May 12, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (10) celebrates with designated hitter Jose Bautista (19) after hitting a home run in the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles after at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps you might see Edwin’s name and take a quick look at his 18 HR and 54 RBI and wonder why, but you need to take a deeper look into Edwin’s numbers to see how he’s truly been a disappointment in the middle of this behemoth offence.
Maybe Edwin’s performance isn’t so much a disappointment as it is the reality of declining performance. That could very much be the case, but nonetheless, he’s been a shadow of the hitter he was throughout the 2012, 2013, and 2014 campaigns.
Edwin’s slash rate of .233/.326/.452 is clearly below expectations and much lower than last year’s .268/.354/.547, seeing his OPS drop a whopping 123 points. His wRC+ has had 36 points chopped off, currently sitting at 114 down from 150 in 2014, making him closer to a league average hitter rather than the premier slugger we’ve seen for the previous three years.
His walk rate is a steady 11.5%, right in line with what he did last year, which shows his plate discipline is still a strong point. His strikeout is up 3%, which might not seem like a whole lot, but it’s raised his K% to 18%, the highest it’s been since his 2009 season.
His batted ball profile remains largely the same in terms of line drives, ground balls, and fly balls, and his infield fly % is up, but it’s his hard contact rate that leaves room for concern. His hard contact rate is down to 27.5%, which ranks him 110th out of 162 qualified hitters. Last year, his hard contact rate was 38.1%, ranking him 18th out of 146 qualified hitters. It’s a sudden and significant drop, and can’t be blamed on a small sample size.
This severe reduction in hard contact undoubtedly have a negative effect on his ISO and BABIP, which have dropped 39 and 29 points respectively, contributing to a poor slash rate.
Another area of disappointment, or concern, depending on whether you’re looking at his first half as a disappointment or declining performance, are his contact rates.
The amount he’s swinging at balls outside of the strike zone is nearly the same as last year and right in line with his career rate, correlating with his steady walk rate. However, he’s swinging at pitches inside the zone more often, 65.2% in 2015 compared to 61.2% in 2014, which you’d think would serve as a good ting, but his contact rate on pitches inside the zone is down, 84.4% in 2015 compared to 88.4% in 2014.
This represents a hitter who is doing a good job of swinging at the right pitches, but simply isn’t hitting them as often or hitting them as hard as often. If it is indeed a reduction in performance because he’s declining, this really shouldn’t be a massive surprise, disappointing yes, but not surprising. This happens to aging players, maybe not this sudden, but it happens.
However, the raw power he’s always possessed is still there, showing he may be a hitter who may be experiencing a prolonged slump, someone who’s dealing with nagging injuries, or just isn’t seeing the ball well, leading to a disappointing first half.
According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, the average distance of his home runs is 413.3 feet, which represents a career high and ranks him 7th in the league. He clearly can hit the ball a long way still and his power hasn’t disappeared, but the contact rates and hard hit rates need to improve for Edwin to have a stronger second half.
The average home run distance gives me hope he simply had a rough half of a season, which is a strong possibility, as opposed to truly slowing down as a hitter. It will be interesting to see if those hard hit and contact rates trend upwards in the second half. For the Jays, it would be a boost to their already monstrous offence.
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