Much had been said earlier this year about Miguel Olivo taking walks at a career-high pace, but this month he’s said “screw that”, and decided that he’s just going to hit a homer or make an out. Olivo is hitting .214/.211/.625 in June, with 7 home runs, good for second-best in the league in the month. That ties him with Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp. Prince Fielder and Adam Lind are the only two hitters with more, both tied with eight. Olivo only has 12 hits in the month, and 7 of them are home runs.
That kind of line has got to be one of the most unlikely ways to reach an .836 OPS, but that doesn’t make it any less productive. What’s striking is Olivo’s complete change in patience stats. After taking 5 walks in April and 11 in May, Olivo has yet to walk in June; in fact, with a sac fly on his stat sheet, his OBP is actually lower than his average, as seen in his line above. Though he only hit two home runs in each of the first two months of the season, it seems like his patience has led to him seeing more strikes to crush, and the data backs that up. 35% of the pitches he saw in April were balls, and he saw almost the same amount, 36%, in May. For whatever reason though–perhaps that Olivo showed a willingness to take some of those pitches–he is only seeing 29% balls in the month of June. That may seem small, but it’s significant enough to say that it may be a contributor in his power spike. Strikes are better pitches to hit, and you can hit better pitches further.
This has brought Olivo’s season line up to .234/.281/.421, with the most home runs by any catcher in the MLB. His patience and ISO have basically been equal to Juan Rivera’s, which is pretty great for a catcher. What drags down his overall stats below a Rivera level is simply a lack of contact. Olivo’s struck out 16 times this month, which brings his season total to 64, or a rate of 30%.
While that’s bad, the .836 OPS is still very productive, especially out of the catcher spot. While he’s not going to slug .625 for the rest of the year, he’s also going to have a higher average and OBP than he’s had in June going forward. It’s just nice to see, after a couple months of mediocre power based on Olivo’s recent history, that he still has the bat speed to hit no-doubter homers, and with some regularity. Olivo hadn’t really hurt the team much with his bat the first two months of the season, but it looks like he’s a good chance to be an actual lineup asset going forward. He certainly won’t be a black hole. According to WAR, he’s already earned over half ($4.4 million) of the 2-year, $7.5 million dollar deal he signed in the offseason. More and more, this is looking like a very good signing by Jack Zduriencik. The defense may not be great, but the offense is pretty darn good.
As a little addendum here, when I was doing research for this post, I discovered that pitchers may want to completely stop throwing Miguel Olivo anything on the inner half of the strike zone that he could pull. When pulling the ball, Olivo is hitting a ridiculous .437/.431/.944(!!) with all 11 of his home runs. Pitchers should stop throwing inner-half strikes to Olivo, or they shouldn’t, because dingers are awesome.