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Yesterday, I took a look at the most prolific whiffers in baseball

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. Today, I will look at the opposite end of the spectrum, at the players who swing-and-miss the least often.

Once again, I’m using the Plate Discipline stats

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from FanGraphs. If you’re curious about how these numbers are derived, read the previous post
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.

First off, let’s look at the overall leaders in lowest swing-and-miss rate. The league average is around 8.5%. Here’s the top 10:

  1. Juan Pierre, 2.3% swing-and-miss rate
  2. Brett Gardner, 2.6%
  3. Jamey Carroll, 2.8%
  4. Denard Span, 3.0%
  5. Todd Helton, 3.0%
  6. Ian Kinsler, 3.1%
  7. Darwin Barney, 3.2%
  8. Ryan Theriot, 3.3%
  9. Ichiro Suzuki, 3.5%
  10. Michael Brantley, 3.6%
  11. Alberto Callaspo, 3.6%

While the top 4 is not surprising at all–those are 4 of the premiere contact hitters in the game–Helton and Kinsler seem out of place. Helton and Kinsler are more than just slap hitters; they have 11 home runs between them this season. Helton has always been good at making contact–his career Contact% is 87.6%–but this year he’s taken it to a new level, 92.2%. He’s matched that mark only once before in his career.

Kinsler has a similar story. His career Contact% is 87.3%, but this year it sits at 92.5%. Unlike Helton, though, Kinsler is also swinging less often–39.6% Swing% this year vs. 44.2% career. This means that Kinsler’s whiff rate of 3.1% is much lower than his career whiff rate of 5.6% (which is still a good total).

Next up, let’s look at which players swing and miss the least on pitches in the strike zone. The league average is around 7.5%.

  1. Pierre, 1.2%
  2. Paul Konerko, 1.6%
  3. Chris Getz, 1.7%
  4. Barney, 1.8%
  5. Kinsler, 1.9%
  6. James Loney, 2.1%
  7. Martin Prado, 2.1%
  8. Gardner, 2.2%
  9. Prince Fielder, 2.2%
  10. Theriot, 2.3%
  11. Carroll, 2.3%

Wow. I am surprised to find Paul Konerko on this list, but I am shocked to see Prince Fielder here. The two of them have 21 homers between them, and both struck out more than 20% of the time last year. Fielder is one of the most notorious whiffers in the game, in fact; he is just about the last player I’d expect to make a leaderboard for fewest whiffs. Yet here he is.

What’s behind this? Well, both Konerko and Fielder have seen huge jumps in their contact rates this year. Konerko’s career Contact% is 81.8%; within the strike zone, it’s 89.2%. This year, those marks are 88.4% and 96.6%, respectively. Fielder’s career Contact% is 76.7%, and 86.8% in the strike zone. This year, he’s at 84.8% and 96.7%, respectively.

I have no explanation for this, but it is fascinating.

Finally, let’s see which hitters have been able to make the most contact on pitches outside the zone. The average whiff rate on these is around 9%.

  1. Helton, 2.4%
  2. Daric Barton, 2.7%
  3. Span, 2.8%
  4. Gardner, 3.1%
  5. Carroll, 3.3%
  6. Pierre, 3.4%
  7. Suzuki, 3.4%
  8. Chone Figgins, 3.7%
  9. Albert Pujols, 3.7%
  10. Callaspo, 3.8%

It is somewhat odd to see Pujols on this list, though he is nowhere near as much of a whiffer as Fielder or Konerko. It is especially odd in that Pujols has had a down year. But he really has been good at making contact on balls outside the zone this year. His O-Contact% is 82.0%, compared to a 67.6% career mark. The weird part is that his Z-Contact% is unchanged from last year, at 90.5%.

Why are all these power-hitting first basemen making more contact all of the sudden? If you have any ideas, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

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