Recently I’ve noticed that certain Reds broadcasters (Marty and Jeff) love to bring up the fact that José Iglesias is good at getting two-strike hits, especially on 0-2 counts. So I started paying closer attention to Iglesias’ at-bats. Sure enough, he does seem to get a lot of hits with two strikes. But just how many does he get? And how does it compare to other major leaguers? Does his seemingly clutch hitting warrant a contract extension?
Marty and the Cowboy aren’t wrong. Iglesias has been one of the best two strike hitters on the Reds this season, in a minimum of 50 plate appearances. But he’s not leaps and bounds ahead of any other player either. He has 59 hits or walks on two strike counts in 1515 pitches, good for 4.0% of pitches he sees. The next closest for the Reds is Joey Votto. Votto has 76 hits/walks in 1976 pitches (3.8%). Votto does have more hits than Iglesias, but he also sees more pitches because he works the count more. Therefore, Votto’s percentage is lower. Following Iglesias are Jesse Winker at 3.7% and Eugenio Suarez at 3.2%.
In the National League, Iglesias is 51st in hits and walks with two strikes. Other players close to him include Jeff McNeil of the Mets (60 in 1609 pitches), Trea Turner of the Nationals (60 in 1559 pitches), and Jose Martinez of the Cardinals (58 in 1463 pitches). While he’s not one of the elite hitters, he stacks up well with other decent players in the league.
Iglesias has been a consistent hitter with two strikes all season. Since July 1, he has 22 hits/walks on two strikes, and before July (Mar. 28-June 30), he had 38 hits. Stats like this one are not too predictive because a player can have a lot of hits one year and regress the next year, but Iglesias has remained consistent throughout his career. He’s already surpassed his hit total from the last two years and is closing in on his 2016 total of 65.
There are four different counts a batter can be in with two strikes: 0-2, 1-2, 2-2, and 3-2. Of these four counts, Iglesias is the best when he’s in an 0-2 hole. He has 23 hits/walks when he’s in the worst of the four counts and 18 hits/walks when there’s a 1-2 count. He also gets to a two-strike count more often than other counts. 30.4% of the pitches he’s seen have been with two strikes. 11.0% of the pitches he’s seen have come on an 0-2 count. Iglesias gets behind in the count, but still manages to turn it into a positive a lot of the time.
If a batter is a good two-strike hitter, it usually means that batter makes good contact and knows the zone. We’ll get to how well Iglesias knows the zone later. First, let’s talk about how often he makes contact when he’s up to bat.
According to Fangraphs, Iglesias’ contact percentage is 86.1%. His career average is 87.9%, so this season it’s right in line with his career. In comparison, the best contact hitter in MLB last season was Michael Brantley, then with the Indians and now with the Astros. His contact percentage is 90.9% in 2019 and his career rate is 91.1%. Iglesias is not as good as Brantley at making contact, but is better than two players named Mike Trout and Joey Votto, whose career contact rates are 81.8% and 80.7%, respectively. Obviously Iglesias isn’t as good as Trout or Votto, but a player can be good at making contact while not being a better overall player.
Iglesias makes decent contact on pitches inside the zone. His z-contact% of 90.5% this season is lower than his normal average of 94.1%. He’s making contact on pitches outside of the zone slightly more than in previous seasons as well, but it’s not a huge difference. Last season, his o-contact% was 76.7% and this season it’s 78.6%. That number is still right around where he normally is for his career.
Knowing the Zone
This is where Iglesias has struggled. He has seen his swing rates climb higher than average. His total swing percentage went from 49.7% in 2018 to 54.7% this season. Of pitches Iglesias does swing at, his percentage of pitches inside the zone (z-swing%) has gone from 61.9% with the Tigers last year to 67.4% this year. The major increase in his swing percentage has been his o-swing%, however. His career o-swing% is 38.0%, but this season it’s jumped all the way to 46.1%. While Iglesias makes decent contact, especially with two strikes, he has swung at more pitches outside the zone. One reason for this could be that Iglesias is seeing less pitches inside the zone. His zone% (percentage of pitches seen inside the zone) went down from 45.1% to 40.3% this year.
Despite chasing more pitches, his strikeout totals haven’t gone up dramatically. Iglesias has never been a high strikeout guy, mainly because he is a higher contact hitter. He’s struck out 56 times in 2019, more than the 47 times he did a year ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up surpassing his career high of 65 strikeouts in 2017. Chasing pitches hasn’t affected his production drastically (especially when he’s already got a career high eight home runs), but Iglesias could be even better this season if he was more aware of where the pitches are that he’s swinging at.
To Sign Him or Not to Sign Him?
Iglesias is a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. With the season he’s having, I could see the Reds extending him, but he’s probably going to want the kind of money the Reds might not want to pay a bench player. I’m not sure if the Reds are completely sold on him being the everyday starter at shortstop in 2020, especially now with Freddy Galvis as a option too. With a 89 wRC+, Iglesias hasn’t been the best player on the team, but he’s been an asset to the Reds this season. He’s not without his flaws, but he’s shown he can be better than other options as long as he can fix his latest tendency to swing at bad pitches.
Stats courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant.