By most accounts, Jurickson Profar had a successful 2018 season. Some have called it a breakout year.
I’m not exactly sure why.
His .254 batting average, his .335 on-base percentage and his .793 OPS were solid but not what one would call spectacular. As proof, out of the 141 batters with enough at-bats to qualify, Profar was 87th in average, 69th in OBP, and 67th in OPS in baseball.
Solid middle-of-the-road stuff.
He knocked in 77 runs, which tied him with Nomar Mazara for second most on the Rangers (behind Gallo’s 92) and which tied him, along with four others, for 57th most in MLB. Nothing remarkable there. But, again, solid.
His defense was deplorable. Nobody committed more errors than Profar’s 25.
He stole just ten bases.
So, why was his 2018 season considered a “breakout year” as so many people have said?
Maybe it’s because Profar hit twenty home runs. That seems like a magical number. Until you realize it isn’t. At least, not anymore. As Jason Stark pointed out in his article in The Athletic about the numbers behind the numbers in the 2018 season, twenty-home-run hitters are now a dime-a-dozen in baseball.
It used to be, if you hit twenty home runs in a season you were a bona fide power hitter. But the home run is cheap now. In 2018, Stark pointed out, exactly 100 players hit the twenty-home-run threshold. That makes three seasons in a row at least one hundred batters have hit twenty or more homers. And that has never happened in baseball history, not even in the Steroids era. In 2014, only fifty-seven players hit twenty-or-more home runs.
As he points out, “The ability to hit twenty home runs in a season is no longer a unique skill in baseball.” In his words, it’s just ordinary.
Stark did a lot of research and came up with a darn good theory for this. As he notes, the increase in the rate of fly balls since 2014 is three percent. The increase in the rate of home runs is thirty-four percent. This whole supposed launch angle revolution is not really happening. Or, if it is, it’s accounted for just three percent more fly balls. So, what’s making more balls fly out of more parks? He concludes, it has to be the ball.
But getting back to the twenty-home-run threshold, he quoted one A.L. executive who said, “We can back into guys who can hit twenty almost by accident. So, unless you have some other unique ability—unless you play incredible defense or you’re [an elite] runner—why would you be in demand?”
Sobering thought for a lot of players and agents.
Maybe it’s in comparison to his other seasons that Profar’s 2018 season seemed like a breakthrough.
This wasn’t intended to do a number on Profar. Just to point out the numbers suggest his season was just ordinary.