We’re back this week with another article in the Reds versus The Strikezone series. This week we take a look at outfielder Jesse Winker. On the surface, you would think that he handles the strikezone well given the fact that he walked more often than he struck out in the 2018 season. During the year he hit .299/.405/.431 in 89 games before he was shut down for the season because he needed shoulder surgery. His OPS+ of 124 ranked behind only Eugenio Suarez (135) and Joey Votto (125) on the team – and left him tied with Scooter Gennett.

Let’s examine how Jesse Winker performed on pitches that would have been balls, or strikes, had he not swung at them. For his career, granted we are talking about just 471 total plate appearances, the Reds outfielder has swung at pitches outside of the strikezone just 21.8% of the time. Among the 344 players since 2017 began with at least 400 plate appearances, that’s the 26th best rate in baseball. The league average sits at 30.9%. That means the average hitter swings at non-strikes nearly 50% more often than Jesse Winker does. When he did swing at non-strikes he made contact with them 70.4% of the time. That is more often than the league average, which was just 62.8%.

When it came to pitches in the strikezone, Jesse Winker didn’t do a ton of swinging. He only swung at strikes 65.3% of the time. That’s a little bit below the league average, which was 67.3% in 2018. He made contact on those pitches 92.4% of the time, which was well above the league average of 85.5%.

When opposing pitchers threw Jesse Winker strikes, he hit them. And he hit them well. On pitches inside the strikezone that he swung at he hit .360 – second to only Scooter Gennett’s .364 among Reds hitters. And he slugged .628, which was second only to Eugenio Suarez’ mark of .645. To be blunt, Winker raked when he got strikes.

Where Jesse Winker struggled, though, was when he hit non-strikes. While just about everyone struggles on these pitches, Winker really did so. While he didn’t swing at non-strikes much, when he did and made contact he hit just .215. Among the Reds that was middle of the road. But it was his slugging of just .267 on non-strikes that put him near the bottom on non-strikes.

The chart above shows how Jesse Winker hit both in and out of the strikezone. He, like every other hitter alive, is much better in the strikezone than outside of it. With how good Winker is at not expanding the strikezone it’s not too likely that improved patience at the plate will make a big difference. He’s already pretty elite when it comes to this area. If he’s going to improve his offensive output in the future it’s likely going to have to come by hitting for more power. Given that we know he had been playing with a hurt shoulder for the last few years, this could be a possibility.

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.

32 Responses

  1. Jordan Barhorst

    I’d be interested to see these numbers during those years when it seemed his power was gone in the minors. Perhaps he was just swinging and making contact at more borderline pitches, resulting in less power. Really looking forward to seeing Jesse play a full season this year!

  2. RedsFan11

    Really hope they give Winks a chance to play everyday

  3. CFD3000

    I think a healthy Jesse Winker will be a force this year. I just hope he doesn’t get squeezed out by the numbers game with the current surplus of outfielders, and undervalued because he wasn’t 100% healthy. If he is heathy, and gets full time at bats, I expect him to be a major piece of a really good offense. If his OPS+ was 124 with a weak shoulder – what might 2019 bring?

  4. greenmtred

    Great stuff, Doug. It confirms my impression that Winker needs to start nearly every day. He’s probably the best hitter among the outfielders.

  5. WVRedlegs

    This has been a good series so far. I too am looking forward to a 100% Winker in 2019. It will be interesting to see where he hits in the lineup. I think he’ll be better utilized in the #6 hole behind Suarez more often than not. But I would imagine we see all kinds of different lineups from David Bell, especially early on in the season.
    The leadoff spot will also be interesting to see how Bell fills it. Schebler did OK in that role last year in limited time. Winker and his OBP might find himself in that role a little. Peraza will get some games at the leadoff spot. Puig hits a lot in the #2 hole, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit in the leadoff spot from time to time. Heck, if Bell is really bold, we might even see Joey Votto hit in the #2 hole or even leadoff.

    • Bill

      Votto and Winker at the top of the lineup followed by would be interesting. Two .400+ OBP guys would put a lot of runners in front of Suarez, Gennett, and Puig

  6. Matt WI

    I’ll take those kind of swing rates any day. It’s a real testament to him that he figured out the major league strike zone and owned it so quickly.

