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Making it Work with Lots of Whiffs

A couple weeks ago I looked at Chris Davis‘s contact struggles. In that post I displayed a histogram with all contact rates from 2003 to 2008 and Davis’s half season of 2009. Here is the same figure without Davis, but with Mark Reynolds‘s 2008 contact rate indicated.

contact_hist

Not as much of an outlier as Davis, but last year Reynolds’s rate of 62.3% was the lowest of any regular since 2003. This year he is similarly lowest in the league with 63.4%. Reynolds, unlike Davis, makes it work. Even with this very very low contact rate Reynolds has a wOBA over .400, 12th best in the league.

One thing he has over Davis is much better plate discipline, swinging at only a quarter of pitches out of the zone compared to Davis’s 35.4%. As a result, and because pitchers don’t throw in the zone to him that much, he has a healthy walk rate of 11.8%.

In addition the pitches that Reynolds does make contact with are very likely to be HRs. Fly balls make up 46% of his balls in play and 28% of those are HRs. That means 12.9% of his balls in play are HRs (tops in the league with Adam Dunn second at 11.6%). As a result Reynolds is second in the league in HRs with 32.

Reynolds represents what Davis needs to be if he is going to succeed with a huge whiff rate. He needs to stop swinging at pitches out of the zone, and make sure the pitches he hits go a long way. Not rocket science, but it is helpful to see someone how makes it work with a big whiff rate.