In The Zone: Twins Among Best At Avoiding Bad Pitches
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsAccording to FanGraphs, O-Swing% is calculated by taking the number of times players swing at pitches outside the zone and dividing by the number of pitches outside of the zone. Last year in the American League, the Twins had the second lowest O-Swing% (28.6%) as they only trailed the Cleveland Indians. Minnesota finished with the fourth lowest O-Swing% when including teams from the National League.
So what players are helping to lead to Minnesota’s patience at the plate?
Robbie Grossman collected over 450 plate appearances during the 2017 campaign. He finished with the 13th best O-Swing% among AL batters with over 200 plate appearances. In fact, the Twins had three other players (Chis Gimenez, Joe Mauer, and Brian Dozier) who all ranked in the top-20. Jason Castro finished with a 25.1% O-Swing% which was good enough to be in the top-30.
Minnesota’s veteran bats were clearly leading the way at avoiding bad pitches. Of the Twins young core of players, who was able to lay off pitches out of the zone?
Jorge Polanco surprised a lot of people in 2017, especially with the way he was able to handle himself at the plate. His 26.3% O-Swing% ranked sixth on the team and placed him in the AL’s top-40. Miguel Sano and Max Kepler both swung at pitches out of the zone around 30% of the time. Eddie Rosario ranked worst on the team as he swung at pitches out of the zone almost 40% of the time.
Byron Buxton provides an interesting case from 2017. Buxton struggled through the first half by hitting .216/.288/.306 with 87 strikeouts in 83 games. There were times he looked lost at the plate and pitchers were able to attack the strike zone against him. Something clicked in the second half. He went for a .893 OPS with 24 extra-base hits in 57 games.
Even though he became an offensive force in the second half, Buxton still struggled with strikeouts. He averaged more than one strikeout per game and his O-Swing% shows that he was chasing pitches. In the first half when Buxton’s strikeouts were piling up, he posted a 30.6% O-Swing%. During his second half surge, his O-Swing% actually went up to 31.6%.
As mentioned earlier, pitchers could impose their will on Buxton in the first half. Most pitches could be around or near the zone and he wasn’t going to be able to do anything with it. In the second half, he was likely seeing better pitches and he was definitely putting together better at-bats. Buxton could still improve in this area and that has to be a scary proposition for opposing pitchers.
Minnesota’s veteran hitters are the reason the Twins ranked so well in 2017. Mauer and Dozier might not be part of this organization beyond the 2018 campaign. If Minnesota wants to stay at the top of the AL, some of the young core players are going to have to continue to lay off pitches out of the zone.
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