One thing we know about strikeout and contact rate is that the stats stabilize quickly. In other words, those stats tell us more about future work in those categories quicker than other stats. But players make changes all the time, and it’s not just the first month of the season that we care about.
So who’s changed the most in the last month? Let’s look at the biggest differences in contact rate over the last month, and it what might tell us about these relevant players.
First up, the guys making less contact. The first group of numbers is from the last month, and then you have their season-long swinging strike and strikeout percentages, and then the differences between their last month and their seasonal numbers.
To me, the most worrisome names on this list are those that have high BABIPs masking their contact rate decline. Anyone who owns Adam Jones can see that he’s been suffering from his higher strikeout rate, but the Manny Machado owner was probably feeling pretty good before the injury. But, with the injury, there’s no selling on Machado anyway. Just like there’s just more bad news about Shin-Soo Choo here. Amazingly, his overall swing and contact numbers aren’t any worse than his career numbers, but this last month, seen in the context of his season and his injury woes, might make him droppable in ten teamers.
Otherwise, I worry most about the guys on the extremes. Not Victor Martinez, though. An 11% strikeout rate might be worse than the one he had for the season, but it’s still sexcellent. But Michael Morse and Nick Swisher? Yeah those are some old sluggers swinging too freely.
The biggest question mark here is Kolten Wong. The power surge has been great. His overall numbers for the season are all better than the numbers that were projected for him in our two projection systems. He’s been jacking dongers left and right. And yet he’s also been swinging and missing a lot more recently. For me, though, I’ll take it. If the power continues to come with the aggression, it’s not like I had him down for much better than .260 or .270 in the batting average department anyway. Now he looks like a .260/15/30 guy, and if he can put together a full season of this power with a nice contact rate, he could really surge next year.
Now the guys going the other way. These players have improved their swinging strike rate the most over the last month.
The great news for Ian Desmond is merely that he now looks like the Ian Desmond of old again. It’s not like he’s great shakes in the strikeout or swinging strikeout categories, even with his improvement over the last month, but at least he’s no long atrocious. There’s hope for him to hit better than .260 next season.
In the case of his teammate Jayson Werth, the added contact and batting average are making up for some lost power. James Loney could actually be well served from going the other way, but at least he’s become even more James Loney esque. Pablo Sandoval’s resurgence has really been remarkable, and though he’s swung more and been more aggressive since I said he should do those things, he’s made more contact. Some people should just grip it and rip it.
In general, being on this list is good news. Especially for young guys like Xander Bogaerts and Gregory Polanco, who are now looking a little bit more like they can reach the better end of their contact rate projections. It’s also nice to know part of what has been fueling Ben Zobrist’s resurgence.
But for all the noise about Jon Singleton’s new contact rate after his change in batting stance, the improvement has not brought him to a great place in terms of swings and misses. And Curtis Granderson is making more contact, but the power has disappeared.
But Yoenis Cespedes? Now making more contact in a better park for his power? He seems primed for a good final six weeks of the season.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.