You’ve heard all about the evolution of Didi Gregorius the hitter in 2018. As it stands today, Sir Didi is currently tied with AJ Pollock for 3rd in the league on the fWAR leaderboard, right behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts (for hitters). Didi has gone from a stopgap replacement for The Captain, Derek Jeter, to a full-blown superstar and making Brian Cashman look like a genius for the highway robbery he pulled off in a 2014 three-team trade.
What has fueled Didi’s breakout season at the dish?
Vastly improved plate discipline.
Career BB%: 5.9%
2018 BB%: 12.9%
On the most basic level, Didi has more than doubled his career BB%. He has gone from below league average in this statistic to above league average without sacrificing much contact at all (12.3% K% last year vs 12.9% K% this year). This extreme increase in walk rate has helped fuel Didi’s elite .388 OBP in 2018 which is 25th best in the majors by qualified hitters leaderboard.
Career O-Swing% AKA “Chase Rate”: 36.7%
2018 O-Swing%: 33.8%
This is one of my favorite stats to track for young, developing hitters. O-Swing% is the % of pitches that a hitter swings at that are out of the zone, more commonly referred to as chase rate. Didi was always known as a very aggressive hitter that made good contact but wasn’t selective enough and chased too many pitches out of the zone.
His chase rate was as high as 40.8% last season and he has improved that number by chasing 7% fewer pitches out of the strike zone this year! That may not seem like that drastic of an improvement, but it is one of the largest drivers of his improved offensive performance this season.
Career Z-Contact%: 87.8%
2018 Z-Contact%: 92.1%
On the flip-side of the equation, Z-Contact% calculates the % of pitches a hitter makes contact on when swinging at a pitch thrown in the strike zone. Didi is swinging at fewer pitches, in general, this year (O-Swing%, Z-Swing% & Swing% are all down from last year), but when he is swinging at pitches in the strike zone he is making more contact than ever in his career.
The most impressive part about Didi’s improved discipline and contact is that his power numbers are at career highs! Usually, most hitters sacrifice contact when they sell-out for more power, but that is not the case for Sir Didi Gregorius. For context, Didi’s ISO of .341 is 5th best on the leaderboard of qualified hitters and his SLG of .642 is also 5th on the same leaderboard.
2017 SwStr%: 11.4%
2018 SwStr%: 10.2%
I didn’t make the “Career vs 2018” the main comparison of this metric because Didi’s SwStr% this year is very in-line with his career SwStr% of 10.4%. What is remarkable to me (again) is the improved contact coupled with improved power. Didi has lowered the number of pitches he swings and misses at pitches this year by 1.2% and looks like one of the premier power SS’s in the game! Hopefully, Sir Didi can continue to prove the experts out there wrong who didn’t label him as a top SS in the game heading into the season… looking at you Brian Kenny and “The Shredder”!
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***Stats from Fangraphs.com