We're roughly one-quarter of the way into the MLB season, which means a lot of the statistics are reaching a large enough sample to be illustrative of successes or failures.

Here's a list of players with outlier statistics and whether their performance will continue.


Taylor Ward, Angels

Wonky stat: 249 wRC+ (1st in MLB)

To say the 28-year-old Ward is enjoying a breakout would be a massive understatement. Not only does he lead all of baseball in wRC+, the most reliable statistic in measuring a hitter's performance, but he also leads in AVG, OBP, and SLG.

Entering this season, the outfielder didn't have much of a major-league track record. Over 159 career games spanning back to 2018, Ward had posted a .230/.305/.388 slash line. That equated to a 90 wRC+, or 10% worse than the league average.

So what's changed? Well, most importantly, he's walking more. One-third of his career walks have come this year alone. That usually indicates a hitter is being more selective, and Ward has definitely changed his approach. Instead of swinging at 27.2% of pitches outside the zone between 2018-21, Ward is now offering at merely 18.6%. That puts his chase rate in the 99th percentile among all major leaguers, according to Baseball Savant.

As a result, he's seen a 4.4 percentage point bump in contact rate and a four point dip in whiff rate. Additionally, when he does expand the zone, he's making contact on those pitches 67.2% of the time as opposed to 56.5% previously.

Pitchers have already begun adjusting, as Ward is seeing only 39.6% of pitches in the zone now in the month of May. To his credit, though, his approach has stayed identical. He's still swinging at 17% of those offerings, and, on pitches below the zone, he's still making good enough contact on them to post expected batting averages above .300.


Can this continue? 

Yes. He almost certainly won't finish the season atop the league leaderboard in wRC+, and he probably won't even beat his teammates Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani. But Ward has shown a genuine change, and it's working.