There are few, if any, conclusions we can draw based on a player’s first 50 major league plate appearances. In that sample, which covers 12 or 13 games, anything can happen. A player might hit with an inordinate number of men on base. He might face a string of weak pitchers. He might play two series against the Royals. Yet, after watching a handful of Brennan Boesch‘s 50 major league PA, including all four last night, I’m convinced of one thing. The man does not think it is his duty to take pitches.
The Tigers drafted Boesch with the 82nd pick of the 2006 draft. He had impressed at the University of California as a sophomore, hitting .355/.436/.567. His production dipped a bit in his junior year, but his star was still bright enough to warrant a third round selection. The Tigers signed him and them placed him in the New York-Penn League, where he hit .291/.344/.435 in 292 PA. He struggled through the next two seasons before finding his power strike at AA in 2009, slugging over .500 for the first time as a professional.
Something had changed for Boesch when he turned pro. In college he drew 53 walks in 574 PA, a 9.2% walk rate. That dropped immediately upon his pro debut. In 317 PA — more than he had accumulated during any of his college seasons — he walked 6.6 percent of the time. That number dropped even further during his first full season, to 4.2 percent. For his minor league career he walked 117 times in 1957 PA, 6 percent.
That hasn’t changed in the majors, where he’s walked just twice in his 50 PA, one of them intentional. So far Boesch has swung at 50 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. That is nearly double the league average rate. He swings at plenty of pitches in general, 66.2 percent, more than 20 percentage points above league average. It’s no wonder, then, that his swinging strike rate also ranks above league average.
Yet that hasn’t been all bad for Boesch so far. He has struck out only six times in those 50 PA, which amounts to a below average strikeout rate. Low strikeout and walk rates mean he’s putting the ball in play often. To his advantage, 35 percent of his balls in play have dropped for hits, which has propped up his .340 BA. Last year at AA Boesch hit .275, but had an insane BABIP of .390. He struck out a ton, though, 127 times in 527 AB, a 24.1 percent rate.
I’m not sure what to make of all this. It is, after all, just 50 PA, and only two of those have come against left-handed pitching (another peril of short samples). It is clear, though, that Boesch wants to swing the bat. He won’t find much success if he continues chasing so many pitches out of the zone, but as he settles into the league that rate should drop significantly. From the little I’ve seen of him, he seems like the kind of player who can survive on contact skills alone.
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