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What's Behind Arraez's August Struggles?


Cody Pirkl
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Luis Arraez has had a tremendous season, likely earning the title of Twins MVP so far. He looked to be on track for a career year through the end of July, but then came a confusing August. What went wrong for the Twins leadoff man in the dog days of summer?

 

In case you haven’t heard, Luis Arraez is an incredible hitter. In the era of trying to do as much damage as possible on every swing, Arraez waits out opposing pitchers and is just as happy to take a walk or squeak an opposite-field grounder through the hole as he is to drive the ball over the fence. In addition to how fun it is to watch his unique style, Arraez is also quite good. He’s been an above-average hitter by wRC+ in every month of 2022, which makes an August slump hard to complain too much about. Make no mistake, however, Arraez has hit a skid over the last month. What could be the cause?

.269/.316/.394, a .710 OPS for Arraez in August. While still 4% above a league-average hitter in that time, it’s a far cry from the .338/.411/.445 line he posted in the first four months. Hitters slump, and oftentimes those slumps look a lot worse than what Arraez has done in August. Still, it’s worth exploring what could be going on.

There have been a few narratives floated about Arraez’s struggles. The first of which has been an increase in fly balls, perhaps in pursuit of more power from the Twins leadoff man. Looking back, it’s easy to remember several lazy fly balls Arraez has produced. His 25.7% flyball rate in August is perfectly acceptable and is lower than the rate he produced in April and July in which he posted a .783 and .817 OPS respectively.

The second has been a decline in the quality of his at-bats, particularly an increase in chase rate. Again, this mark has not seen a spike, and saw a decrease from July. And so it’s time to explore the simplest explanation for the decline in Arraez’s struggles: Impacting the baseball.

His struggles are actually quite simple and yet very complicated. Arraez simply isn’t hitting the ball as hard. For the last three seasons, Arraez’s hard hit rate hovered just above 30% for reference. In August, he posted a 20.8% mark. While this explains his struggles, the complicated question becomes why.

Of course all players are entitled to slumps, including the hitting machine Luis Arraez. It’s entirely possible that the calendar turns to September, and he’s exactly the same hitter he was for the first four months. That being said, it’s something to keep an eye on. Arraez suffered from what could be considered chronic knee issues every year of his career thus far… except for 2022. He famously spent last offseason working out with Nelson Cruz to strengthen his ailing knees and it’s hard to argue the results so far.

That being said, Arraez is five games from tying his career high in games played with over a month left. He also hasn’t had any IL trips along the way to catch a breather and has nearly been an everyday player as we head into September. There’s no way to know for certain, but hopefully, his recent performance isn’t a result of his knees or any other nagging injury. 

If I had to guess, I think Arraez finds his way back to being tremendously productive in the batter's box in September. He’s a smart hitter who can likely find a way to adjust his approach to still succeed even if he can’t get his higher exit velocities to fully return. For a hitter who hits a noticeable skid and still posts an above-average batting line, it’s hard to be too concerned moving forward. Do you agree?

 


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Simple.  He's "swinging up" instead of "swinging through."  It plagues most hitters who have experienced a few home runs. Too bad. He's best when he connects, hits for average (the best in baseball!) and simply gets on base.  His ability to start the ball rolling has been remarkable.  

Avoid the temptation. Keep looking for the open spots and connect! Swing through!  You've proven you're better at that than most everyone who steps up to the plate!

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I love that his slump is still above average hitter.  I think he is just going through adjustment to how he is being pitched.  Early in year he was smacking line drives to LF all day long.  Now teams are pounding him inside to try to prevent that, leading to him needing to pull more.  I am not worried about him at all, and all players have a slump.  He is still leading league in hitting, and I would still take him in the box over just about anybody in our line up. 

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15 minutes ago, Trov said:

I love that his slump is still above average hitter.  I think he is just going through adjustment to how he is being pitched.  Early in year he was smacking line drives to LF all day long.  Now teams are pounding him inside to try to prevent that, leading to him needing to pull more.  I am not worried about him at all, and all players have a slump.  He is still leading league in hitting, and I would still take him in the box over just about anybody in our line up. 

100% right!  pitchers once they get two strikes, aren't trying to get him out with breaking balls and pitches away.   Which Arraez is amazing at punching to LF and between SS and 3rd.

They are busting him up and in 

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Couple a weeks ago I mentioned that they should bring up Palacios to sub the injured Polanco (actually I've been advocating to bring up Palacios for awhile because I believed Polanco could use the rest). I was countered with that we need to keep Arraez's bat in the line up. I countered that Arraez needs the rest especially against LHPs because he's not used to play so many innings. He could be tired or injured because of his poor knees.

If indeed I'm right and not given the needed rest and his BA keeps falling, his Batting Title could be in jeopardy.

 

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11 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

Couple a weeks ago I mentioned that they should bring up Palacios to sub the injured Polanco (actually I've been advocating to bring up Palacios for awhile because I believed Polanco could use the rest). I was countered with that we need to keep Arraez's bat in the line up. I countered that Arraez needs the rest especially against LHPs because he's not used to play so many innings. He could be tired or injured because of his poor knees.

If indeed I'm right and not given the needed rest and his BA keeps falling, his Batting Title could be in jeopardy.

 

I think it would be a really bad idea to bench Arraez during a pennant race in favor of an untested rookie.

Did you know that Palacios is actually older than Luis Arraez?

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2 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

Good essay, but hard to add anything.  I have wondered if the increased power might be part of a change in approach and if so I want the 338 hitter back. 

Appreciate it! I dug quite a bit for any change in approach but there doesn't appear to be a whole lot there. His 13 degree launch angle in August was perfectly fine and was actually lower than it was in July. The same can be said for flyball rate and pull rate, the two things you typically see increase when a hitter is only worried about homers (see Buxton).

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3 hours ago, Murph said:

Simple.  He's "swinging up" instead of "swinging through."  It plagues most hitters who have experienced a few home runs. Too bad. He's best when he connects, hits for average (the best in baseball!) and simply gets on base.  His ability to start the ball rolling has been remarkable.  

Avoid the temptation. Keep looking for the open spots and connect! Swing through!  You've proven you're better at that than most everyone who steps up to the plate!

His launch angle actually decreased from July though and his 13 degree launch angle in August isn't really a problem. His launch angle in all of 2020 for example was 12.1 degrees.

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2 hours ago, DJL44 said:

I think it would be a really bad idea to bench Arraez during a pennant race in favor of an untested rookie.

Did you know that Palacios is actually older than Luis Arraez?

Bench is a strong word that's not what I'm saying. Arraez is not an "iron man", keep throwing Arraez out there even to play 2B or against LHP, thru out the season is counter productive. Rest is a positive thing, after getting adequate rest, he can bounce back & be his wonderful self. If he can't hit he becomes a liability especially at 2B.

Age differential has nothing to do as far subbing 2B or SS, it's who's better.

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5 hours ago, dxpavelka said:

Regression to the mean.  Also known as a slump.  Happens to every player. 

That's not what regression to the mean means. It means he drops to his normal level of play, not below it to get his overall numbers to the mean. That said? I'd guess he's a bit tired at this point.

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5 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

That's not what regression to the mean means. It means he drops to his normal level of play, not below it to get his overall numbers to the mean. That said? I'd guess he's a bit tired at this point.

Six of one half dozen of the other

 

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