St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game Five

We know some stats stabilize earlier than others, that’s well-traveled ground. But a recent chart over by Charlie Adams at Beyond the Boxscore depicts the race to significance visually for us:

PAs_until_stabilize

It’s early in the season. The samples are short. Many stats won’t matter for a while. But! Players have made changes to their swing and contact rates that might hold steady. Of course, all we are saying is that we can learn more from the player’s rates than the league rates at this point — we aren’t saying these rates will hold steady all year. But we can learn from them.

So who changed their approach the most? Here are the top 15 guys who decided to swing more:

Name PA BABIP AVG OBP Swing% Contact% K% swing change contact change
Adam Dunn 73 0.103 0.101 0.151 49.30% 71.10% 37.00% 8.100% 1.400%
Kevin Youkilis 68 0.357 0.279 0.353 44.80% 81.20% 25.00% 7.400% -0.400%
Pedro Alvarez 67 0.176 0.15 0.239 53.20% 62.40% 34.30% 5.200% -8.500%
Alejandro De Aza 79 0.26 0.23 0.256 48.20% 78.00% 26.60% 5.200% -3.200%
Miguel Cabrera 86 0.41 0.355 0.43 55.10% 82.10% 15.10% 5.100% -0.900%
Dexter Fowler 78 0.255 0.275 0.359 47.70% 75.90% 19.20% 5.000% -2.200%
Allen Craig 77 0.317 0.264 0.299 48.50% 86.50% 16.90% 4.900% 2.600%
Bryce Harper 80 0.373 0.366 0.438 55.00% 78.60% 16.30% 4.800% 2.300%
Alfonso Soriano 80 0.344 0.286 0.313 55.50% 78.30% 18.80% 4.600% 6.600%
Matt Holliday 76 0.264 0.25 0.368 52.20% 83.70% 11.80% 4.500% 4.900%
Starlin Castro 86 0.318 0.277 0.302 54.40% 80.70% 17.40% 4.200% -2.400%
Carlos Pena 79 0.283 0.221 0.329 47.70% 64.80% 25.30% 4.100% -2.100%
Jimmy Rollins 86 0.317 0.259 0.302 44.20% 84.10% 19.80% 3.700% -2.700%
Austin Jackson 94 0.343 0.291 0.351 45.80% 83.30% 16.00% 3.400% 2.700%
Jay Bruce 98 0.404 0.273 0.347 51.20% 66.90% 30.60% 3.400% -7.300%

For the most part, these guys are losing contact rate as they swing more, so we’ll call it a negative change for most of them. We know it is for Adam Dunn, who decided to be more aggressive, in what looks to be a misguided decision. As always, with young players we can believe positive change more, so let’s call it a nice sign for Austin Jackson and Bryce Harper, since these two young men are swinging more and making more contact.

Swinging less and making more contact is more obviously a positive. That means you’re swinging at the right pitches. Right?

Name PA BABIP AVG OBP Swing% Contact% K% swing change contact change
Kyle Seager 87 0.323 0.278 0.345 38.30% 79.70% 17.20% -9.600% -2.700%
Ryan Doumit 66 0.267 0.203 0.288 40.70% 74.50% 21.20% -7.800% -3.600%
Michael Young 80 0.404 0.333 0.4 44.50% 81.00% 17.50% -7.500% -4.900%
Asdrubal Cabrera 71 0.186 0.156 0.229 40.70% 79.80% 26.80% -7.400% -4.300%
Josh Reddick 70 0.2 0.164 0.257 42.90% 80.80% 22.90% -7.300% 0.300%
A.J. Ellis 65 0.39 0.321 0.446 31.30% 82.80% 16.90% -6.300% -0.200%
Norichika Aoki 83 0.254 0.257 0.329 36.20% 95.10% 6.00% -6.200% 6.700%
Kendrys Morales 88 0.288 0.267 0.375 44.60% 81.10% 14.80% -5.500% 5.600%
Shane Victorino 79 0.339 0.294 0.364 38.20% 82.70% 12.70% -5.500% -4.100%
Dan Uggla 72 0.182 0.167 0.306 37.20% 63.60% 31.90% -5.500% -6.500%
Ian Kinsler 87 0.25 0.28 0.379 38.10% 91.70% 6.90% -5.400% 3.800%
Chris Davis 82 0.413 0.382 0.463 49.80% 75.60% 20.70% -5.100% 4.600%
Josh Willingham 61 0.31 0.234 0.41 35.30% 75.60% 26.20% -5.100% -0.300%
Jason Heyward 69 0.114 0.121 0.261 41.80% 76.80% 17.40% -5.100% 1.400%
Adam LaRoche 65 0.212 0.172 0.262 38.30% 74.70% 33.80% -4.900% -2.500%

None of the guys with the combo of swinging less and making more contact are really young, but you would call it a positive advancement for Chris Davis and Jason Heyward (if Heyward were healthy). Ian Kinsler has had some issues with strikeouts, so it’s nice to see his change, too. Contact is not one of Norichika Aoki’s many problems right now. But if Austin Jackson and Bryce Harper were our aggressive poster childs (this could be big for Jackson), we’ll call Chris Davis our selective star.

