Why Miguel Sano's Strikeouts Are Not a Problem
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsHere’s the deal, Miguel Sano currently owns a .949 OPS which is the third best among Minnesota hitters. Rocco Baldelli’s club has the best OPS in baseball, and the next closest team (Houston) is over 40 points in the rear-view mirror. While Sano’s impact hasn’t been felt for a considerable amount of time this season, he’s been adding to what is already the most feared lineup in the game.
Now, let’s get into the merits of Sano based on this year alone. His 37.3% strikeout rate is down just slightly from the 2018 mark (38.5%), and up just slightly from the 2017 mark (35.8%). Essentially, he’s striking out a third of the time as he always has. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. The other part of this equation is what takes place the other two-thirds of the time.
Right now, Miguel Sano owns a 12% walk rate for the Twins, which is the highest it’s been at any point since his 15.8% tally in 2015 as a rookie. There is some reason for concern regarding his plate discipline, however. The 31.1% chase rate and 20.1% whiff rates are both career highs. He’s generating contact just 61% of the time, and while that’s lower than his career mark, it’s right in line with what he’s done in his two best years (2015 and 2017). A silver lining here is that his 4.34 pitches per plate appearance is a career best mark. When it comes to this piece of the puzzle, the walks are an encouraging sign even if there are lots of opportunities left on the table.
That brings us to batted ball opportunities. As he was billed to do when coming through the system, the Dominican native is absolutely destroying the baseball. In a year with the ball being juiced and flying out of the park more than it ever has, a 50% hard hit rate is going to do significant damage. Across 361 players with over 70 plate appearances this season, no one has a lower soft hit rate than Sano’s 5.3%. Miguel is also not a stranger to elevating the baseball. He’s putting it on the ground just 21.1% of the time and hitting fly balls 44.7% of the time. Because of the hard-hit rate, and lift on his batted balls, 35.3% of them have left the yard (eighth best in baseball).
At the end of the day the reality is Miguel Sano is essentially the perfect version of himself. If you’re looking for him to hit for a high average and be some sort of MVP candidate, you’ve probably misunderstood his skillset all along. If you’re on board with him batting around .250, having a OBP around .330, and SLG in the upper .500’s celebrate because that’s what you’ll get. Sano isn’t a franchise cornerstone, but he’s definitely a middle-of-the-order bat that can hold his own against the best in the game.
There’s been some goofy suggestions thrown out over the course of the season. Trading Sano for peanuts, preferring the likes of Willians Astudillo, or demeaning his production because he produces outs are all foolish reasons to be down on him. Although he’s been lumped in with Byron Buxton from a timeline perspective, Sano has never been in the same boat from a 100th percentile impact expectation. At his best Buxton is a perennial MVP candidate. At his best Sano is an all-star who challenges for the yearly home run title.
At some point we need to get to a place where the head trash that strikeouts are bad is removed from our memory. In baseball the most important commodity is the out, and you get 27 of them. Striking out is no worse than any other out and given the inability to be doubled up in that scenario, it may even be better. Enjoy how much Sano is demolishing the ball, hope he can rein in the plate discipline even a bit more, and allow whatever happens in between to be the gray area providing a reminder that baseball is hard.
- DocBauer, verninski, nclahammer and 2 others like this