To say that Jesse Winker has been locked in for the last two weeks would be an understatement. Beginning on August 4th, the Cincinnati Reds outfielder has hit .586/.657/1.207 – good for an OPS of 1.864 over the 10-game stretch. That included three doubles, five homers, four walks, and a stolen base just for good measure. In that time he went from a player who was struggling to the National League leader in OPS with a 1.196 mark on the season, boosting his overall line to .365/.484/.712.
But the Cincinnati Reds haven’t played a game since Friday night when Jesse Winker homered twice. It was his 5th consecutive multi-hit game. Prior to the game, Winker spoke about not giving up at-bats, grinding away, and just trying to be a tough out.
“I just think you kind of have to keep going. It’s a shortened season, but, a month or two weeks or shoot, when it’s a full season, two or three months – it doesn’t define your year,” said Winker. “You just keep going, you keep plugging away, you keep grinding at-bats out. Every time I go up to the plate I try to be a tough out. I really just try to not take an at-bat off.”
“You know with this shortened season you never know what play is the play that could change the game. Obviously there’s the big plays that stand out, whether it’s a Nick Castellanos or Mike Moustakas home run, or a Joey Votto walk-off double. There’s so many little things that could go into that win, like a Tucker Barnhart blocked ball or beating out a double play on the back end, or going first to third – you never know what play is the play that could ultimately help you win that game. With that being said, I’m just trying to stay as focused and consistent with that thought process, because you never know what play that might be, or pitch, or defensive play or hustle play – whatever that might be.”
The off time may or may not cool Jesse Winker off, but when he steps back on the field this afternoon in Kansas City he’s going to do so as the National League leader in wRC+ at 216 (Bryce Harper is the only other hitter above 192, sitting at 209), and wOBA at .496. Things have been going well for Winker this season. His average exit velocity is at 94.1 MPH, which is significantly higher than his career rate of 89.9. That ranks 7th best in baseball among players with at least 50 plate appearances this season. He also rates in the top 10 in Statcast’s expected batting average, expected slugging, expected wOBA, and expected ISO in the league. He’s hitting the ball hard, and he’s hitting it at the right launch angle to keep it out of the gloves of defenders.
Of course, Jesse Winker says that he doesn’t pay attention to the stats, really. While that could be true, the Reds are certainly hoping he can continue to put up big stats for the rest of the season. The left-handed hitter has been a well above-average hitter in his Major League career to this point – posting a 120 OPS+ in his first three seasons in the big leagues. He’s struggled to remain on the field full time, playing in 89 and 113 games the last two seasons. But when he’s been on the field, he’s hit and he’s hit well. It’s still early in 2020, though the Reds have played in 33% of their games because of the shortened schedule – but Winker just turned 27-years-old on Monday, and that’s historically been an age where guys have taken that next step offensively.
It’s tough to tell much of anything during this season. Expanded rosters have led to a few pitchers on rosters who wouldn’t be there – in theory, at least, it’s watered down the pitching around the league. The sample size of games is small for the season, but on August 19th, it’s even smaller, so a hot or cold streak can really skew what we’re seeing in the overall numbers for an individual player, too. But right now, Jesse Winker is clearly on a hot streak and while there’s no way he’s going to keep hitting to the tune of an 1.800 OPS like he has for his previous weeks worth of games, hopefully the time off didn’t cool off the bat – the Reds offense could certainly use another middle of the order hitter in their lineup.