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Collette Calls: Batter Strikeout Percentage Movers

Jason Collette

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.


Over the past two weeks, we've looked at which pitchers have improved their strikeout rate or have lost their dominance in 2014. Now, it is time to look at the batters. Specifically, I want to focus on the top 10 and the bottom 10 of the lists for all players with at least 300 PA last season and with at least 70 PA in 2014.

Here is what that list of 20 looks like:


Batter 2013 2014 Difference
Miguel Montero 23% 14% -10%
Brandon Moss 28% 19% -9%
Pedro Alvarez 30% 21% -9%
Carlos Gonzalez 27% 19% -8%
Alex Gordon 20% 13% -8%
Mike Napoli 32% 25% -7%
Seth Smith 23% 16% -7%
Justin Morneau 17% 11% -6%
Yoenis Cespedes 24% 18% -6%
Chris Carter 36% 31% -6%
Eric Young Jr. 17% 22% 5%
Nori Aoki 6% 11% 5%
Brandon Belt 22% 27% 5%
Aaron Hill 13% 19% 6%
Everth Cabrera 16% 22% 6%
Edwin Encarnacion 10% 17% 7%
David Wright 16% 23% 7%
Martin Prado 8% 16% 8%
Mike Trout 19% 27% 8%
Brad Miller 16% 26% 11%


Miguel Montero:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 30% 60% 70% 82% 75%
2014 29% 69% 66% 90% 84%


Montero's improvements were covered (beware the auto play) by Octavio Hernandez Pernia the other day as he showed how Montero has altered his stance from 2013 to this season. Montero credited the new stance and comfort with his renewed success at the plate. Moss is also making better contact outside of the strike zone and better contact within it as well with the new approach.

Brandon Moss:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 32% 49% 71% 82% 71%
2014 29% 53% 72% 85% 76%


Moss's improvements are slighter than those of Montero's, but he is making more contact and has not sacrificed any power as his slugging percentage is more than 70 points above last season's effort despite the focus on making more contact. His improvements against lefties so far this season also help quite a bit.

Pedro Alvarez:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 33% 41% 70% 81% 66%
2014 28% 59% 69% 82% 74%


The good news is that Alvarez is chasing fewer pitches and making more contact. The bad news is that it has cut down on his power production. His current slugging percentage is a full 100 points lower than it was last season. He remains a very streaky player, but improving his walks and cutting down on his strikeouts, so far, has only improved his batting average 14 poitns as his BABIP is 39 points lower than last season. He could take off at some point soon, but this is not what you drafted him for.

Carlos Gonzalez:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 35% 59% 65% 82% 72%
2014 39% 57% 72% 89% 75%


Gonzalez had warning signs heading into this season about repeating his success with the high strikeout rate that he had in 2013. This season, he is making more contact, but his slugging percentage is down 115 points from last season. Even with the increased contact, his batting average is down 26 points as his BABIP is down 59 points from last season. The finger issue he is dealing with for the better part of May is a factor here as well.

Alex Gordon:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 28% 63% 63% 86% 79%
2014 31% 67% 66% 93% 84%


Gordon has made incremental improvements with his contact and has greatly reduced his strikeout rate this season. His average and on base percentage are right where they were last season, and the slugging percentage has dropped 29 points from 2013 and 62 points from two seasons ago. He, and most of the Royals, are struggling offensively this season.

Mike Napoli:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 24% 54% 59% 74% 68%
2014 21% 58% 62% 82% 75%


Napoli is chasing fewer pitches, making more contact both in and out of zone, and despite all of the contact, his average has improved just eight points over last season. His BABIP is just 13 points below last season but his slugging percentage is down 55 points from last season. He's on pace to see his home run total decline for a fourth consecutive season. Father time is winning again.

Seth Smith:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 27% 59% 62% 84% 76%
2014 22% 56% 61% 90% 80%


If not for Troy Tulowitzki and Yasiel Puig, everyone would be talking about how amazing Seth Smith has been lately. How amazing has he been over the last month? I'm glad you asked. He's batting .394/.488/.732 over the last month, giving him the crown for batting average as well as for on base percentage. He has always been a disciplined batter who has to sit against lefties. The Padres have only allowed him to face a lefty in 15 plate appearances this season, which has helped keep him this scorching hot.

Justin Morneau:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 38% 67% 69% 90% 81%
2014 40% 73% 76% 92% 84%


Suddenly, Morneau does not want to take a walk Then again, the way he is hitting and where he is hitting, I don't blame him. His average is up 62 points from last season with a 26 point bump in BABIP, but most noticeable is the 163 point jump in his slugging percentage. This is quite the shock from a guy that looked done for most of last season. He's being more aggressive in the zone and making better contact when swinging at all types of pitches.

