A few months ago, I noticed that Adam Dunn was hitting the baseball. Ok, so what I actually noticed was that his batting average was well above .300, a rarity for him, despite it being a month into the season. I took a look at some of his swing and contact rates and realized that he was swinging at less in general, but hitting way more baseballs outside of the strike zone. My theory at the time was that he was possibly becoming more selective on types of pitches, but less selective on balls and strikes. That is to say, if he is looking fastball, in the past if it was 3 inches off the plate, he figuered to let it go. But now he says, “heck, I can still smash this” and does.
I figured it’d be a good idea to update these, so let’s start with the more interesting one from last time, the contact rates:
While not as pronounced as it was in May (when it sat above the 62.3% league average) it is still notable that he is hitting more baseballs outside of the zone than ever in his last 5 years. This is not May 12 anymore when he had 138 PAs, a relatively small sample size. He’s got 428 PAs, about 2/3 of a season’s worth, and his average is still at high. In fact, it went down as low as .256, but it’s up to .279 right now. That’s still a career high, 13 points higher than his best.
As for his swing rates, those seem to have leveled off to a normal number for him.
Earlier in the year, he was swinging at nothing, even for him. Now he is much more like his normal self. So what’s going on here?
Well, everything inside of the zone seems to be about the same as usual. But outside of the strike zone, he’s swinging at the same number of pitches he usually does – except hitting a bunch more. And maybe that has lead to his higher batting average? The logical conclusion to me is that he is still picking more pitches to hit, in other words sitting on a certain pitch, and if it’s slightly out of the zone, he’ll swing. But if it’s the wrong pitch, slightly out of the zone, he won’t. Therefore, his swing rate hasn’t changed, since it balances out, but his contact rate has.
Maybe there are other explanations, I don’t know. Either way, the .279 AVG means a .400+ OBP, in addition to the power that’s always there. Not a bad thing to have sitting at your cleanup spot.