clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Teoscar Hernández isn’t going streaking

Mostly because streakers end up getting banned from the stadiums and that’s not a good idea for someone who earns his living there

Teoscar Hernandez at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 11, 2023
His present’s so bright, he’s gotta wear shades
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Teoscar Hernández hasn’t just heated up. He’s on fire this June (the last two games notwithstanding). His wRC+ has gone from a cool 85 at the end of May to a blazing 175 in June. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate has taken a nosedive from 33.3% to a more respectable 25.8%, and his walk rate has climbed from a League-worst 3.5% to a remarkable 11.3%. It’s as if he waved a magic wand and said, “May, who?”

My favorite way to see his improvement is visual. On the left, we have the pitches he swung and missed at in April and May—let’s call it the “whiff zone.” June is on the right. He has cleaned up his approach, leaving the whiff zone in the dust.

What about those tricky sliders out of the zone? They used to haunt Teo, but not anymore.

But what do we make of the improvements? Personally, I think I made a mistake. We’ve all been guilty of jumping on the “gut feeling” bandwagon and turning it into gospel truth. Sports commentary thrives on it, from Little League practice banter to the heated debates of middle-aged men on TV. There aren’t really any stakes to slinging baseball takes, and while that’s part of what’s fun about it, we end up with truthiness being passed off as wisdom.

But this year, I’ve resolved to try to be less full of baloney. So I’m embarrassed that the last time that we met at the Mitt, I went on an extended riff about Teoscar Hernández being “streaky.” I did it simply because it felt true. He just seems like a streaky player, doesn’t he? He’s got that streaky kind of profile of a high strikeout rate and big power.

But what does it even mean to be “streaky”? The term’s vagueness allows us to apply it to anyone without much accountability. I don’t believe it describes those marginal players who occasionally catch fire, even if we call their good runs “hot streaks.” I’m more interested in players who consistently oscillate between greatness and mediocrity, spending less time at their average level.

To really get into this, I would need more data than my Chromebook can handle and more SQL skills than I possess. But I thought it would at least be useful to compare Teo to some of his closest peers. If truthiness lies in your gut rather than your brain, then let’s call this a gut check.

I examined the 15 players whose 2020-2023 wRC+ was between 126 and 130. Teoscar is at 128. First, I sifted through their game logs, identifying ten-game stretches that were either 75 points higher than their average wRC+ (a hot streak) or 75 points lower than their average wRC+ (a cold streak). Then I calculated the percentage of games spent in these hot or cold streaks. The players with high percentages embody what I think we mean by “streaky.”

Streakiness of players with 126-130 wRC+

Player wRC+ % G in a streak
Player wRC+ % G in a streak
Brandon Lowe 127 27.2%
Jose Abreu 126 24.9%
Giancarlo Stanton 127 24.1%
Rhys Hoskins 126 24.0%
Austin Riley 128 23.6%
Luis Arraez 126 22.9%
George Springer 130 22.1%
Teoscar Hernandez 128 19.6%
Rafael Devers 128 18.6%
Ty France 128 18.4%
Matt Olson 128 16.7%
Nathaniel Lowe 126 16.4%
Trea Turner 130 15.1%
Xander Bogaerts 129 14.5%
Bo Bichette 127 13.2%

By this metric, Teoscar Hernández finds himself smack dab in the middle, ranking eighth out of the fifteen players, with 19.6% of his games coming during a streak.

Of course, there are limitations to this analysis, with the small sample size being the most obvious one. You might also see Jose Abreu at the top of the list and explain it away by his general downward trajectory, going from MVP to mediocrity. But a narrative could explain away any player’s having a high degree of streakiness. For example, you might look at Matt Olson going from the pitcher-friendly Coliseum to the hitter-friendly SunTrust Park or talk about Ty France having to work back from wrist injuries. But Olson and France are at the bottom of the list despite the potential narrative. The point is to try strip out the narrative and find who’s on a streak more often than his peers. And by that measure, Teo isn’t a particularly streaky player.

Now let’s return the notion that Teo is inherently streaky due to his profile. We often associate high strikeouts and big power with a boom-or-bust dynamic. But the numbers tell a different story. I conducted the same streakiness analysis for the fifteen players with the highest K%-BB% and an ISO of at least .200 from 2020 to 2023. I looked at K%-BB% rather than just K% because I think having a good eye is less likely to slump—I think of three-true-outcomes players as tending to have a higher floor. Looking at the list, it is indeed a bunch of players who I’d consider streaky. A couple three-true-outcomes guys end up there anyway because their strikeout rates are just that high, but this is generally the right group.

Streakiness of players with a streaky profile

Name wRC+ % of G in a streak
Name wRC+ % of G in a streak
Adam Duvall 106 30.4%
Jared Walsh 105 26.9%
Luis Robert 123 25.3%
Matt Chapman 112 20.5%
Tyler O'Neill 114 20.4%
Teoscar Hernandez 128 19.6%
Luke Voit 112 19.6%
Willy Adames 110 19.5%
Joey Gallo 105 18.8%
Mitch Haniger 113 18.5%
Patrick Wisdom 108 16.1%
Eugenio Suarez 103 15.6%
Adolis Garcia 108 15.6%
Salvador Perez 121 14.6%
Gary Sanchez 90 8.2%

Yet, surprisingly, these players span the streakiness spectrum. I mean, who knew Adolis García was less streaky than George Springer? Sometimes this profile is streaky (Jared Walsh) and sometimes it’s really not (Salvador Perez). But most importantly for our purposes, Teo once again finds himself comfortably in the middle, even among this different group of peers.

Another vague idea thrown around is that Hernández is a “slow starter.” That’s not a very satisfying explanation, but at least there’s more truth to that one. Looking at his wOBA, we find that seven out of his eight worst months as a full-time player have been Aprils and Mays. Furthermore, 68% of his cold streak games occurred during these two months.

But let’s face it, this explanation falls short when it comes to predicting future outcomes. We could blame his slow start this year on the literal cold weather, as the ball tends to carry more in warmer climates. Yet that reasoning doesn’t hold up for the years he played in Toronto, where Rogers Centre offers a controlled environment (except for the Covid-induced Florida stint in 2021, which wasn’t exactly chilly). Perhaps his slow starts are psychological. In my opinion, the more likely explanation is that it’s a coincidence.

Ultimately, it seems that the notion of Teoscar Hernández being inherently streaky is more fiction than fact. And being a slow starter doesn’t feel like something you can bet on. So as we watch him going forward, I’m going to try to abandon the stereotypes and instead appreciate the player he truly is—it’s a fun one to watch right now.

Most stats are through Saturday (a few are through Monday). Here’s a link to some of the data about the players I looked at.