September 18, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Hitters’ O-swing % Laggards Edition

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Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

 Batters need to take the bat off their shoulders in order to hit baseballs. It’s kind of hard to hit if you just stand there. Little League Matt learned that lesson painfully when he watched three pitches whiz past him with the bases loaded and two outs in the last inning of a one-run game. It still holds true today. The guys on this list must have skipped that day in little league because they like to watch pitches outside the zone hit the catcher’s mitt. “Offer at THAT? You must be joking, sir. I only swing at strikes.” For some of them, this is helpful. For many others, it’s a way not to look foolish.

Some men lead while others lag. The guys on this list are more than happy to stay away from junk outside the zone and wait for their pitch. The same way Little League Matt waited for his on that fateful day. He waited and waited and waited. Then, he walked back to the bench while the other team got ice cream.

1. Alberto Callaspo 20.4%
2. Carlos Santana 21.3%
3. Rickie Weeks 21.5%
4. A.J. Ellis 22.0%
5. Josh Willingham 22.2%
6. Joe Mauer 22.3%
7. Jemile Weeks 22.7%
8. Michael Brantley 22.7%
9. Austin Jackson 22.9%
10. Elvis Andrus 23.0%

Alberto Callaspo is essentially an empty batting average during the best of times. He doesn’t have much power(.107 career ISO) and he’s one of the few Angels who doesn’t steal bases(single digit steals every year of his career). He has solid plate judgment. Heck, he swings at the fewest number of pitches outside the zone out of everyone in the league, but without power and without luck on balls in play(.262 BABIP this year), Callaspo doesn’t offer much for fantasy purposes.

Carlos Santana has solid plate discipline and good pop. He should be among the elite catchers in fantasy baseball. The words “should be” have lead to a lot of bad fantasy baseball teams. Santana needs to take the bat off his shoulder. The good news is that he doesn’t really swing at bad pitches. The bad news is that he doesn’t really swing all that much. His 39.1% swing percentage is far too low to be an elite power hitter, unless he gets lucky on balls hit in the air like he did last year(HR:FB ratio 16.0%). This year his HR:FB ratio has fallen closer to 11.0% and it’s taken his power production with it. The tools are there, but he hasn’t been able to put it together.

Rickie Weeks has suffered through a poor season with mediocre production across the board. He strikes out a ton, but he’s not even close to a free swinger. The problem is that he doesn’t swing that much even when pitches are in the zone(z-contact % of only 61.6%). Rickie Weeks is a hitter who probably would have been better off swinging the bat more often. What’s going to happen? He’s going to strike out? He already does that 25.3% of the time. His BABIP is 20 points lower than his career average, but he’s never had a high batting average even when his BABIP was over .300.

A.J. Ellis is essentially a journeyman who managed to have a hot month when he got a starting job by default. There’s not much to see here for fantasy baseball purposes, but he does appear to know how to draw a walk. His super-low o-swing percentage is simply a sign that he has a legit big league skill. Not one that helps for most fantasy leagues, but a legit skill.

Josh Willingham has laughed at the notion that a power hitter can’t succeed in Target Field. His OPS is actually 300 points higher at home than on the road. What’s your excuse now, Joe Mauer? Even Trevor Plouffe can hit homers! Willingham knows how to judge the strike zone and he knows when to punish a baseball. He doesn’t swing often(40.5% swing %), but fantasy GMs can’t argue with his production.

Speaking of Joe Mauer…Joe Mauer. Mauer’s power outage has been well-documented and picked over, but we’re here to look at his swing data. Yup, Mauer is basically the same guy he’s always been. He’s playing almost exactly to his career averages. Too bad all Mauer has become is a solid batting average with good run production for a catcher. There’s not much about Mauer that we don’t know.

The Weeks Brothers are eerily similar at the plate. The biggest difference is that Jemile Weeks makes a lot more contact especially on pitches outside the zone. Jemile makes contact on 74.9% of the swings on pitches outside the zone. That is likely a big reason why Jemile makes lots and lots of outs. Jemile was due for a regression from his .357 BABIP in 2011 and that’s what he went through this year. He’s actually a great buy low guy for 2012…assuming he’s starting in Oakland and not Tacoma.

Michael Brantley is about as boring as boring gets for fantasy baseball. He doesn’t hit homers or for much power(.119 ISO) and he doesn’t steal very many bases. He has solid strike zone judgment, but it hasn’t translated to a high OBP. He’s basically a guy who is going to get 600+ PA’s this year and doesn’t have much to show for it.

Austin Jackson is really, really odd. Statistically speaking, of course. He doesn’t swing at slop and actually doesn’t swing as often(42.1% swing %) as a guy with a 22.3% K-rate in 2012 should be. He’s also maintained a ridiculous BABIP for his career and he doesn’t own a ridiculously high GB:FB ratio(only 1.20 this year). Don’t trust the power surge either. His career HR:FB ratio is a mediocre 7.2% and that’s inflated by this year’s 11.2% ratio. AJax looks like a regression candidate for 2013, but he kinda looked like one this year, too. It’s fair to say that AJax is to hitting what Jeremy Hellickson is to pitching.

Elvis Andrus is doing exactly what he’s always done. He’s fairly selective at the plate and it’s reflected in his OBP. He makes a lot of contact(87.5% contact %) and stays away from pitches outside the zone(23.0% o-swing %). He didn’t deliver the runs or steals that fantasy GMs expected, but runs are almost impossible to project accurately. Andrus likely didn’t run because there’s no need to run when Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton are hitting balls over the fence.


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