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April 18, 2013

Five to Watch

Contact Watch!

by Bret Sayre


There are very few things that we know for sure this early in the season. And it’s for that reason that we need to be cognizant of markers that are approaching in the near future and keep an eye out for them. One of the big ones I like to look at throughout April is a player’s developing contact rate. As we know, contact rate does not stabilize until around 150 plate appearances, but we’re nearly halfway there. Today, I’m going to look at five hitters who have put up surprising contact rates, either on the high side or low side. If these players continue on a path to stabilization at these rates, they could be looking at potentially significant changes in their value.

And since I’m feeling particularly optimistic, we’ll start with the players who could see their values rise for this reason:

Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels

Just from looking at his overall fantasy line, it might be tempting to say that this season looks to be a continuation of Pujols’ decline. However, if you peel back the curtain, there are actually some very heartening things going on behind the scenes. There has been a lot made, and rightly so, about how Pujols has become less discerning at the plate—potentially causing him to go from the otherworldly hitter he was to the merely pretty great hitter that he's been over the past two seasons. When Sam Miller looked at Pujols last season through the lens of his plate-discipline statistics, there was certainly some cause for concern. However, if it was appropriate to dock him for that last April, it may be time to start thinking about praising him for a possible improvement now.

So far, in 63 plate appearances, Pujols has accumulated 11 walks versus only three strikeouts. But while these numbers have not come close to stabilizing yet (still a small sample), swing rate takes only around 50 plate appearances to become useful. So far in 2013, Pujols has a swing rate of 42.6 percent, which is back below his career average, and a step in the right direction after increases in every year since 2007. His swing rate at pitches outside the strike zone has also been on a perilous climb since 2007, and similarly, it has taken a huge step in the right direction. His 27.1 percent rate so far in 2013 is well below his 36.4 percent rate from 2012 and would be his lowest since 2009, which, not coincidentally, was the year he last won the MVP award.

Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers

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Related Content:  Plate Discipline

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (04/18)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Five to Watch: The Top... (03/18)
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Fantasy Article Five to Watch: Checkin... (06/07)
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Premium Article Perfect Game Presents:... (04/18)

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