Is Ryon Healy’s Power For Real?

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One of the things you can say about Seattle Mariners first baseman Ryon Healy is that when he hits the ball he does do damage. Healy’s slash line heading into Thursday night’s game against his former team, the Oakland Athletics, was .217/.234/.522. How is it possible to only be batting .217 and yet slug .522? A large part of it is the combination of an extremely small sample size – Healy only had 46 AB for the season that has included a trip to the DL – and a depressingly low BABIP of just .188.

Combine a ground ball rate of 41.7% with a big boy – Healy is 6’5”, 225lbs and ranks 269th in MLB in sprint speed – and some bad luck in a small sample, and you could get a .188 BABIP. Healy has a lifetime .322 BABIP, so the BA and even the OBP should normalize with more PA. Healy is currently walking just 2.1% of the time, and while he isn’t known for a ton of walks – lifetime 3.9% – even that is almost twice as many per PA as he has currently.

Slugging % is Up

What stands out early for Healy is the power. Slugging .522 in the young season, Healy is hitting nearly 50 points higher than his career slugging percentage of .477. Did I mention that Healy is a big guy? Well, he also has turned twenty-six for this season, an age that a lot of ballplayers begin to grow into their game power.

When Healy came up with the A’s in 2016, his average exit velocity was 88.4 mph. In 2017, when the average baseball fan began to discover exit velocity and launch angle as Statcast graphics began to inundate broadcasts, Healy stayed about the same – 88.2 mph. But this season, he has seen his exit velocity jump to 91.8 mph, but without really changing his launch angle much. The extra three miles an hour boosts his expected batting average (XBA) to .288 and his expected slugging percentage (XSLG) to a staggering .675. So, it could be that Healy is even underperforming in the power department. That’s kind of scary.

Heading into Thursday, Healy had hit 4 HR in 47 PA, for a rate of just under a HR every 12 PA. To put that into perspective, in 1927, the year Babe Ruth hit 60 HR, Ruth accomplished the feat in 691 PA, or just a tad over one every ten PA. Now Healy isn’t going to get 691 PA. He doesn’t walk nearly enough and, well, no one gets that many PA the way baseball is played today. But, let’s say Healy gets 450 PA, a reasonable assumption. He would hit in the neighborhood of 46 HR. Not too shabby.

Small Sample Size?

Now, of course, the fun of early season, small sample sizes is the joy of extrapolation. For instance, just twenty games into the season, the Boston Red Sox were on a pace to win 138-games. Then came a nine-game stretch where they lost seven and all of New England had a conniption fit. So, don’t necessarily take the over on Healy and 45 ½ HR.

But going forward, Healy will almost certainly raise his BA and his OBP. What will be interesting to watch is if he continues his power surge. Over the next few weeks, keep an eye on Ryon Healy’s exit velocity. If it stays up in the 90’s mph, Mariners fans could be looking at a breakout power season at 1B.

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About Author

Brian Hight

Brian Hight lives in Seattle and writes primarily about MLB and the local Seattle Mariners, with a focus on advanced analytics. Occasionally, he delves into the NFL and the NBA, also with an emphasis on advanced statistics. He’s currently pursuing a Certificate in Data Analysis online from Microsoft, where he hopes to create a prediction model for baseball outcomes for his capstone project.

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