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Josh Reddick: Plate Discipline and Outcomes

At various points last year, and to some extent right now, Josh Reddick has looked lost at the plate. Here is a look at his plate discipline numbers between this year and last.

While most stats take some time to normalize, research has shown that plate discipline statistics reach some level of significance after a low number of plate appearances. These data are derived from two sources: Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) classifications or PITCHf/x. BIS is basically guys sitting down watching baseball games and classifying pitches. PITCHf/x is MLB's in-house pitch classification that relies on a neural network to decide what pitches are what. Essentially, a really fancy and expensive computer program designed for decision-making. After all this, there are 9 pretty useful statistics:

O-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.
Z-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.
Swing%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter swings at.
O-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
Z-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
Contact%: The overall percentage of a batter makes contact with when swinging the bat.
Zone%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter sees inside the strike zone.
F-Strike% - The percentage of first pitch strikes (BIS only)
SwStr%: The percentage of total pitches a batter swings and misses on (BIS only)

These are all pretty self-explanatory and describe the player's selectivity at the plate. With that, you also get league-average data that I have used here.

Since I much prefer PITCHf/x classifications, but BIS has two data points that PITCHf/x doesn't use, I've merged the data into one table that describes it all. The first seven columns use data from PITCHf/x, but F-Strike% and SwStr% come from BIS data. All data itself (and the above glossary terms) are from Fangraphs.

 Josh Reddick plate discipline 2012-3, in percentages O-Swing Z-Swing Swing O-Con Z-Con Con Zone F-Strike SwStr 2012 31.9 67.4 49.2 71.4 84.5 80.1 48.6 56.8 9.5 lgAvg 29.0 62.2 45.3 63.6 87.3 79.6 49.2 59.8 9.1 2013 30.2 58.6 43.0 68.8 90.2 81.9 45.1 67.4 7.8 lgAvg 28.2 62.0 44.6 63.3 87.1 79.4 48.6 59.7 9.1

At first glance, it almost looks like he is trying to be more patient compared to 2012, and indeed that's true. He is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone, fewer pitches inside the zone, swinging less in general, taking more first strikes, and swinging through fewer pitches. At the same time, his overall contact rates are about the same, and he's making more contact inside the zone when he does swing.

There is also nothing incredibly different about the way he's being pitched to. In fact, he's seen slightly more four-seam (straight) fastballs this year over the last.

So what gives? Well, there is the almighty BABIP, and Reddick is behind only Aaron Hicks (Twins mega-prospect) as having the lowest BABIP in the league right now, at .103 to Hicks' .087 among those with at least 40 PA. There is that. But what if Reddick just isn't making good contact? Batted ball data exists, and tells us that his line-drive percentage is at 6.7%, compared to 21.2% last year. That said, his groundball percentage is at 46.7% this year compared to 29.2% last year. Rather than being concerned about weak contact, though, that makes me think he's gotten some bad luck on balls that would normally be line drives. Indeed, I wonder about the plane of his swing and whether it is higher than it was before, ensuring that he beats balls into the ground rather than drive them.

Of course, it's still early, and these data will shift on each ball he makes contact with in play. Batted ball data does not normalize very early since it only cares about balls in play, rather than every pitch he swings at. What's more, Reddick is coming off a wrist injury now, and it'll take some time for him, most likely, to get back to point at which he is totally comfortable swinging again.

In the future, I'd like to try to split off his plate discipline data by second-half first-half of last year, but I am told that will require me to start rolling my SQL queries using Retrosheet data. If I do end up doing that, I will report back with my findings.