I was passing over Hanley Ramirez’s FanGraphs page on the way to looking at his WAR totals for a WAR chart (the latest craze) when I saw his plate discipline numbers this season. Suffice to say, I was surprised:
I was shocked initially to see that Hanley was swinging at so many pitches in general. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this made sense. Hanley’s high OBP is being supported by a really high batting average, the highest he’s posted since 2007. Not surprisingly 2007 was when he posted a similar aggressive swinging approach, chasing more pitches and maintaining good contact. This year he’s conacting a bit less overall (down to 81.3% from 2007′s 84.5%) but he’s made up for that by swinging at a larger number of pitches in the zone.
Hanley’s certainly putting more balls in play for hits this year, with a .388 BABIP that should regress a tad. I wonder if he wouldn’t be served better to be more patient ala Dan Uggla and see more pitches. But he’s being pitched away from the zone now more than ever before (only 48.3% of pitches thrown to him are in the strike zone) and perhaps Hanley is stressing about swinging at the first good pitch he sees, fearing he won’t get another one to hit. Maybe the move to third in the order has put some additional pressure for him to deliver hits instead of letting the offensive game come to him. I wouldn’t be surprised that being dubbed the “middle of the order guy” by Fredi and the Marlins coaching staff has Hanley swinging more aggresively.
I can’t say it hasn’t worked; his .419 wOBA says it all. In addition, his 2007 season featuring just this type of profile yielded his second best offensive year by wOBA, though it was better by about three runs over last year’s numbers. I can’t say it has worked either, since his walk rates are down and that higher BABIP isn’t likely to stick around, especially with Hanley’s batted ball profile showing more fly balls than ever before. It remains to be seen whether swinging this often will help Hanley’s offense or whether that high BABIP regresses and drops his batting average and subsequent slash numbers. The approach is likely better than 2007, but can he keep up this level going forward?