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.

15 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. 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.

  5. 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

  6. Kevin J

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

  7. 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.

      • Doug Gray

        Oh yes, really.

        We’ve only got so many photos available to use of players. So for a series, I’m going to spice them up a little bit.

  8. 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?

    • Sabr Chris

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

  9. 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.