Trey Mancini completed his inspirational return from cancer last season. But at the same time, it didn’t feel like the slugger was truly “back.”
To be sure, Mancini made the comeback he needed to make. He returned to status as an everyday player. He was a reliable presence in the Orioles lineup. He had his life back. In terms of everything Mancini the person could have hoped for, 2021 was check marks all across the board.
Mancini the player, though, still had some work to do to get back to the way he was in 2019, before the colon cancer diagnosis. And so far in 2022, it looks like he’s getting that done as well.
Mancini’s stats are pretty solid at this point in the season, 35 games in. He’s batting .289, 34 points higher than he hit last year and only two points below where he was in 2019, when he was hitting 35 home runs and establishing himself as one of the American League’s best sluggers.
But there are also numbers suggesting this year is more lukewarm than red-hot. He has three homers and 13 RBI, putting him on pace for only 14 and 60, respectively. The 60 RBI being low makes some sense, given the absolute devil of a time the O’s have had with offensive consistency, but the 14 homers are a little more baffling.
Those aren’t the only numbers raising some red flags. While his average is better, his slugging percentage is 35 points lower than it was last year, and at .397 is the lowest it’s ever been in his career. Mancini has never finished a major league season below the .400 mark in slugging.
So, bad news, right?
Well, according to the metrics, not so much.
Actually, before we get to the metrics, there’s the eye test. People were noticing from pretty much out of the gate that Mancini’s stats weren’t reflecting how he was hitting the ball. He was getting unlucky, and hitting balls either right at fielders or just not into the open spaces enough.
And the metrics have shown that, and shown that he’s hit the ball more like he did pre-2020 (the season he missed) than post. Mancini is in the 70th percentile in average exit velocity, and he was in the 42nd last year. His barrel percentage has him in the 80th percentile this year, an improvement on 68th from 2021. His hard hit percentage was good for 56th last season. This year, it’s 84th.
Those are big, big jumps, and seem to tell the tale more of someone topping the offensive leaderboards than suffering from a supposed lack of power. Remember the luck point? Mancini’s expected weighted on-base average, expected batting average and expected slugging percentage are, respectively, 89th, 93rd and 91st percentile.
Basically, Mancini could expect to be doing a lot better than he is based on how he’s been swinging the bat. Last year, those numbers were, respectively, 64th, 71st and 63rd. Last year, he could not.
And now those good old-fashioned stats are starting to come around, too. Since falling to .237 after 16 games on April 26, when that previously cited article was written, Mancini has played in 16 more games. He’s batting .339 with a .452 slugging percentage. That’s a 162-game pace of 20 home runs and 71 RBI - not great, not what we saw out of Mancini before 2020, but certainly better than he was doing.
Mancini has been swinging a good bat this year. He’s just needed more help in the areas he can’t control. Now that that help appears to be coming, watch for those numbers to start to climb.