Shiny New Plate Discipline: Trevor Plouffe

When I think of Trevor Plouffe, I think of two things: His otherworldly June in 2012 and the Brasserie D’Achouffe. Only one is really relevant to our conversation here today, although I’ll tell you that I’ve got a hankering for a Belgian ale now. I digress.

Trevor Plouffe has been doing something interesting over the last month, and it’s making me raise a curious eyebrow as to whether he might just be worth not only picking up, but hanging on to. Truth be told, I’ve been riding him in a couple leagues ever since I had injuries strike guys like Ryan Zimmerman and Will Middlebrooks, although I never planned on keeping him around. But Plouffe has had a fine little start so far — fine like a Fiat 500t, not say, a Subaru Justy. In his first 26 games, Plouffe has managed a .277/.383/.436 slash line with a home run, 20 runs scored, 19 RBI and 11 doubles to boot. Now that’s not the kind of power that Plouffe has previously put on display, but that’s pretty usable in most formats. And the power should come.

Of course, Plouffe is a streaky hitter, and he might zig right as you start to zag to the waiver wire, so operate with a degree of caution. But something I pointed out a little while ago when writing about other injured third basemen — when Plouffe has controlled his strikeouts, he’s typically been a really productive hitter. In 2013, here are his strikeout rates and corresponding wRC+ by month:

K% wRC+
May 18% 134
June 16% 141
July 28% 41
August 26% 64
September 21% 118

This is particularly why I find Plouffe’s start so interesting, because not only has he improved his walk rate at a career high 13.3% but he’s holding steady his strikeouts at just south of 20%. Furthermore, you look at his plate discipline, and it’s rather eye popping what he’s accomplished thus far.

Season O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% SwStr%
2011 31.60% 57.90% 44.30% 10.30%
2012 31.00% 65.10% 47.40% 9.00%
2013 29.30% 59.80% 43.60% 8.10%
2014 17.40% 60.10% 37.40% 7.90%

It’s likely these rates will start to trend towards his career rates, but this strikes me as something more than just noise — it really looks like it reflects a change in approach. Plouffe has simply offered at very few balls thrown outside the strike zone, and he’s cut down on the whiffs, which appears to continue a trend since 2011. For a guy like Plouffe who has spats of can’t-hit-anything-for-a-month-itis, this seems like a really positive change which might mitigate the feast or famine nature of his bat.

You might look at his BABIP of .351 and cry foul, and because he has a career .280 rate, you might be right. But his xBABIP is spittin’ distance from .340, so he’s pretty well earned most of that .351. His line drive rate is at a career high 26%, he’s hit zero infield fly balls to date (career 13.2%) and so far his HR/FB rate is just 3.4% which is like flying a banner reading “free home runs”. And although he’s hit just a single home run so far, his fly ball distance is currently 267 where last year it was 270, so it’s not like he’s not eating his spinach.

Plouffe is owned in just 46% of Yahoo leagues, but even if one of your competitors has him, it probably wouldn’t take a whole lot to pry him away. My gut tells me that he’s probably going to finish the season acting a whole lot like the old Trevor Plouffe, which is a maddening player to own — but right now, Plouffe looks like he’s got a whole new approach at the plate and could very well throw up some crooked numbers for the next several weeks. If you need help at a corner infield or third base slot, he’s a pretty solid play.




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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.


12 Responses to “Shiny New Plate Discipline: Trevor Plouffe”

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  1. Andrew says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Completely off-topic, my apologies. Need to replace Kipnis in a standard 5×5 with limited moves: Walker, Kendrick, Gyorko or Miller?

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    • Michael Barr says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I tend to always go to Walker when disaster strikes, but really any of those guys could catch fire for a few weeks.

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    • FeslenR says:

      safe bet is Walker, Miller has to get better sooner or later.

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    • Cameron says:

      Will Gyorko turn it around? I drafted him in hopes of him being a pretty reliable flex (2b/3b) and need to fill roster spots with the injuries that have gone down. About to give up hope on him.

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      • FeslenR says:

        he’ll be okay, it is a VERY long season after all. do you have waiver options so you can bench him?

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  2. Dan says:

    obligatory YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE PLOUFFE!

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  3. FeslenR says:

    anyway, yeah, Plouffe has had a sneaky decent season so far, but it’s April.

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    • Michael Barr says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      well, walk rate is said to stabilize around 120 PA’s. And Plouffe has… 120 PA’s. K rate at 60, for what it’s worth.

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    • majnun says:

      It’s guy who read the headline and commented!

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  4. baltic fox says:

    Wasn’t it Dave Cameron who recently posted an article about how most of the Twins batters have decided to take a Mauer-like approach to hitting and look at more pitches?

    So far, so good. This might be a trend that becomes more or less permanent. For now, I’m buying–with Ryan Zimmerman on the DL I have no choice.

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  5. DeQuarium Lumpkin says:

    Plouffe or Arenado ROS?

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