Christopher Morel Should Consider Himself the Unluckiest Man on Earth

During his farewell speech on July 4, 1939, the legendary Lou Gehrig said that he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. Though Christopher Morel is certainly facing a much less serious set of challenges than those that forced Gehrig to retire early, the young Cub may be the unluckiest man on the planet. Or at least in Major League Baseball.

As noted by Alex Fast, no other player has a bigger disparity between actual and expected wOBA since the start of May. That’s a gap of 101 points over a sample big enough to be taken seriously.

For those who don’t yet understand what that means, wOBA, or weighted on-base average, is a version of on-base percentage that gives more value to certain methods of reaching base. So a double is worth more than a walk and a homer is worth the most. Following that same thread, expected wOBA (xwOBA) quantifies what kind of results a batter should be getting based on exit velocity, launch angle, and even sprint speed for specific types of batted balls.

Think about it like the difference between how long it should take you to get somewhere based on distance, driving speed, etc., and how long it actually takes with traffic. In Morel’s case, it’s like he hit every red light in town before encountering multiple lane closures and a horde of semis passing their brethren going roughly half a mile per hour faster.

You know how you’ll sit there in stop-and-go traffic only to move up a quarter of a mile or so and have all the lanes open and flowing again? It’s the most frustrating thing ever because there’s no reason for the slow-downs. That’s Morel right now.

It’s really been that way all season, though things weren’t quite as back in March and April. Morel’s overall .379 xwOBA ranks 23rd in MLB, but his .301 wOBA ranks 169th. Not nice. Much of that comes from a .371 slugging percentage (177th) that sits nowhere near a .503 xSLG (33rd). Though his 90.6 mph average exit velocity isn’t particularly great, his 15.8-degree average launch angle is right there in the optimal window of 8-19 degrees.

According to Statcast, that combination should result in an .825 batting average. And while such a number is both entirely impossible and a recipe for getting a souped-up version of the kind of hitter Nick Madrigal was supposed to be — 66.2% singles — I think we can all agree that something isn’t lining up for Morel.

It may be that his more patient approach is leading to a decrease in barrels along with strikeouts. Morel is getting under a few more balls than in the past, hence a higher launch angle than before, and he’s not squaring the ball up quite as frequently as in the past. So he’s making more contact, it’s just that the quality of said contact isn’t quite as good.

That said, he’s still hitting the ball well enough to be doing much better than a freakishly low .205 BABIP. As difficult as it may be to say that more than a month of bad results can be chalked up to the worst possible luck-based outcomes, that’s the only conclusion I can draw. The baseball gods are upset with Morel for daring to draw more walks, so they’re taking it out on him by stealing hits at nearly every opportunity.

The good news is that this can’t continue for the rest of the season, just like you can’t keep getting tails when flipping a quarter that isn’t rigged. Everything about this screams that a hot streak is imminent, and boy could the Cubs use it right about now.

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