
2023: 72 PA, 1.4 BB%, 23.6 K%, 50.9 GB%, 26.4 FB% 22.6 LD%

He’s hitting more line drives than he did last year and while that walk rate is a bit scary, it’s also only 72 plate appearances. Look for that to stabilize a bit more with time, especially with a skill like that that he has shown solid work in in the past. Beyond those numbers, we can use Statcast to look at that same time period and go a little deeper into the batted ball profile.

2022: 388 PA, .253 xBA, 14 barrels, 39% hard hit rate, 88.3 average exit velocity
2023: 72 PA, .271 xBA, 1 barrel, 43% hard hit rate, 87.2 average exit velocity

So maybe he isn’t hitting the ball quite as hard as last year, but again, the small sample size of only 72 plate appearances doesn’t lend much of anything to us as we try to make a determination of if he’ll continue to impress at the plate. What is nice is that the trends he’s showing at least suggest that the improvement he’s showing at the plate is at least sustainable moving forward. Again, the fact that his BABIP is so, so high might mean regression is coming, but maybe it won’t be as steep as we could expect.

There are things one would like to see improvement from with Stott. His HR/FB% has gone down this year from 8.3% to 7.1%. More “over the fence” power would be nice to see, but we can all live with what he’s produced as far as power so far this season. I mentioned the walk rate before, but seeing improvement in his strikeout rate would also be something the team would want as well. What is nice to see from Stott so far this young season is his usage of all fields when hitting the ball. The spray chart above is a demonstration of the strides Stott has made under Kevin Long so far in his young career.

That leaves only one thing to answer: can he sustain the start to the season? That remains to be seen. It is a small sample size, yes, but there have been some improvements made in some key areas that suggest what you see so far is a newer, better approach from Stott that can be maintained. There is a lot of season to go, but there is a lot to like so far.