Omar Infante is possibly having the most productive season of his career. He is currently hitting 0.321/0.352/0.532 with 6 HRs. While it may be tough for him to hit 16 HRs like he did in 2004, he is seeing a nice power spike. Have any of his core attributes changed that will help keep this break out sustainable?
One of his biggest changes for this season is the pitches he swings at. The change is not exactly seen in the his K% and BB%. Both have not changed much from last year:
Year: K%, BB%
2011: 5%, 11%
2012: 4%, 12%
The change involves the pitches he swings at while hitting. Using Pitchf/x values, his Swing % in 2011 was 46% and it is the same this year. He has though stopped chasing pitches out of the strike zone and swings more at pitches in the zone. Here are his Swing % for in and out of the strike zone:
Year: O-Swing%, Z-Swing %
2011: 31%, 59%
2012: 26%, 63%
The main change is that he is not chasing inside pitches vs RHP. Here is a visual representation of the right-handed hitter’s swinging strike zone from 2011 and 2012 from baseballheatmaps.com (regressed 10 pitches):
The strike zone is from the catcher/umpire’s perspective. The square is the rule book strike zone and the circle is added for visual reference. The scale is the percent that the player swings at pitch in that part of the strike zone.
In 2011, he swung at over 50% of the pitches on the inside part of the plate, but out of the strike zone. So far in 2012, he has only swung at around 30% of those same pitches. By swinging at better pitches, he can only hit the ball better and further.
While it is impossible to know exactly how much of the improved plate selection has helped his power, it is at a career high this year with an ISO at 0.212. This value is twice as big as any of his IS0 values from 2007 to 2011.
The main change in his output is because of improved production from his fly balls. Over his career, his wOBA on fly balls is 0.235. This season it is 0.393. The change in output is mainly from hitting more home runs. This season, 10% of his fly balls have turned into HRs (5% career HR/FB%). The average distance on his fly balls and home runs has improved in 2012 compared to previous years.
Season: HR and FB distance (ft)
2009: 272 ft
2010: 278 ft
2011: 264 ft
2012: 288 ft
His fly balls are traveling 10 more feet than anytime in the previous 3 season and 24 more feet than last year.
Omar Infante is seeing a legitimate uptick in power which is partial related to an improved eye. He was probably picked up for very little on draft/auction day, but is now widely owned. Since he is not available in most leagues, an owner could look at picking him up from another owner trying to “sell high”. I would take an owner up on that sell proposition.