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Article: Taking a Deeper Dive into Miguel Sano's Plate Discipline

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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 07:00 PM

Roughly a week ago the discussion surrounding Miguel Sano was in relation to his strikeouts. Now operating at a 39.2% strikeout rate, the trips back to the dugouts remain inconsequential to me. The issue with his production profile revolves almost entirely on plate discipline. I touched on this in passing during that piece, but there’s a more nuanced conversation to be had here.During the Twins 17-inning affair with the Boston Red Sox, Sano went 0-for-7 with five strikeouts. He came up in multiple big spots and simply couldn’t put the ball in play. It’s one thing to be fanning on pitches in the upper 90’s, but he was swinging through fastballs topping out below 95 mph. For a guy like Sano, bat speed isn’t the issue, but he certainly could be playing a literal guessing game.

First the good news. Although Sano’s strikeout rate is fourth highest in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances, he also owns the sixth best hard-hit rate (52.0%) in baseball. Because he doesn’t put the baseball on the ground, and crushes it when he makes contact, the 30.4% HR/FB rate is 11th in the majors. From this we can deduce that when the ball is put in play, good things happen.

Now the bad news. Steadily climbing since his debut season, Sano’s 33.7% chase rate is a career worst and his 19.2% whiff rate follows suit. With that mix you get an obvious combination detrimental to contact rates, resulting in just a 62.5% output. To summarize this bit of information we can understand that Miguel is expanding the zone, giving himself less opportunity to hit the ball hard, and finding himself behind in counts more frequently.

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As Sano has shown a willingness to expand, chase, and guess through at-bats, opposing pitchers have exposed him in the most inopportune moments. Coming up in high leverage situations, he’s got a .167/.250/.333 slash line across 20 plate appearances. That’s certainly a small sample size, but the reality is a lack of plate discipline is most exposed when pitchers need to exploit batter tendencies attempting to work around damage.

There are two trains of thought here that can provide some reason for hope. One is that Sano went without spring training and is still settling in. Teammate Marwin Gonzalez started with a .191/.262/.277 slash line across his first 100+ plate appearances this season. Sano is 103 PA in and owns a .225/.314/.539 slash line. Since settling in Marwin has been among the Twins best hitters, so once Sano gets acclimated an uptick may be coming.

Another avenue to venture down is the sustainability of a split like this. Three true outcomes players exist, but many of them fail to produce at a high level for any significant amount of time. Joey Gallo has certainly transformed himself into one of the best players in the game, and he’s done that by being something like the 100th percentile of Miguel Sano. Gallo’s 57.9% hard hit rate is the best in baseball while his 43.6% HR/FB mark is second. He’s putting up both of those outcomes alongside a 35.5 K%, just three spots behind Sano.

So, what’s the difference then?

The third outcome for Gallo, walk rate, is nearly double that (19.6%) of Sano’s (11.8%). He whiffs plenty at 15.1% (down 3% from 2018), and he actually makes contact less often (61.8%), but he chases significantly less. The Rangers star swings out of the zone just 22.8% of the time (10% drop from 2018). By forcing pitchers into the zone, he’s barreling hittable pitches with a powerful swing almost every time the two objects connect. Joey Gallo forces the opposing hurler to pitch to him, while Miguel Sano allows the opponent simply to throw.

James Rowson has a moldable piece of clay in front of him, and if the weight loss is any indication, this is the first time in a while that Sano may be a willing student. Figuring out how to get rid the check swings, hold off on the offerings well out of the zone, and commit every time the bat goes through the zone is an absolute must. Sano’s best season came with a 25.2% chase rate and a 15.7% whiff rate. He’s not far from those benchmarks, but it will take work and focus to get there.

Once again, I’m willing to suggest I could care less that Miguel Sano strikes out. In and of itself, the strikeout is no worse than any other out. What I do care about is that a guy whose entire value is derived from plate production, figures out how to read pitches, work counts, and commit to attacking the ball with a swing destined to produce results.

