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.