It’s amazing that Johnny Damon has been around for 15+ seasons. It’s also amazing that he’s had that amount of success over his career with a swing that ugly. After a very slow start with the Rays, Damon has really heated up over the past month. Yet, he’s still owned in roughly 50% of Yahoo leagues.
On May 3rd Damon had a triple slash line of .245/.280/.402. Not good for a starting DH, and especially not good for a contending team like the Rays that just paid him $5.2 million. Since that date all Damon has done is reach base at least once in every single game while improving that slash line to a more respectable .283/.327/.433 at the time of me writing this. That huge jump is due to Damon hitting .323/.374/.455 over the past 28 days. What is most encouraging is the steady increase in Damon’s walk rate every month; at 4.0% in April, 6.1% in May, 8.3% in June. He’s now leading off for the Rays, and I don’t see that changing until he stops hitting or Desmond Jennings is called up, so the added walks are a nice bonus. They’re especially nice when he’s hitting in front of Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce.
Even when Damon had a sub .300 OBP he was still providing the Rays value with his power. He hasn’t hit a home run in awhile, but he already has knocked out seven balls this season in 250 PA as opposed to the 8 he hit in all of 2010. His current ISO of .150 is right in line with his career average. Looking at his plate discipline numbers we can see that Damon is swinging at more pitches than any point in his career. In fact, the only time he approached his current 49.6% Swing% was in 2005 when it was 48.2%; it has only topped 46% one other season. This increase in Swing% has lead to an increase in both O-Swing% (pitches outside the zone) and Z-Swing% (pitches inside the zone), yet his contact rate has remained virtually unchanged. That means his percentage of swinging strikes must be increased; and it is at an all time high of 7.9%. I’m hoping that the increase we’ve seen in Damon’s walk rate will help curb some of those numbers.
Our ZiPS projections have him hitting 15 total home runs this season to go along with 17 steals. An outfielder with 15-15 potential isn’t huge news, but in deep or AL only leagues Damon could provide nice return on investment.
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