Last week we kicked off this series by looking at how Eugenio Suarez performed on pitches inside and outside of the strikezone. In short: He was very good by comparison to the league at both. Today we are going to examine how Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett performed on pitches that would have been balls, or strikes, had he not swung at them.

In the 2018 season, Scooter Gennett put together another strong offensive season. He hit .310/.357/.490 with 30 doubles, 3 triples, and 23 home runs. The overall numbers weren’t quite as strong as the were the previous year, as his OPS dropped by 27 points. But his OPS+, which is adjusted for the ballparks played in, was actually 1 point better than in 2017.

For his career, Scooter Gennett has been a hitter who swings at pitches out of the strikezone quite a bit. His 39.1% “out of the zone swing rate” ranks 345th out of 377 players with at least 1000 at-bats since 2013 (when Gennett debuted). He’s one of the more aggressive swingers in baseball on pitches out of the zone. In 2018 he swung at non-strikes 40.3% of the time. The league average was 30.9%, meaning he swung at pitches out of the zone nearly 33% more frequently than the average hitter did. What also happened was that he made more contact on pitches out of the zone, too – jumping to 74.7% in 2018 – up from 71.0% in 2017. That’s much higher than the league average, which was only 62.8%.

On pitches in the strikezone Scooter Gennett also upped his swing rate in 2018. Sort of. 2017 saw him post a career low 63.9% in-zone swing rate. 2018 saw a jump up to 66.0%, but that was still the second lowest rate of his career. That’s close to the league average rate, which was 67.3% during the 2018 campaign.

When Scooter Gennett got strikes, he hit them very well. On pitches inside of the strikezone that he swung at, he hit .364 and slugged .575. His .364 average on pitches in the zone was best among the Reds hitters in 2018 who had any sort of real playing time. His isolated power of .211 (slugging minus average) was middle of the pack for the team.

What set Scooter Gennett apart among Cincinnati hitters was what he was able to do on non-strikes during 2018. He swung at a lot of them, but he found some marginal success, too. He hit .255 on them – best on the team. And he slugged .401, also best on the team. And that wasn’t close.

The chart above shows a comparison of how Scooter Gennett hit both in and out of the strikezone. He’s certainly better out of the zone than anyone else on the Reds. But even so, he’s still a significantly better hitter on pitches in the zone than he is on ones out of the zone. If he can be a little more patient and cut down on pitches out of the zone he swings at, he’d likely improve his overall output quite a bit.

Data on average and slugging percentage in and out of the strikezone is from Brooks Baseball. The data was manually tabulated based on their raw numbers provided.

10 Responses

  1. CFD3000

    These numbers surprise me, not because of Scooter, but because of the way he’s pitched. When a hitter is so prone to swing at balls, why throw him strikes? Essentially Scooter makes the strike zone much bigger, and tells pitchers that he’ll get himself out if they can throw balls that are even moderately close to the edge of the strike zone. And it also makes me wonder will scouting reports catch up to Scooter in 2019? I’ve long been on the trade Scooter side of things, and still hope the Reds will do just that. I know it’s a bad year to have an extra second baseman, especially one with no versatility, but with just one year left of team control, and a very capable, cheaper, possibly all-star level alternative in Senzel, I’ll say that trade Scooter looks a LOT better to me than extend Scooter.

    • CFD3000

      Agree with all this Bill. I don’t really expect a trade to materialize, and with the rest of the new one year players Scooter is probably worth more just playing out 2019 with the Reds, especially if he doesn’t keep Senzel out of the lineup. My point was more that I’m really hoping against an extension. No way Gennett is worth more than Senzel in the long run, especially relative to salary. One way or another I hope this is his last year in Cincinnati – not because he’s bad, but because there are even better options, which is a really good situation.

  2. KDJ

    Thanks, Doug. I’d be curious to see if his hot streaks coincided with periods of swinging more in the zone and less out of the zone. Conversely, did his fade at the end feature more swings out of the zone than what he did earlier in the season?

  3. Ron Payne

    I’m on the fence with Scooter. Like his offense a lot. If he were an above-average fielder, an extension would probably have been offered already and Senzel would be focusing primarily on becoming the everyday center fielder.
    I think the only way you get value for Scooter in a trade is if he’s part of a package.
    How about Raisel Iglesias and Scooter to the Red Sox for CF Jackie Bradley Jr. and LHP Eduardo Rodriguez?

    • Phil

      LeMahieu’s numbers appear to be a product of Coors Field. He has a career 673 OPS on the road vs 835 at home.
      Lowrie is already 35 years old. The Red Sox have seen with Pedroia (as the Reds did with Phillips) how quickly things can go down hill for middle infielders in their 30s.

      Scooter is younger and has been as productive, if not more so the last 2 seasons, than all of the free agent second-base options.

      Iglesias is on a very reasonable contract for 3 seasons and is cheaper and/or more talented than most free agent options out there.

      The Red Sox, or any other team, might decide they don’t want to pay the price the Reds are asking in return via trade but it’s easy to argue that Scooter and Iglesias could be better options that any of the free agents available at their positions.

  4. Phil

    Your pitch to Scooter would be “We understand that you’ve been an all star and one of the better second basemen in the league since you arrived in Cincinnati. We’d therefore like to pay you less than you’re worth while giving you less playing time and assume you’ll be ok with that just because you like Cincinnati so much.”?

    • Big Ed

      That is pretty much it. From the Reds’ perspective, they can pay Senzel to play 2B next year for 1/20th of the price that they would have to pay Scooter.

  5. Phil

    I’ve wondered the same thing. The best I can come up with is that if I’m the team looking to add a second-baseman I’m only trading for 1 year of Scooter then have to make the same decision next season on re-signing him or looking for another free agent.
    MLB Trade Rumors has the current free agent second-baseman projected at $10-million per year for 1-4 years. Gennett is set to earn about $10-million this year through arbitration.
    So Scooter will cost something in a trade, then make roughly the same salary in 2019 and still leave you looking for a second-baseman for 2020 and beyond. Unless a team thinks he will be that much better than the free agent options I can see them passing on a trade.

  6. roger garrett

    Scooter plays and walks at the end of the yearNo trade value when packaged alone because of his age,salary and position.Just the way it is.Someone will over pay him in 2020 on long term deal of 3 years or more.Good for him cause he will have earned it and good for the Reds that they won’t be the ones over paying.Said it once but is worth repeating.Wish he was 25 years old but well he isn’t.