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#2 Thrylos

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 07:16 PM

Career Kent Hrbek: .848 OPS, 128 OPS+, .371 wOBA, 126 wRC+, .198 isoP
2019 Miguel Sano: .853 OPS, 124 OPS+, .351 wOBA, 119 wRC+, .315 isoP

 

I don't remember much whining about Kent Hrbek day in and day out.It seems that Sano bashing is a weekly phenomenon around here, and it is getting a bit trite and quasi-rancorous, esp. when the team has the best season since forever and the best record in the majors currenty.

 

 

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#3 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 07:25 PM

 

Career Kent Hrbek: .848 OPS, 128 OPS+, .371 wOBA, 126 wRC+, .198 isoP
2019 Miguel Sano: .853 OPS, 124 OPS+, .351 wOBA, 119 wRC+, .315 isoP

 

I don't remember much whining about Kent Hrbek day in and day out.It seems that Sano bashing is a weekly phenomenon around here, and it is getting a bit trite and quasi-rancorous, esp. when the team has the best season since forever and the best record in the majors currenty.

 

I'm not sure if my tone was misinterpreted or not but both this article, and the one I wrote a week and a half ago, have been in defense of him. Among those blogging/tweeting on the Twins, I've arguably been the most defensive of him.

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#4 Thrylos

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 07:33 PM

 

I'm not sure if my tone was misinterpreted or not but both this article, and the one I wrote a week and a half ago, have been in defense of him. Among those blogging/tweeting on the Twins, I've arguably been the most defensive of him.

 

Not about you Ted, per se.It just seems that there is an article about Sano's shortcomings on a weekly basis on this site, without appreciating the fact that he is having an overall pretty darn good season, esp. in the power department, despite missing the whole ST and a month of the season with an injury.

 

Just getting pretty old, esp. in a season that Twins' fans should be rejoicing. Lots of other things to talk about than Sano's shortcomings.At least you kept it on the field

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#5 Linus

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 08:13 PM

I believe the Sano defenders are equally missing the point. The guy can’t hit or lay-off an outside breaking pitch or catch up to a fastball belt high or above. Not the profile of a hitter that is going to produce against good pitching staffs. He has to seriously rework his approach at the plate
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#6 operation mindcrime

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 08:29 PM

CROM!!!!!!!!!!! :)
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#7 yarnivek1972

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 08:56 PM

You are certainly entitled to your opinion Ted. Just don’t be surprised that a lot of people don’t share it. A strikeout is a completely wasted at bat.

Sano has a career BABIP of .345. A little more than half of his career PA are balls not in play and 2/3 of the balls not in play are Ks.

In a full season, if Sano got 500 PA, he would put about 225 in play and strike out 200 times at 40% ratio.

Striking out at a 30% ratio would trim that to 150. That would translate into 17 more hits given his BABIP. That’s almost an extra hit per week. That’s the difference between where Sano is now and where he could be, an elite level player. Sure, he could still improve his plate discipline, but he has done nothing but get worse since day one. That is extremely concerning.
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#8 yarnivek1972

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:02 PM

Career Kent Hrbek: .848 OPS, 128 OPS+, .371 wOBA, 126 wRC+, .198 isoP
2019 Miguel Sano: .853 OPS, 124 OPS+, .351 wOBA, 119 wRC+, .315 isoP

I don't remember much whining about Kent Hrbek day in and day out. It seems that Sano bashing is a weekly phenomenon around here, and it is getting a bit trite and quasi-rancorous, esp. when the team has the best season since forever and the best record in the majors currenty.

I think you remember incorrectly. There was plenty of talk about his weight and frequent injuries. And to some extent, diminished production. 1987 was the only year he ranked better than 10th in HR. 1984 was the only year he cracked the top 10 in RBI.

Edited by yarnivek1972, 19 June 2019 - 09:07 PM.

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#9 ashbury

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:05 PM

The chasing outside the zone would loom larger for me if he weren't swinging clean through so many strikes in the zone.

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#10 USAFChief

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:12 PM

In and of itself, the strikeout is no worse than any other out.

 

Well of course it is. Why do pitchers try to strike hitters out? Why are we looking for bullpen help that can miss bats?

