Yankee fans and MLB fans around the world should only really care about two players’ averages: Cody Bellinger, who leads the majors in batting average, and Chris Davis who had a historic stretch of games without a hit. No matter how hot Davis gets at the dish throughout the year, his average will still be laughable.
That leaves at least 278 everyday players’ averages that fans do not need to concern themselves with, and that includes Gio Urshela.
It is easy to immediately bring up average when trying to quantify Ursehla’s impact on the season, especially when his .320 is on every national baseball show, plastered over stadium scoreboards, and the only stat John Sterling talks about. However, batting average does not do Urshela, or any baseball player a justice.
First off, his OPS and OPS+ are great indicators of success. For a non-power hitter, a .842 OPS suggests he is getting on base effectively (some because of the average) but has eleven doubles as well. MLB average for. OPS is .747 as of June 3.
His OPS+ of 124 shows his production based on a scale of 100 being the leaguewide average, adjusting to the ballpark. Playing in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, his OPS+ is adjusted downward so a 124 proves his ability at the plate. For example, Manny Machado, another third baseman, plays in San Diego, a tough place to hit, and is only 2 points above average with an OPS+ of 102.
His 17.7 strikeout rate is good, not great, but better than league average (22.2%) and lower than his career ratio. In a game full of failure, particularly in the form of strikeouts, Urshela is a breath of fresh air by getting on base and avoiding strikeouts.
If you must have batting average somewhere in your appreciation for Urshela, admiring his .385 average with runners in scoring position is acceptable. He is coming up in big moments for the Yankees to carry the load while the Yankees big sluggers are out. When those behemoths like Judge and Stanton return, Urshela will be on base patiently waiting to be driven in or can anchor the lineup to clean up what is left over after a booming double by Judge.
In the meantime, it seems Urshela is here to stay. His .378 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is high at .378 which suggests he is on a very hot streak, and maybe is getting a little lucky. FanGraphs.com cites a BABIP over .380 as being unattainable and a result of a player getting lucky, or bad defense.
The caveat to his high BABIP is the change in his exit velocity. Over his first three seasons, the ball was leaving Gio’s bat on average, 86.5 MPH. That is up to 90 MPH this season. High exit velocities are another contributing factor to a high BABIP, and one a batter controls instead of just luck and bad defense. A 3 MPH uptick in Ursehla’s exit velocity this season reveals this is a legitimate revolution in Ursehla’s ability and he has finally developed into a big league ballplayer according to Baseball Savant at MLB.com.
Even if that high BABIP falls a bit and Urshela lowers his production throughout the grind of the season, signs indicate it will not be a disastrous free fall. Do yourselves and Urshela a favor and keep an eye on his OPS to appreciate his success, not his average.
Featured Image: Paul J. Bereswill/New York Post