To say the most value-added at-bat of the week came off a pitcher who has been unhittable might be a little dramatic, but there’s no debating that Julio Urias has been extremely tough on opposing batters for quite some time.
In fact, since the start of the 2020 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander had gone 9-0 with a 2.68 ERA while allowing a .204 batting average and two runs or fewer in 16 of 19 appearances – including the postseason – entering Thursday’s start against the Colorado Rockies. Urias’ only save during that stretch came in October when he closed out the franchise’s first World Series title since 1988.
All that changed (at least for one night) on Thursday when the Rockies tagged him for five runs – the most Urias had allowed in 20 starts dating back to April 12, 2019 – and seven hits in a 7-5 loss at Dodger Stadium.
With the visitors up 1-0 in the third inning, Garrett Hampson, who had just three hits in his previous 23 at-bats, dug in and put together the MVA at-bat of the week in an unlikely matchup.
Each week, we’ll dig into the data to find who had some of wildest hits, whiffs, home runs and at-bats. Some of those might include the craziest BIP+ hit, the worst swing and miss, the hit with the lowest probability of contact, the most unlikely home run and, of course, the best at-bat in terms of the most value added.
So how did the 2016 third-round draft pick of the Rockies earn the MVA at-bat? We used raw value (RV+), which is essentially a cumulative measure of performance over each pitch of an at-bat instead of simply the end result, to calculate the total value added in each plate appearance.
So the batter gets credit for making good decisions and dinged for making bad ones (discipline+) on each pitch, a value for whether he’s able to make contact on his swing (contact+) and credit for how much damage he’s able to do once he makes contact (BIP+). Using all three of those components, we can measure how much value a player adds to his offensive line in a single at-bat.
With one out in the inning, Hampson, a speedster who leads the National League with four stolen bases, tries to bunt his way on but fouls off the first offering from Urias. He then takes a fastball in on the hands that just misses the zone before failing to check his swing on a changeup off the plate to fall behind in the count 1-2.
At this point, Hampson starts to battle his way back for MVA at-bat honors. After fouling off another outside changeup, Urias tries to get him to chase on a higher-than-high fastball. It’s a common two-strike pitch that has a very high whiff percentage, but Hampson manages to foul it straight back to pick up a good amount of value.
In the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Urias tries to sneak another fastball by Hampson, who fights it off again. Having seen that Hampson is starting to time up the fastball, Urias comes back with a well-located curveball with a late drop off the plate.
As seen in this clip below, it’s a strong take on a pitch that again has a high whiff percentage. Hampson displayed decent discipline and contact at the plate in 2020, finishing right around the league average in discipline+ (105) and contact+ (95).
In the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Urias goes back to the changeup just off the plate that had coaxed two swings earlier in the at-bat. This time, Hampson picks up positive value yet again with his decision not to chase.
He’s battled his way back after falling behind 1-2 and Urias finally gives in on the ninth pitch of the showdown with a 3-2 fastball right down the middle. Hampson finished below the league average in BIP+ (86) and RV+ (68) while hitting .234 with five homers in 53 games last season, but he gets this one.
The 26-year-old utilityman hammers it to left for his 14th career home run in 195 games over four big-league seasons. Here, he racks up a positive value for his decision to swing, his ability to make contact and, of course, major points in BIP+ for his solo shot into the bullpen.
Hampson certainly isn’t a slugger and is light on big-league awards so far, but he’s a winner to us this week.
Data and analysis by Lucas Haupt.