When the Mariners called up Carlos Peguero, it wasn’t any secret that he had issues with strikeouts, contact, and swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. However, we may not have known to what extent he is happy to flail the stick.
Here are Peguero’s swinging rates (per Fangraphs) at pitches inside the zone, outside the zone, the contact rates that correspond with those areas, and how they compare to league averages.
|Swing% outside the zone
|Contact rate outsize zone
|Swing rate inside zone
|Contact rate inside zone
|Percentage of pitches inside strike zone
|Overall contact percentage
Basically uniformly, Peguero is on the wrong side of just about every plate discipline category. He swings too much, especially at bad pitches, and misses too often. As such, teams have pitched him outside of the strike zone quite often.
Among all players with at least 90 plate appearances, Peguero ranks fifth from the bottom in terms of the amount of pitches seen in the zone by players. His peers are a varied group, including the likes of Jose Bautista and Mike Fontenot, a different pair if one ever existed. However, in pretty much any sortable category, Peguero is an outlier, not a normality.
You see, with polar opposites like Fontenot (who is actually posting a pretty good ISO this year) and Bautista, there is one parallel, each walks at a rate higher than league average. While Fontenot’s 93 wRC+ ranks much lower than Bautista’s 224 (silliness, for the record)
Peguero, by contrast, walks less than half as often as Fontenot, almost one-quarter the amount that Bautista walks, and strikes out about five-and-a-half times as often as he receives a free pass.
He swings at the second most pitches outside the zone, while making contact with the 10th least pitches outside the zone.
He swings at the 15th most pitches inside the zone, yet ranks 9th worst in terms of contact. And he ranks 7th worst in terms of overall contact.
Yet Peguero actually ranks among the league’s upper-echelon hitters, boasting a wRC+ of 104 going into Wednesday night’s action. Almost all of that has to do with his power numbers.
As poorly hidden a secret as his primitive plate approach were, his immense strength has become better known. In his first few weeks up it seemed like everyone who talked about him used the phrase “he’ll run into a few,” referring to his immense bat speed, and the destruction it would cause a baseball were the two to meet with any level of exactness.
And that’s happened a lot more often than anyone expected so far this season. You see, Peguero actually ties Justin Smoak for the team lead in extra-base-hit percentage (10.2).
While one may assume that Peguero will struggle as teams accumulate more tape, or more experience against him, it’s not bearing out so far. While teams have anecdotally had Peguero’s number by way of the out-of-zone breaking ball, so far this year Peguero actually hits all off-speed pitches better than fastballs so far. In fact, the only breaking ball that he’s had statistical problems with is the slider.
But more importantly, so far in June, Peguero has dropped his strikeout rate by about 10 percent, raised his walk rate, line-drive rate, and fly ball rate, and surpassed his May extra base hits in about 70 percent of the plate appearances. So far in June, Peguero’s wRC+ is 218, and Bautista’s is 118.
These are certainly small sample sizes, and considering how infrequent Peguero’s successes are, the impact of a few hard-hit balls may be overblown. But I know that when I first heard Peguero got the call to the bigs, I was sure to tune in as often as I could, because I didn’t think there’d be many Peguero line-drives before the strikeouts and zone-discipline sent him south.
So Peguero has gone from a guy who was a lost-prospect, and a product of the hitting-climate in Adelanto, to a guy who may have a future on this team, presuming his improvements are real, and his power remains.
Carlos Peguero is relevant and productive in the middle of June, and considering his batting profile, that’s pretty unlikely, and also pretty awesome.