Yoenis Cespedes:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 37% 62% 68% 81% 73%
2014 35% 70% 68% 87% 80%


Cespedes is not chasing as many pitches as he did previously. Not only that, he is making more contact on the pitches he is swinging at both in and out of the zone. The improvement in chasing pitches is a big plus for him as his on base percentage is up 26 points and his slugging percentage is up 36 points. The average is still bad, but the OBP improvement is an added bonus.

Chris Carter:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 26% 38% 65% 77% 65%
2014 29% 45% 69% 73% 64%


This one is puzzling because he is making less contact than last season, and chasing more pitches this season while making more contact against those pitches. O-Contact% is tough to maintain, so this improvement in contact rate could fall apart. As it were, he is only hitting .189/.275/.392 on the season with these improvements.

Eric Young Jr:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 26% 62% 64% 86% 54%
2014 24% 52% 62% 89% 53%


Young's downfall with strikeouts these days is not due to him chasing more pitches. His problems are with his issues repeating his high level of O-Contact% he had in 2013. This, despite the fact that O-Contact% has a very high year-to-year correlation. He is chasing fewer pitches and making more contact in the zone, so he may be able to turn this around as this is well below his career rate.

Nori Aoki:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 22% 83% 61% 95% 92%
2014 19% 79% 65% 95% 91%


The increase in strikeout rate for Aoki appears to be more to do with changing leagues than anything else. He is chasing fewer pitches, but a slight drop in O-Contact% is what is holding him back. His numbers should improve the second time through the league.

Brandon Belt:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 31% 63% 76% 88% 80%
2014 32% 60% 77% 73% 69%


Belt's drop in zone contact is alarming. Before he went down with the hand injury, Belt was showing a tendency to sacrifice contact for power. The problem was, it really wasn't working. His slugging percentage was up 25 points, but his batting average and on base percentage plummeted with the new approach.

Aaron Hill:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 28% 67% 59% 93% 85%
2014 27% 63% 63% 91% 83%


Hill is making less contact out of the zone and is swinging more frequently at pitches he sees in the zone. The slight increase in aggression is not helping his output as his .262/.316/.419 line is down across the board from his .291/.356/.462 line from last season.

Everth Cabrera:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 25% 71% 56% 93% 86%
2014 29% 67% 63% 89% 82%


Finally, we have a clear cut case of someone expanding their zone as well as being more aggressive within the zone. Cabrera's walk rate has greatly declined, and because of it, his on base percentage is down 90 points. That's an issue when your game is based on speed. Despite the low OBP, Cabrera is on pace to duplicate his suspension-shorted season of a year ago.

Edwin Encarnacion:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 24% 73% 61% 89% 84%
2014 25% 71% 63% 83% 83%


Remember when people thought he was in decline two weeks ago? Yeah, about that. Encarnacion is a set it and forget it player and those that benched him this past week are likely dehydrated from shedding too many tears of regret.

David Wright:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 26% 66% 66% 91% 83%
2014 27% 58% 60% 86% 78%


Wright is having issues making contact in and out of the zone, and is compounding his issues by not drawing walks. His batting average is still good thanks to a .378 BABIP, but his on base percentage is down 55 points and his slugging percentage is down 132 points. His power and his speed numbers are well below projections.

Martin Prado:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 25% 81% 53% 96% 92%
2014 26% 73% 51% 94% 87%


Prado is having a terrible season batting .250/.291/.310 and his slugging percentage is down 117 points. His main problem is he's not making contact on the pitches he has chased out of the zone as he presses the issue. He's nearly 200 plate appearances into the season and is still looking for his first home run.

Mike Trout:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 23% 70% 54% 88% 82%
2014 24% 69% 57% 83% 79%


Not exactly the guy any of us thought we would see on this list. Justin Havens from ESPN Stats & Info had a nice look last week into what was ailing Trout at the plate. More recently, Ryan Parker from BaseballProspectus critiqued Trout and pointed out how Trout's 2013 stance has changed in 2014. Parker goes on to say in the piece that Trout hasn't been able to drive the ball as well due to his new stance but that he has shown signs of improving things in recent weeks.

Brad Miller:

Year O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% Contact%
2013 34% 72% 70% 89% 83%
2014 38% 64% 65% 85% 77%


Expanding your strike zone to chase more pitches while you are making worse contact against those pitches is a hell of a way to carry on a baseball career. If the Mariners had anything ready at Triple-A that could play shortstop, Miller would have been gone a long time ago. Once Chris Taylor is healthy, that may still happen. Miller looks completely lost at the plate and not much better in the field. He is one of the biggest disappointments in 2014 after his strong showing in 2013.