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Article: Why Miguel Sano's Strikeouts Are Not a Problem

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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 07:00 PM

Miguel Sano has played in 17 games for the Minnesota Twins in 2019. He missed the beginning of the season rehabbing from an Achilles injury, and joined the club in the middle of May. Through his first 75 plate appearances Sano has fanned 28 times while drawing nine walks. Each of those strikeouts has drawn the ire of Twins fans and stirred up a vocal minority suggesting the club deserves more. They are wrong, it doesn’t matter, and the slugger has been great.Here’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.

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#2 Otwins

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 08:34 PM

I like the way you think. The only part I question is the middle of the order bat. Rocco has batted him mostly6th-7th and I think that is perfect. Getting run production from the lower part of the order is a nice position to be in.

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#3 Darius

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 08:46 PM

I don’t want a guy like Miguel Sano shortening up and chopping a grounder somewhere with 2 on and 0 outs. Try and bounce it off a speaker somewhere. Stay away from GIDP at all costs with this lineup as well (hit it far, or K trying).

Edited by Darius, 11 June 2019 - 08:47 PM.

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#4 Roaddog

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:24 PM

I can live with the strikeouts. But his at bat with Adams tonight shows how valuable he is. There was no way he was gonna get a fastball. And a slider that bounced in the dirt allowed the the game to be tied. When he starts hitting into double plays, I'll have an issue.
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#5 USAFChief

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:32 PM

 

I can live with the strikeouts. But his at bat with Adams tonight shows how valuable he is. There was no way he was gonna get a fastball. And a slider that bounced in the dirt allowed the the game to be tied. When he starts hitting into double plays, I'll have an issue.

You're going to give Sano credit for a WP?

 

 

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#6 Roaddog

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:34 PM

You're going to give Sano credit for a WP?


Indirectly, yes. His reputation led to him getting nothing but sliders
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#7 Taildragger8791

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:34 PM

Miguel Sano’s uniqueness aside, I don’t see how you can say strikeouts are the same as other outs. The Twins won tonight partially because Rosario advanced Polanco on a deep fly out, allowing him to score on a wild pitch. If you have a lineup of guys striking out over 1/3rd if the time you don’t get as many of those kinds of opportunities to stress the defense or induce productive things to happen.

It somehow works for Sano because he sells out and hits the ball so dang hard when he eventually makes contact. I like the risk/reward profile in the 5-7 slots in the lineup, but there are 4-5 other hitters on this team I’d rather have up in a big spot to extend a rally.

Edited by Taildragger8791, 11 June 2019 - 09:36 PM.

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#8 BattleYourTailOff

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:39 PM

High leverage situational hitting will ultimately make or break opinion on Sano. His production when healthy is worth the Ks. But if it’s “hollow numbers” and poor in the playoffs, people will sour more.
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#9 crapforks

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 10:10 PM

It’s crazy how polarizing this player is. He’s as big of a guess-hitter, it appears, but he’s a good one. .230/.320/.500, give or take, with a ton of strikeouts is a reasonable expectation. I’ll take that. He’s not going to hit for a high average. Probably ever. He’s going to drive people nuts with check swings, probably forever. But he sees a lot of pitches and has potential to leave the yard with every swing. He is a very useful player. At 26, he has the ability to improve.
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#10 Soft Tosser

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 10:20 PM

Yeah, I think batting him 6th or 7th is ideal for this team. Gives the guys in front of him a little better pitches to hit, and really, Sano's gonna be pitched the same no matter where he is in the order anyway.

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#11 Danchat

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 10:20 PM

 

High leverage situational hitting will ultimately make or break opinion on Sano. His production when healthy is worth the Ks. But if it’s “hollow numbers” and poor in the playoffs, people will sour more.

I totally agree. Sano's numbers look great and he's mashing a lot of the time. But when a guy like Adams or a reliever with some strikeout ability gets up there, it seems like Sano has no chance. He struck out twice in that AB (I think he went with the check-swing on the wild pitch) and I wish he could shorten up his swing when he's down in the count 0-2 / 1-2. 

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#12 BattleYourTailOff

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 10:34 PM

Sano knows he can a mistake ball 500 ft so he will cheat a bit for that potential huge sportscenter highlight reel homer... especially earlier in his career. I believe he’s smarter in 2019 but I don’t know if he’s prepared to go all the way and take the temporary drop in power numbers to become ok against nasty pitching

#13 curt1965

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 10:49 PM

When was the last time you remember Sano hitting a line-drive?
He doesn’t!
He either walks, K’s, homers, or hits 2000 foot popups!
I hate to say it, but in a critical situation with the game on the line- Adrianza will give me a better AB than Sano-every time.
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#14 BattleYourTailOff

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 11:46 PM

I hate to say it, but in a critical situation with the game on the line- Adrianza will give me a better AB than Sano-every time.


Yeah... i don’t think that’s accurate. I’ll still take my chances with Sano it only to get him more experience in those situations. I don’t know if Adrianza will even be on the team in a year.
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#15 Platoon

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 04:45 AM

Ahhhhh the new baseball! Where striking out almost 40% of the time is acceptable. There is no doubt he will destroy a ball that he guessed right on. But oh those sliders off the plate are still irresistible! He sort of hits like the pitcher with the big fastball and no control. It's amazing to watch and the potential for the big play is always there. While it doesn't happen often, you just can't turn away!
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#16 mikelink45

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 04:47 AM

I guess you missed the article on ESPN that talked about Bellinger and Trout and how batters are getting smarter and learning how to beat the shift and make choices about what to swing at.Not swinging less hard, but eliminating the trash that gives away an AB.

 

https://www.espn.com...strikeout-trend

 

As an old guy I will always remember the sadness Mickey Mantle felt when his BA for his career dropped below 300.Yes contact can give you a DP, but it can also advance the runner, cause an error, get a hit, rearrange the defense.  

 

I want Sano, but I also want a batter who has a little bat control.  

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#17 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 05:07 AM

He's always going to be a high K guy, so to some extent you have to live with them. Not quite sure I'd call the Ks "not a problem" though. He's done much better this season laying off of pitches out of the zone, but I do think he's got to focus on that a bit more. 

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#18 KGB

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:03 AM

Sano's upside has become a less durable Adam Dunn.I always hope it would be higher.

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#19 stringer bell

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:22 AM

To me, Sanó angst is all about the hype. When he got to the majors, the comparisons were to Frank Thomas and triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera. He was supposed to be a power hitter who would hit .300 or better. His debut half-season gave us believers plenty of evidence that he would be such a hitter and soon. The first half of 2017 was more "proof". Injuries combined with struggles the last half of 2017 and most of 2018 show that he's not really improved. 

 

We were promised Miguel Cabrera and we're getting Mark Reynolds. I am not sure if it is potential wasted or if this is what Sanó was meant to be. Also, he just turned 26, a lot of players have broken out in their mid to late 20s.

 

 

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#20 Doomtints

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:30 AM

If Sano starts to struggle, that's when you look at his strikeout numbers.

 

Every hitter has a weakness. This is his. He is still a very dangerous hitter, and heck he's still getting better.

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