When a player is at the plate, there are a number of different possible outcomes. And maybe the worst of those is the swinging strike.

For the batter, a swinging strike is one pitch closer to an out. But unlike a called strike which may just be a matter of misjudging the strikezone, a swinging strike can be an indication that the batter is overmatched.

To get an idea about how well each hitter is swinging the bat early on, let’s first take a look at how often each batter swings at a pitch and misses…

Seven of the Rays have a rate above that of last year’s big league average (8.5%). And two of the hitters are way above the league average. Kelly Shoppach’s 22.3 percent swing-and-miss rate is as bad as it looks. That is the highest rate in the majors for anybody with at least 20 plate appearances, and a good reason why he has 20 strikeouts and just 1 walk so far this season.

A player might swing-and-miss a lot is if they are free-swingers or don’t have good command of the strikezone. So let’s look at how often each player swings at a pitch in the strikezone (Z-Swing%) or out of the strikezone (O-Swing%).

But we need to put those two numbers into context. So we also have how often each player swings the bat (Swing%) and the difference between a player’s O-Swing% and Z-Swing%.

In theory, a player with excellent command of the strikezone will swing more often at pitches in the zone than pitches out of the zone, leading to a bigger difference in the two measures.

We see that Matt Joyce knows the strikezone as well as anybody. He swings at three out of every four pitches in the strikezone. But when the pitch is a ball, he only swings at one of every four pitches.

On the other hand, this tells us a little about Reid Brignac’s struggles. So far this season, he is swinging at nearly half of the pitches out of the strikezone. And when opposing teams see that, they will just stop throwing him strikes and Briggy will just get himself out.

Since it is early in the season, this doesn’t necessarily tell us how the Rays will do moving forward, but it does tell us

a little about what they have been doing early in the year. And we see that most of the Rays are swinging at many more pitches in the zone than out of the zone. A rate that is higher is than the league average.

This tells us that the Rays are aggressive at the plate, but they are only aggressive in the strikezone. Of the 13 players listed, nine swing at pitches out of the strikezone less often than the big league average (29.3%).

It would seem that this means one of two things: 1) the Rays target players that have good command of the strikezone; or 2) this is a philosophy taught by the Rays and hitting coach Derek Shelton.

Typically we feel that the importance of a hitting coach is overstated. But one area they can influence big league hitters is their approach at the plate. And based on these numbers, Rays hitters are aggressive, but they are not giving the opposing pitchers too many free strikes.

Agressive, but don’t give the opposition anything for free.

Yep, that sounds like the Rays.


1 Comment

  1. Greg says:

    Excellent post - thanks for putting it together. This is my favorite type of post. Well done.


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