Contact Rate Decliners

Yesterday, I identified the hitters who have experienced the largest increase in their Contact% as compared with last year. So today I will check in on the other side of the coin, the big decliners. Just like the Contact% surgers, an appearance on this list isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Sometimes a hitter consciously decides to swing harder in an attempt to increase their power output, so it’s a trade-off. This is exactly the opposite of what I said might happen for the Contact% surgers, so let’s see if any patterns emerge.

Name 2013 Contact% 2012 Contact% Diff 2013 K% 2012 K% Diff 2013 ISO 2012 ISO Diff
Colby Rasmus 59.0% 75.9% -16.9% 40.6% 23.8% 16.8% 0.175 0.177 -0.002
Jeff Francoeur 67.5% 80.5% -13.0% 24.0% 19.7% 4.3% 0.106 0.143 -0.037
Jason Kipnis 75.9% 83.5% -7.6% 24.7% 16.2% 8.5% 0.157 0.122 0.035
Dan Uggla 63.3% 70.1% -6.8% 35.5% 26.7% 8.8% 0.168 0.164 0.004
Pedro Alvarez 64.2% 70.9% -6.7% 31.8% 30.7% 1.1% 0.149 0.223 -0.074
Garrett Jones 70.1% 76.7% -6.6% 21.3% 20.0% 1.3% 0.186 0.242 -0.056
J.P. Arencibia 67.8% 74.1% -6.3% 37.5% 29.0% 8.5% 0.282 0.202 0.080
Chris Young 75.4% 81.7% -6.3% 19.8% 21.8% -2.0% 0.218 0.203 0.015
Michael Morse 70.6% 76.4% -5.8% 26.5% 22.6% 3.9% 0.269 0.180 0.089
Salvador Perez 85.2% 91.0% -5.8% 19.6% 8.9% 10.7% 0.096 0.170 -0.074

Not surprisingly, 9 of the 10 hitters have seen their strikeout rates increase, while half of the hitters have seen an increase in power. So just like the Contact% surgers have shown us, it’s highly correlated with strikeout rate, but there may be no power with regards to ISO.

It’s now been 100 at-bats, and Colby Rasmus‘s strikeout rate sits at 40.5%. Wow. His SwStk% has skyrocketed from 10.8% to 18.0%. Amazingly, you wouldn’t even notice the huge uptick in strikeout rate by just looking at his batting average, as it sits where it always does. But that’s because his BABIP is an astronomical (for him) .392. He’d be hitting sub-.200 if his BABIP was closer to his career .291 mark.

Jeff Francoeur? Free Wil Myers! Oh, wait….

Normally, you’d wonder if Jason Kipnis‘ elbow was affecting his hitting, but his power is actually better so far than last year, so really, he’s just making less contact. The good news for fantasy owners is that he’s quickly proving that last year’s stolen base output was no fluke. I thought it would have been a reasonable bet to project more homers than steals this year, but that’s clearly not looking to be a winning proposition at this point.

Ughhh for Dan Uggla. If he wasn’t hitting for solid power, he sure looks like he’s on his way to being finished. He is now the epitome of old player skills, which is usually the recipe for a quick and steep decline. His BABIP, though, should improve as he’s hitting fewer fly balls than usual and hitting line drives and pop-ups at fairly acceptable rates. Obviously, not a buy low, but I wouldn’t necessarily drop him as he’s a near lock for another 20+ homers.

Lucky for Pedro Alvarez, significantly less contact hasn’t yet led to more strikeouts. Already the poster boy for swinging and missing, he’s taken that “skill” to an entirely new level this year. How his strikeout rate has managed to barely budge is beyond me. Based on his advanced metrics, he should be competing with Rasmus for strikeout rate king.

The huge uptick in power has so far hidden the fact that J.P. Arencibia simply cannot make contact at an acceptable rate. Perhaps even more comical than his 35.0% K% is his 2/42 BB/K ratio. Really J.P.? He’s certainly making his OBP league owners pay for the power he provides!

I am not a Salvador Perez owner, but if I were, I would be seriously concerned. He has always made excellent contact, but showed atrocious plate patience, unwilling to take the free pass. This season, his hatred of the base on balls has continued with just three walks, but now he’s not making strong contact like he used to. Oddly, he’s actually seeing a higher rate of pitches inside the zone, but he’s just making less contact with them. He also hadn’t really shown a whole lot of power until last year, so it’s not unreasonable to think that last year was more flukey than his true talent level. I don’t think he’s a good buy low candidate.

