Take a look at Chris Iannetta’s batted ball statistics so far this year, and your eyes may stutter.
Sure, some of the numbers may not surprise you. He’s a career .244 MLB hitter, and .303 MiLB hitter. So you might see his batting average so far this year (a robust .200), take a gander at his .176 BABIP, and dust your hands off. See? He’s just been unlucky, and just needs a couple more balls to fall in and he’ll be fine.
In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, “Not so fast, Doc!”
Keep scanning right and you’ll come to it. See it yet? Yup, Iannetta has a line drive rate of 5.1% right now. And yes, a 69.2% fly ball percentage. It’s a young year, but those are some funky numbers. They paint quite the picture of a young slugger with a huge uppercut swing. As early as the 16th of last month, Thomas Harding reported on MLB.com that the young catcher, though making strides defensively, still “has to work on not hitting under balls.” Seemingly, he’s still a work in progress, and the team is aware of the uppercuts.
The sustainability of such a low line drive rate is, of course, not in question. The worst full-year line drive percentage for a batting-title qualifier last year belonged to Hunter Pence with his 13.9% number. Iannetta will either get that number up or find himself working on his swing in Colorado Springs. The question, instead, is what this will mean for his development as one of the finer young offensive-minded catchers in the league. And there seems to be a mixed bag here.
Getting his fly ball percentage over his career 41.3% has to be considered a good thing, especially in Colorado. His fantasy owners like to see those home runs, and more fly balls naturally lead to more balls over the fences.
On the other hand, after extensive work with BABIP and line drive rate, the consensus on the interwebbings has it that the two statistics are positively correlated. If this is merely a temporary blip in line drive rate, Iannetta may still be on his way to being a guy that hits enough line drives to positively contribute in batting average while showing good power for his position. Even with his poor numbers to begin this year, his career line drive rate is a decent-to-good 19.3%, so the rosy scenario is still a likely scenario.
Should these 60 at-bats then change our mind about the other 607 Iannetta has accrued in Colorado to date? Probably not, but they do take a little rose off this bloom.
After striking out in 17.7% of his at-bats in the minor leagues, Iannetta has upped that number to 28% against the big boys and 33% this year. Pair the oscillating line drive rate with the burgeoning strike-out rate, and it seems that this young catcher will have to have a nice run of luck to get his batting average close to .300 in future seasons, to say nothing of this year.
The good news? At least the power is real!