And we’re back! I’ll give you second to familiarize yourself with these charts… These are all statistics that stabilize between 50 PA and 200 PA*, and each can help tell us how much a player’s improvement or decline is real. The first chart compares players to past seasons (up to five seasons back) while the second chart compares our Mariners to league medians.
Just about everyone on this site wrote something about Ichiro going into this season. It was hard not to, what with the change to the three-spot and a new batting approach. I tackled the subject early on, Harrison asked if Ichiro could possibly slug .450 with his new approach, and Joel chimed in with Ichiro’s bad luck on line drives, suggesting that he should do better this season.
So far, Ichiro is still struggling to get line drives to fall for base hits, but that stat doesn’t show up on these charts for a reason. It takes more than a season to stabilize. I think Joel is right on the money, and Ichiro’s .548 batting average on liners is almost sure creep back up toward his career rate of .681. So if his karma is still in the dumps, how is Ichiro hitting 26 points better this season? Take a look above. He’s hitting line drives 27.9% of the time, and that is much better than he’s ever done before. Line drive rates begin to stabilize at 150 PA, and Ichiro is quickly approaching that magical cutoff (130 as of this second). This is exciting. We can’t assume that he’s going to keep hitting line drives quite like this, but this obvious improvement in combination with a little luck means we could see Ichiro north of .300 again all season.
In fact, looking at Ichiro’s line above, a lot of his stats are in the green zone. The sample size is still small, but this is definitely a positive, early sign that his new approach is working for him.
This chart is a little redder, though we expected that. Turns out the M’s are not the best hitting team around, but this gives me a little chance to piggy back on Bryant’s attraction to Kyle Seager. Z-Contact rate. When the ball is in the zone, Seager hits it, and he does so significantly better that the league median. Some of these balls he hits are ending up in the outfield seats—and while homerun rates are far from stabilizing (300 PA)—you can bet I’ll be tracking that with my color charts!
Next week we’ll check in to see if Brendan Ryan’s walk rate can stay high, if Alex Liddi’s strikeout rate can stay low, and if Jesus Montero could please stop swinging at balls outside zone–we already have a catcher that does that really well.
*Pit/PA : Pitches per plate appearance – Stabilizes at 150 PA
BB%: Walk rate – Stabilizes at 200 PA
K%: Strikeout rate – Stabilizes at 150 PA
O-Swing%: Percent of pitches that are swung at outside the strike zone – Likely stabilizes around 100 PA
Z-Cont%: Percent of pitches inside the zone that are swung at and hit – Likely stabilizes around 100 PA
SwStr%: Percent of pitches that swung at and whiffed – Stabilizes at 100 PA
LD%: Line drive rate – Stabilizes at 150 PA