Here are the rest of the hitters who have seen their Contact% decline.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

20 Responses to “Contact Rate Decliners”

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  1. Bennie and the Jets says:

    Should I drop Salvador Perez for Evan Gattis?

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    • Pops says:

      I second that question… will the Braves find enough at bats for him over the course of the season?

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    • This is a tough one. Fredi Gonzalez loves to play the hot hand, so Gattis has got to keep hitting while Heyward is out to continue getting at bats. He was pretty bad in LF yesterday though, so I just don’t know how often he’s going to play. If it’s a weekly league, then def not, if it’s a daily transaction league, you might need an extra catcher on your roster for when he’s not in the lineup.

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  2. James says:

    In “Contact% Decliners : Sheet1″, why doesn’t (“2013 Contact %” + “2013 K%”) not equal 100 (± rounding error)? Mauer’s and LaRoche’s totals are > 103%.

    Are they both expressed as a percentage of total plate appearances?
    Are BB, HBP and catcher’s interference the only outcomes not included?

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  3. Jonathan Sher says:

    You need to dig a bit deeper into Kipnis to understand it may very well be his elbow that had been bothering him. Nealy all his power this season has come in the last week — in May his IPO is .455 compared to .086 in April. In the last 6 games his k% has dropped to 14%.

    It seems quite possible that his elbow woes since Spring Training had been affecting his swing and timing and depressed his power and contact rate, and that a stint on the DL and some pain-free swing righted the ship. We’ll see if that’s the case as the season progresses.

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    • Jon L. says:

      I second this. Three homers in the last week (of three homers total).

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    • Jonathan Sher says:

      In the three days since Mike posted this, Kipnis has raised his contact percentage to 80.1%, more than halving the gap from last year. When you rely on a data set that can be overcome with just three more days of data, perhaps that original data set says little meaningful.

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  4. mymaus says:

    Great article. I get swing harder = lower contact rate and maybe higher ISO. I see Bruce at the top of the rest of hitters sheet with a -.162 difference in ISO. I happened to notice that Kemp has a -.164 ISO and a lot of people saying the ISO issue has to do with his shoulder. Should I be worried that Bruce is injured also? I’d like to see more analysis of him if you don’t mind.

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    • Haven’t heard anything about Bruce so I’m just chalking it up to a standard slow start. We know Kemp is coming off shoulder surgery, but Bruce has no known injury issues.

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  5. wynams says:

    At the 100AB threshold … who better to cut in an OBP league Rasmus or Alvarez?

    I have plenty of OF (JUpton, Choo, AGon, Bourn, Moss, Hart [DL])
    Also content at 3B (Frazier, HanRam [DL])

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    • Does your league count strikeouts…as a positive thing? Haha. Assuming not, wow, funny to have them both on your team. I think Alvarez because he has more power at least, since both will kill your average, plus if he gets hots, he has more name, and therefore, trade value.

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  6. j-bones says:

    Is it time to sell Bruce if you get a chance? I have an open offer for Headley or Machado (I’ve got Alvarez manning third)

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    • j-bones says:

      based on his big contact drop, I mean. I’m not depending on him (or anyone really) for average in this H2H, but 68% is low even for him

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      • Absolutely not for Machado. But Headley is actually a fair offer and based on preseason values, they were similar. Since you’d be upgrading a 0, that’s a good trade. Also depends of course who replaces Bruce.

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  7. The Flaming FIPs says:

    Perez is faring a lot better now than he was earlier in the season. His AVG for the last month is .321 with a .785 OPS.

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    • Jonathan Sher says:

      You are correct that Perez started off poorly but has since rebounded. His strikeout rate this month is actually below what he posted this year, and while that is a small sample size, so too is the first 5 weeks of the season.

      As for Perez’s power, it did not come out of nowhere — in 2011 as a 21-year-old his isolate power was .142 and last year he improved that to .170 – an unsurprising increase given his age. At A+ in a horrible hitters park it was .121 and in AA it was .143.

      If someone wants to sell low on Perez, consider me a buyer.

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  8. squads says:

    I hate Dan Uggla. He plays for a team I hate. His face is eminently punchable. He K’s all the &$*%$#@ time. Somehow he ended up on my fantasy team. I dropped him Monday and he hit two HRs today.

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