 

 

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#11 D.C Twins

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:19 PM

Let's not miss the forest through the trees....

 

His current plate approach is not consistent with an elite hitter which is what we all hope for.

 

And in the playoffs, against more consistent elite pitching, he will be absolutely eviscerated with his current plate approach.

 

Elite pitchers (and catchers who are calling the game) will be salivating when he come up for an at bat in a high leverage situation.

 

A mental exercise....what do you think the chances are that he receives an intentional walk at ANY time in the playoffs?

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#12 yarnivek1972

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:21 PM

Let's not miss the forest through the trees....

His current plate approach is not consistent with an elite hitter which is what we all hope for.

And in the playoffs, against more consistent elite pitching, he will be absolutely eviscerated with his current plate approach.

Elite pitchers (and catchers who are calling the game) will be salivating when he come up for an at bat in a high leverage situation.

A mental exercise....what do you think the chances are that he receives an intentional walk at ANY time in the playoffs?


Hitting ahead of Castro as he has been probably increase those odds.

#13 Danesky

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:33 PM

Sano is too valuable to trade. Maybe he should spend some time in Rochester to get his head straight.
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#14 Tom Froemming

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:34 PM

The check swings are what drive me mad. Do it or don't, man. Obviously it's really difficult to identify pitches, MLB pitchers are really good, but if you start your swing, just let it fly. Commit. If you're gonna have a swinging strike, I want all the people up in Minnie & Paul's to feel the wooosh from your swing :)

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#15 Aerodeliria

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:50 PM

Thank you for this. I also made the comparison to Joey Gallo in your original post on this topic because the comparison I think is a very good one. Gallo obviously has learned that the the guessing game is a fool's pursuit. Gallo's SO rate is almost identical to every other season, but his walk rate is up over 6% and his chase rate way down. I wondered if his slugging might have dropped with his newly found plate discipline. Hardly. His slugging is up nearly .100, and of course, his OPS is bordering on being ridiculous and so is his OBP.

 

Concerning Sano, I'll take today's game as another vivid example. Down by four/five runs Barnes throws him three straight balls not really even close. I am sure he had the take sign on for the next pitch and Barnes threw him a strike. The next pitch was probably six inches outside, easily ball four. Sano swings at it instead of trotting down to first base with a walk. That is what is meant by a meaningless plate appearance. Arraez follows by working himself a walk, but then Barnes starts to get comfortable because instead of having two on and no out, there is only one on and one out.

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#16 Monticore

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:58 PM

I still have hope for him but he's very concerning.
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#17 Aerodeliria

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 10:02 PM

 

The chasing outside the zone would loom larger for me if he weren't swinging clean through so many strikes in the zone.

I think this is also a result of guessing where and what kind of pitch is coming. In today's game he swung at pitches far outside the zone as well as pitches in the zone, but he failed to make much contact. If he happens to guess right that means hard contact, but wrong and he swings and misses or gets weak contact.

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#18 Aerodeliria

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 10:03 PM

 

Let's not miss the forest through the trees....

 

His current plate approach is not consistent with an elite hitter which is what we all hope for.

 

And in the playoffs, against more consistent elite pitching, he will be absolutely eviscerated with his current plate approach.

 

Elite pitchers (and catchers who are calling the game) will be salivating when he come up for an at bat in a high leverage situation.

 

A mental exercise....what do you think the chances are that he receives an intentional walk at ANY time in the playoffs?

Right now? 0%. They'd probably 'unintentionally' walk someone hitting before him to face him.


#19 Highabove

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 10:56 PM

Sano's strikeout streak of six ends with a walk tonight. 


#20 howeda7

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 01:52 AM

Posting his career #'s is a nice distraction. No one disputes he had a successful 2015 or 2017. The issue is that he is trending severely in the wrong direction and isn't getting any younger. His days playing 3B are numbered. And 1B/DH that hit 25 HR's and strike out all the time aren't valuable. You can claim them off waivers from the Rays whenever. 

Edited by howeda7, 20 June 2019 - 01:53 AM.

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