Oakland third baseman in Matt Chapman had some impressive batted ball metrics in 2020 that breed further optimism for 2021. His ten home runs in 37 games were impressive and he posted an excellent GB/FB ratio. He was a Statcast hero in 2020, and we’ll dive into that more a little later. Recency bias may have you a bit down on Chapman, considering he struck out in ten of his final 11 at bats, which helped make his strikeout rate look worse than it really was. He dealt with a hip issue on and off throughout the course of the season, so getting fully healthy for 2021 is a step in the right direction. Chapman has great pop, an excellent glove and is in the middle of the Oakland lineup. Should we be excited for Chapman’s 2021 season? It’s time to take a look.
Playing in just 37 games kept him from ranking amongst the qualified hitters, but we’ll manipulate things to Chapman’s benefit. He posted an insane barrel rate of 18 percent last year, and his 93.6 mph average exit velocity was the highest of his career. Amongst players with at least 100 plate appearances, his barrel rate was the fifth-highest, as was his average exit velocity. Also, he increased again in terms of his exit velocity specifically on fly balls and line drives.
Avg. Exit Velo on FB/LD
League Ranking (Qualified or 50 BBE in 2020)
Do you know the classic image you see on Twitter with the two Spidermen? pointing at each other? Those were Chapman and Mike Trout ’s Statcast metrics from 2020.
Trout: 23.1-degree launch angle, 93.7 average exit velocity, 15.0 percent barrel rate
Chapman: 24.1-degree launch angle, 93.6 average exit velocity, 18.0 percent barrel rate
His 0.51 GB/FB ratio was the lowest of his career, and if he’s going to continue to make exceptionally hard contact, this is optimal for his power potential. With the hard contact he makes specifically on fly balls and line drives, he can sustain a lofty HR/FB ratio, because he hits those balls so damn hard. Any regression in his batted ball profile, especially in his home run park, would be detrimental to his power numbers. However, Chapman is showing no signs of slowing down there, and we have a three-year span now of him abusing baseballs among the league’s best.
Now, where it wasn’t too pretty for Chapman in 2021 was his strikeout rate. WARNING: What you are about to see is going to hurt your eyes, so please view at your own discretion.
O-Swing rate was up and his contact rate dropped to a career low in 2020. Furthermore, his swinging strike rate was absolutely atrocious and was a large factor in his massive 35.5 percent strikeout rate. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, he would have been in the bottom 20 of qualified hitters in both contact rate and swinging strike rate.
The saving grace here is that from 2017-2019, he was relatively stable in terms of contact rate, swinging strike rate, and O-Swing percentage. There’s reason to believe that this is an outlier, but there has always been some swing-and-miss in his game. He projects to have a strikeout rate in the mid-20s in 2021. Getting back to staying in the zone is valuable for those who play in an on-base percentage league. His .276 mark is atrocious, aided by his measly 5.3 percent walk rate. From 2017-2019, he was anywhere between 9.4 percent and 10.9 percent, so we’ve seen a prolonged stretch of a respectable rate for Chapman. He should return closer to his career norm there as well.
I mentioned it earlier, but 0-for-11 with ten strikeouts to end your season is far from ideal. If we remove that horrid stretch, his strikeout rate drops to 31.2 percent on the year. Still well above his career average, but hey, not as bad as the 35 percent mark.
Chapman’s power is there and he’s been able to sustain and even improve upon it. A clean bill of health heading into 2021 is key, and he’s set for a career year as he turns 28 years young at the end of April. He’ll need the guys around him to produce to help with runs scored and RBI totals, but I’m bullish on Chapman in 2021. He may not give you quite as good of a batting average in 2021 like he did back in 2018 (.278), but this is the year he crosses the 40-home run threshold.
As the 14th third baseman off the board, per NFBC data, Chapman is one of my favorite values at the position, and a monster year with 40 home runs, 100 RBI and a .250-.255 average could be in store.