Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Swingin' Brennan Boesch

One of the first things you notice when you watch Tigers rookie Brennan Boesch bat is that he swings at everything.  There is almost no pitch he doesn't like.  His aggressive approach is illustrated by the plate discipline statistics at FanGraphs.  He has swung at about two-thirds of all pitches he's seen so far (Swing%=66.1).  That is substantially above the the major league average of 44.7%.  In fact, it is the highest swing% in all of baseball this year. 

Boesch not only likes to swing at pitches in the strike zone (Zswing%=83.2).  He has also swung at more than half of pitches outside the strike zone (Oswing%=51.6%).  The average batter swings at only a little more than one out four (27.4%) pitches outside the strike zone.  One might think that such a free wheeling approach would lead to a lot of strikes but his overall contact rate on all pitches (Contact%) is 81.8% which is better than the league average of 80.9%.

No other batter in baseball swings as much as Boesch.  The player who comes closest is Vladimir Guerrero, a notorious free swinger who has been successful with the same approach for a long time.  Guerrero has a Swing% of 65.2 and an Oswing% of 49.8 which places him second to Boesch on both measures.

On the other end of the spectrum is Brett Gardner who has swung at a lower percentage of pitches (32.1%) than any player in the game.  He also has swung at only about one out of five (19.3%) pitches outside the zone.  He only swings at what he can hit and is fifth in the league with a 93.7% contact rate. 

Boesch is certainly in good company with Gurrero but very few can maintain that kind of success as a bad ball hitter for a long period. It will be interesting to see how he reacts once pitchers challenge him by throwing the ball more frequently and further out of the zone.

Up to this point, though, the young outfielder is hitting the ball and hitting it hard.  He has a .387 batting average, 14 extra base hits.680 slugging average in 78 plate appearances.  He has also been hitting with men on base piling up 19 RBI in 20 games.  He can't keep up that pace all year but so far the Tigers and their fans are enjoying his swingin' ways.

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