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Yuni swings too freaking much! May 7, 2008

Posted by Brad in stats.
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Baseball statistics are great when they go counter to what you think to be true.  One example is that Derek Jeter’s a terrible fielder, despite what Yankees fans and Gold Glove voters say.  Another is Voros McCracken’s theory on pitchers’ control of the batting average of balls put in play.

But statistics are even better when they confirm what you already know.  Like that Felix Hernandez throws the ball fast.  Or, that Yuniesky Betancourt swings too freaking much.

Right now, Yuni is swinging at half of all the pitches he sees.  That’s the 37th highest in the majors this season and highest on the Mariners.   Yuni’s not being choosy, but he’s also not completely wasting his swings; he’s making lots of contact.  He hits 90% of the pitches he swings at, which is 18th in baseball (Ichiro makes contact almost 94% of the time, 3rd best in baseball.)

Of course, he doesn’t get hits and outs with those swings.  My math has Yuni making contact on 178 of the 376 pitches he’s seen.  He’s only put the ball in play 109 times, so that’s 69 foul balls. (Yuni fouls off 18% of his pitches… that seems like a lot.)

These raw numbers don’t say too much–guys having great seasons like Carl Crawford, Joe Crede, Emil Brown, Mike Jacobs, and Josh Hamilton all swing more than Yuni, but so do Vlad Guererro, Robinson Cano, and Khalil Greene (all of whom aren’t doing so well).  What’s distressing for Yuni is that his likelihood to swing at a pitch has stayed steady the past few years, even though pitchers are throwing him fewer strikes.  Pitchers threw him strikes about 54% of the time the past two seasons, while this year he’s only getting strikes 51% of the time.  On the flipside, Yuni is hitting a higher percentage of all those balls he’s getting–he’s connecting on 80% of balls thrown outside the strike zone.

Yuni will never have an eye like Frank Thomas, who’s only swung at 14% of the balls outside the strike zone he’s seen since 2005, but he should lay off some the junk that Vicente Padilla serves him tonight.

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