Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Believe it: Sosuke Genda Is Dominating As A Hitter

Yes, we knew he was going to be a defensive wizard, but in the batter's box, Genda is showing that he's more than that. The Lions' 2016 third round pick out of Toyota Motors has been turning heads for his defense as the shortstop, but what's starting to come into view is just how good he has been with the bat in his hands. Just a couple weeks ago, I didn't put much stock into it, but thanks to our friends at 1.02 Essence of Baseball, we get a closer look at what has been the key to his early success.

If you're a fan of advanced metrics, please do check out this website it will enhance your Japanese Baseball viewing and just make you a smarter baseball fan. There are three things to take away from Sosuke Genda's statistics through May 12 and here they are.

1. Genda's Batted Ball Statistics Are A Good Early Sign, Despite High BABIP

Whenever a hard hit ball is hit right at an outfielder or a soft ground ball finds the outfield grass, the term BABIP can sometimes be heard by nearby fans. Quite simply, it measures the luck that a batter has when it comes to balls that a player hits in play. Right now, Sosuke Genda's BABIP is at .355. For our MLB fans out there, we generally like to think of .300 as the median for where a hitter should be, but from what I've seen that's not entirely accurate in Japan since players in NPB put the ball in play a lot more than their MLB counterparts. We really won't know what Genda's general average BABIP is probably until his third year in NPB, but looking at his contact percentages there are good signs that his early success isn't just beginner's luck.

It may be a shock to some, but among the Lions' everyday players, Sosuke Genda has the highest line drive % on the team with 15.6%, which means he's hitting the sweet spot more than anyone. And when you add to the fact that his strikeout % is at only 11% as a rookie (compared to Fumikazu Kimura who has a 25.8%), it's clear that not only is Genda holding his own against top flight pitchers in Japan, but he's succeeding at a tremendous rate. Things look even better when you look at how hard he's hitting the ball, as Genda's batted balls are hit at medium-high contact 85.4% of the time which is also the best among Seibu's regular position players. That might be the most startling realization of all when looking at Genda's deeper numbers.

2. Genda's Base running Skills Are A Tremendous Asset

In our April podcast episode, I indicated that I wasn't a fan of having Sosuke Genda batting in the second spot in the order because I felt that Hideto Asamura was better suited for that position being the Lions' best contact hitter. At this point in time though, it looks like Hatsuhiko Tsuji is being bailed out because of not only his bat, but also his base running. Sure, we've seen Genda bunting for hits at a solid rate, but the advanced metrics confirm Genda's base path prowess goes beyond just that.

Right now, he has nine stolen bases on 11 steal attempts which hopefully will continue as the year goes on, but looking at his UBR rating which measures how much his base running helps his team, Genda has a 2.2 which is higher than any regular players with only the Carp's Yoshihiro Maru and the Hawks' Yuki Yanagita anywhere near him at 1.9 and 1.8 respectively.

That means that Genda is successfully advancing to the extra base at a rate more than anyone in all of NPB and this validates Genda as the Lions two-hole hitter because when he's on base (and right now he has a solid OBP of .354) it will be the Lions best hitters up to bat with him on base with Asamura, Okawari-kun, and Ernesto Mejia usually following him in the order. His impact base running will pay dividends when he's on first base and if any of that trio behind hits a ball in the gap, more times than not, Genda is scoring.

3. Don't Look Now But Genda's Second On The Team In WAR

You heard that right. Only Shogo Akiyama has a higher WAR than Genda at 2.3 while the latter is at 2.2. Why is this? Put simply, Genda's all-around skills in the early going of this season have propelled him to this level, while Ernesto Mejia and Okawari-kun maybe have negative defensive or base running value, Genda has positive value in those areas while also being slightly above average with the bat. You add that all together and you have a high WAR. And for those wondering, among all rookie position players, Sosuke Genda leads the pack in WAR.


Hopefully, when you're watching the Lions, this piece will make you watch Genda's base running since it's often that we take it for granted since the television cameras usually just show where a ball goes rather than what's going on the basepaths unless someone's gets thrown out. It'll be interesting to see whether or not his hitting continues but the peripheral stats are good signs for continued success in the future. It's hard to see the Lions getting this much value out of lower round pick for the next several years, and I'm going to certainly enjoy watching Sosuke Genda's career path.


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