September 18, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

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

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Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles

 It takes a brave man to offer at a pitch outside the zone. If he misses, he looks foolish in front of his teammates, thousands of fans and the many folks watching at home. If he connects, well, depending on the location the baseball could go a long, long way. The men on this list are those brave souls who ignore advice to take pitches. Some of the guys on this list hate Moneyball because, “it’s a tough pitch to hit.” The men on this list know that they don’t walk off the island. They fly. Like the baseball they are about to crush with a mighty swing.

Let’s take a look at those who have never met a pitch they couldn’t offer at in this weeks’ Leaders Edition of Leaders and Laggards…

1. Josh Hamilton 45.5%
2. Delmon Young 44.0%
3. A.J. Pierzynski 43.1%
4. Jeff Francoeur 42.4%
5. Adam Jones 41.1%
6. Brandon Phillips 40.9%
7. Alexei Ramirez 40.9%
8. Dayan Viciedo 40.5%
9. Danny Espinosa 40.4%
10. Mark Trumbo 39.6%

Josh Hamilton likes to swing the bat. He’ll swing at just about anything and he’ll make contact with some of it(53.5% o-contact %). The problem is that he’s gotten more reckless as he’s gotten older. Hamilton’s o-swing % has increased every year since 2007. That could be an issue as he ages and his skills begin to diminish. What’s hittable at 25 isn’t always as hittable at age 35. It’s pretty clear that he’s been told(either by a handler or decided by himself) to hit baseballs really hard this year. His swinging strike % is a career high(19.3%) as is his overall swing %(57.3%). It will be interesting to see if he maintains those numbers after he gets a big contract this offseason.

Delmon Young still hasn’t met a pitch he doesn’t like. He’s never figured out how to take a walk(career 4.1% BB %) and it’s unlikely he ever will. His o-swing % has been increasing every year since 2009. The problem this year is that his o-contact % is under 70% for the first time since 2009. Delmon is as mediocre as it gets and he’s shown no signs of altering his approach.

A.J. Pierzynski is having a lightning in a bottle-type season. At least we hope it’s only lightning in that bottle and not ridiculous amounts of PEDs that would have been the source of A.J.’s late career power surge. The number that should matter to fantasy GMs is A.J.’s 19.4% HR:FB ratio. That’s almost double his career average and could very well bite a lot of foolish fantasy GMs in the butt next year. There’s nothing in A.J.’s swing data to account for the power surge. He’s basically playing to his career averages and it’s likely that his HR:FB ratio is just a statistical variance(AKA luck).

Jeff Francoeur is on this list? Talk about playing to a career average. Ol’ Frenchy is the same as he ever was. He swings a lot(57.7% career swing %), misses some(12.4% swinging strike %) and makes contact often(80.8% contact % in 2012). He also makes lots and lots of outs. He also regressed badly from a career high .323 BABIP in 2011.

Fantasy GMs should avoid getting too far out over their skis on Adam Jones next year. Yes, he’s coming off a career year, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the previous four mediocre/solid seasons into consideration. Right now, the career year is the outlier. Not the mediocre seasons. There’s also nothing in his swing data(he’s playing to his career averages almost across the board) to indicate a cause. His BABIP and HR:FB ratio are both slightly elevated(slightly). The problem is that he still doesn’t walk and still swings at a lot of pitches outside the zone. He’s an overdraft candidate heading into 2013 at this point.

Brandon Phillips actually isn’t as predictable as his HR and SB numbers make him seem. Phillips was fairly reckless at the plate this year with a career high 40.9% o-swing %. He played to his career averages in virtually every other category. His high o-swing is likely the reason why his BB % was only 4.5% this year(5.8% career average). This stuff is all pretty meaningless because Phillips had a normal Brandon Phillips year. There was a variance in his o-swing %, but it had little impact on his overall production. Moving on…

Alexei Ramirez’ swing data is basically the same as his career averages. What was interesting about Ramirez’ season was that he was able to produce runs while suffering through a 5.8% HR:FB ratio for the season(9.3% career average). His BB% was a career low 2.7%. Apparently it would, in fact, kill him to take a pitch.

Dayan Viciedo also here? The man with the liveliest bat since Carlos Delgado? (actual quote from Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson) The power potential is there, but he swings at bad pitches, refuses to draw a walk and strikes out a ton. Other than that, Viciedo’s first full year in the big leagues was a success.

Yeah, yeah. Danny Espinosa is really reckless at the plate, but hey. Double digit homers AND steals from a middle infielder. His swing %, o-swing % and swinging strike % have increased every year that Espinosa has been in the league. The problem here is that he’s been buoyed by a .336 BABIP. If that number regresses(likely, but he does have a 1.41 GB:FB ratio), Espinosa owners could be in for some pain.

Mark Trumbo’s o-swing numbers have actually improved every year since 2010. He doesn’t walk a whole lot and his batting average is as high as it is because he’s managed a .314 BABIP, but he hits baseballs hard. He swings and misses occasionally(14.4% swinging strike %), but that’s the trade off that power hitters have to make. It could be worse. He could be Jose Canseco and have traded his soul for a chance to be infamous. Trumbo just trades swinging strikes for homers.


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