Matt Adams, or Big City, looks to be in the middle of the breakout season that many hoped he would have two years ago, and there are reasons to believe that he will stay at a higher level of production.
Coming into the year, Cardinals fans were unsure if Matt Adams could be an everyday first baseman. Many of them, including some of us from Cardsblog, believed that Brandon Moss should have been the starter on Opening Day. Instead, Big City is having his best year and is one of the Cardinals’ best hitters.
Adams has always been a tough player to gauge. He has always hit the ball really hard, but he didn’t hit that many home runs. In 2013, he gave fans a taste of what he could do at the plate for half a season, hitting 17 home runs with a .220 isolated slugging in 296 at-bats.
Since then, Adams could be considered a disappointment, as he didn’t top 15 homers in either of the next two seasons. He also got hurt and missed most of 2015. Fast-forward to today and Adams has a .333/.386/.583 slash line which would be by far the best of his career.
While I don’t expect the average to continue (his BABIP is about fifty points higher than it should be), there are some very encouraging signs that indicate that Big City will be able to keep performing at a higher level than he has in the past.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) June 8, 2016
Early in their careers, players tend to pull the ball more. Some players never figure out how to use the whole field, but for some players it just clicks after a few years in the league. That appears to have happened with Adams, as he has hit the ball the other way nearly 31 percent of the time, a five percent increase from his career rate. He has been hitting to all fields, which often leads to a higher batting average.
Right now, Adams is actually benefitting from the shift, as he can go the other way when teams move their infielders to the right side. That is one of the reasons for his high BABIP now, but the change in hitting style also makes it harder for opponents to put their players in the exact right spot. No matter where they align themselves, he can still hit to another part of the field.
Another positive sign from Big City is that his hard hit rate is still increasing. His hard hit rate was already high, but when that number increases along with the traditional statistics, it is more likely that you will be able to sustain those results.
The third indicator that Adams’ recent results are not a fluke is that his line drive percentage is back up to where it was in 2014 (when he hit 35 doubles). Adams hits fly balls far more often than the average player does, but the line drive percentage is most representative of how well you are making contact. Adams has been able to square up the ball a lot better this year than last season.
Finally, perhaps the biggest indicator of progress at the plate is that Adams has increased his walk rate by more than two percent this year. Increasing your walk rate helps a lot because you can improve your offensive impact without actually hitting the ball any better. You can go into slumps and still contribute. Also, pitchers will have to be more careful if Adams continues to hit like this, so it’s good that Adams is improving his plate discipline now.
It may be a year or two later than initially expected, but Matt Adams has broken out and he will continue to hit for power and a decent (but not great like it currently is) average. The peripheral metrics showed that he had probably gotten a little unlucky in 2014 and 2015, but everything has been a huge improvement this year. Adams has earned his everyday starting job, and Brandon Moss won’t be able to take it away from him anytime soon.
Photo Captured by Billy Hurst – USA TODAY Sports