How about just making more contact?

Name PA BABIP AVG OBP Swing% Contact% K% swing change contact change
Torii Hunter 80 0.459 0.392 0.438 53.90% 83.80% 15.00% 2.700% 8.900%
Carlos Gonzalez 81 0.377 0.343 0.42 43.40% 79.80% 17.30% -3.900% 6.800%
Norichika Aoki 83 0.254 0.257 0.329 36.20% 95.10% 6.00% -6.200% 6.700%
Josh Hamilton 86 0.278 0.221 0.279 58.30% 71.40% 26.70% -0.600% 6.700%
Alfonso Soriano 80 0.344 0.286 0.313 55.50% 78.30% 18.80% 4.600% 6.600%
Kendrys Morales 88 0.288 0.267 0.375 44.60% 81.10% 14.80% -5.500% 5.600%
Angel Pagan 89 0.32 0.293 0.337 43.20% 93.50% 9.00% -0.300% 5.300%
Matt Holliday 76 0.264 0.25 0.368 52.20% 83.70% 11.80% 4.500% 4.900%
Alcides Escobar 74 0.27 0.279 0.315 49.50% 87.00% 5.40% 1.200% 4.800%
Mike Moustakas 62 0.184 0.158 0.226 48.80% 82.70% 12.90% -0.900% 4.800%
David Murphy 76 0.2 0.194 0.237 44.40% 88.10% 13.20% 0.400% 4.700%
Chris Davis 82 0.413 0.382 0.463 49.80% 75.60% 20.70% -5.100% 4.600%
Justin Morneau 74 0.259 0.235 0.297 53.30% 83.60% 12.20% -1.100% 4.400%
Martin Prado 96 0.24 0.239 0.292 35.80% 94.70% 11.50% -2.000% 4.300%
Ian Kinsler 87 0.25 0.28 0.379 38.10% 91.70% 6.90% -5.400% 3.800%

Josh Hamilton has had some famous problems with contact rate, so maybe this is a harbinger for change in his approach. He is swinging less! Mike Moustakas would call this is a positive — swinging less and making more contact — if only he didn’t lead the world in infield fly balls. Our poster child, then, is Carlos Gonzalez. Or Alcides Escobar, even if he is swinging more to make more contact.

And finally, the guys who are whiffing more.

Name PA BABIP AVG OBP Swing% Contact% K% swing change contact change
Colby Rasmus 70 0.4 0.25 0.314 42.50% 54.90% 42.90% -4.100% -21.000%
Jeff Francoeur 64 0.326 0.258 0.281 56.40% 65.40% 23.40% 2.300% -15.100%
Jason Kipnis 56 0.229 0.163 0.236 39.60% 72.60% 26.80% -1.700% -10.900%
Ryan Braun 69 0.333 0.276 0.391 48.50% 71.10% 31.90% -1.200% -9.000%
Pedro Alvarez 67 0.176 0.15 0.239 53.20% 62.40% 34.30% 5.200% -8.500%
Joe Mauer 80 0.436 0.366 0.438 38.50% 80.20% 17.50% 3.100% -7.600%
Jay Bruce 98 0.404 0.273 0.347 51.20% 66.90% 30.60% 3.400% -7.300%
Ichiro Suzuki 65 0.231 0.22 0.266 45.30% 84.20% 10.80% -3.600% -7.000%
Brandon Phillips 95 0.299 0.286 0.34 51.00% 74.70% 15.80% -3.700% -6.800%
Dan Uggla 72 0.182 0.167 0.306 37.20% 63.60% 31.90% -5.500% -6.500%
Rickie Weeks 84 0.25 0.164 0.274 39.80% 68.80% 33.30% -0.700% -6.400%
Justin Smoak 86 0.298 0.224 0.314 43.10% 73.60% 22.10% -0.100% -6.100%
Dustin Pedroia 89 0.367 0.293 0.404 43.00% 82.70% 16.90% 0.300% -6.100%
Drew Stubbs 65 0.389 0.259 0.338 39.00% 67.70% 32.30% -2.500% -5.700%
Michael Young 80 0.404 0.333 0.4 44.50% 81.00% 17.50% -7.500% -4.900%

Yeah, so Colby Rasmus. Maybe you shouldn’t have told everyone you’d rather see fastballs, huh? It’s nice that Rasmus is showing more power than ever, but this is obviously not a good sign. We already knew something was broken in his approach, though, something a little too… Francouerian. Jason Kipnis has long been a sleeper of mine, so it’s disappointing to see him on this list, but it obviously has to be noted. Maybe his elbow is really bothering him at the plate. The real problem child of the problem division? That’s Pedro Alvarez, who is swinging more and making less contact — things he obviously didn’t need to do. And if you were worried about Dan Uggla in his old age, here’s another reason to worry about Dan Uggla in his old age.

None of these lists make their inhabitants super sleepers or busts, but we do know that these rates are more meaningful than other short-sample rates right now. And if you put the change in perspective — is the player nearing his twilight, or just starting out, has he made a recent pronouncement, or is he dealing with injury — there’s absolutely meaningful takeaways here.