  7. ToBeDetermined

    You guys all make great points.

    I really have nothing to add. So of course I will.
    I’d really hate to see them deal Winker in ANY trade, currently. I’d really like to see what a healthy Jessie Winker could do. I know when I’ve had shoulder issues I really can’t do much weight training. I’d like to see him get that should all fixed up then hit the gym and add strength and flexibility.

    • ToBeDetermined

      here’s my missing “er” of shoulder.

    • CFD3000

      TBD I agree about not trading Winker. I think it would be a double mistake. Not only would the Reds miss out on even better production from Jesse in 2019 (mistake #1) but they’d be trading away healthy Jesse but only getting value in return based on the past performance of injured Jesse (mistake #2). But I’m optimistic now more than ever that the front office understands this. I hope he stays and plays full time.

      • ToBeDetermined

        Yep, I hadn’t even thought of mistake #2.

    • PhP

      100% agree. Winker is about as close to non-tradeable as you can get to me. Borderline elite bat, with only 400ish MLB ABs. Also, would think the power would improve based on age alone, not even considering the past shoulder issues.

      • Frogem

        Absolutely spot on! Winker is a special batter seen only a few times each generation. I suspect he is close to being the Reds best hitter, bar none. The Reds must play this pure hitter every day, and then see what happens when the opposing pitchers begin to take him seriously. If Jesse responds with continued performance anything like pre-injury 2019, we’ve found our next Votto-esk player.

  8. doofus

    I believe that Winker is their best overall hitting outfielder on the roster because of his command of the strike zone and contact rates.

  9. doofus

    Unrelated: Peter Gammons just proclaimed DeSclafani as the most underrated pitcher going into 2019. Said, and I paraphrase here: he (DeSclafani) needs to use his curve ball more and that he may be a deadline trade candidate that could help a contender, like Eovaldi was in 2018.

  10. Kevin J

    How long after should surgery should one expect power to come back? I seem to remember Ryan Ludwig having shoulder surgery which almost completely sapped him of power. Maybe they were different procedures…anyone know?

    • Doug Gray

      It really depends on the player and the surgery. Sometimes it never comes back. Shoulders are the worst.

      • Sabr Chris

        That uncertainty could be playing into Gennet not get his shoulder issue addressed

    • Old-school

      Winker gave an interview at Redsfest that all the boxes were checked off in his rehab except hitting and January 7 would be the last hurdle to clear. I’ve not seen or heard any updates.

      Sean Casey averaged 19 home runs between 1999-2004 x for 2002 when he hit 6 and was off/on DL with shoulder issues and ultimately had surgery. He bounced back in 2003-4 with 14 and 24 home runs.

  11. Kevin J

    At least he has youth on his side! Ludwig definitely didn’t have that

  12. Adam

    Doug, One of my best life lessons K.I.S.S…………..
    Keep It Simple Stupid. You have done great work and the article you just wrote is informative give me a real picture of Jesse Winker and call it a day.

    • Doug Gray

      I prefer to take the words of 90’s pop sensation The Spice Girls: Spice up your life.

  13. Old-school

    Reds released nonroster invitees to ST. C Trent on it. Nick Senzel listed as IF/OF.

    That was impossible a year ago. How many posts on RLN have their been about putting Senzel in OF to get his bat in the lineup ASAP.

    This offense if healthy could be really good

  14. 44Reds

    The Locked on Reds podcast quoted Jon Morosi that Keuchel had narrowed his choices down to the Reds and the Phillies. I haven’t seen this elsewhere, however. Anyone else heard this?

    • Mark Moore

      Interesting … I’m thinking that really makes a big difference.

    • ToBeDetermined

      As Mark says. Interesting…
      I wonder how much the Phillies have to spend. Also, I thought they were also interested in Machado and Harper. I would assume any team not named the Yankees or Dodgers could only take on 1 of those contracts this year.

    • Sabr Chris

      Makes me think they’re the only teams willing to give 5 years

      • LWBlogger2

        I really hope the Reds don’t go 5 years on him.

      • Shchi Cossack

        Ditto on a strong thumbs down to 5 years, LW. I would love to see Pollack wearing the wishbone C, but his injury history must be factored into the contract.