Last night saw Jesse Winker hit a go-ahead 2-run homer in the 10th inning to put the Cincinnati Reds on top of the Los Angeles Dodgers for good. It was his 5th home run of the year, and his second hit of the night. His first hit of the night extended his hitting streak to 11 games – the longest current streak in Major League Baseball. He’s played in 17 games this year and he’s had hits in 15 of them. One of the games he didn’t get a hit in was a game in which he was a pinch hitter and only had one at-bat. In the other game he went 0-3 with a walk and a run scored.

Kenley Jansen is one of the best relievers in Major League Baseball. He’s been in the big leagues since 2010 and in his 12 seasons he’s posted a 2.40 ERA and picked up 317 saves for the Dodgers.  He’s struck out 949 batters with just 176 walks in 646.1 innings pitched. By and large he’s had that success with one pitch – a cutter. In his career he’s thrown it 84% of the time, but it’s such a good pitch that even if you know it’s likely coming, you still can’t do a ton with it. Unless you’re Jesse Winker.

“I know he throws a lot of cutters,” Winker said after the game. “I got a great scouting report from Z (hitting coach Alan Zinter) before, had a plan and just kind of went for it. Just tried to put the barrel on the ball and hit it hard somewhere. It got up and got out and I was pumped about that.”

Hit it hard, he did. Winker’s home run went 375 feet before landing in the stand in left field. And he hit it at 102 MPH off of the bat. It was the first home run that Kenley Jansen has given up since September 8th of last year – a span of 16 appearances.

“That is a unicorn cutter, let me tell you – that thing is crazy,” said Reds reliever Tejay Antone after the game of Kenley Jansen’s cutter. “Very, very impressive job by Winker. But he hits. There’s no question about it – that dude can hit.”

That dude can hit, indeed. Since the start of 2017, Winker’s first year in the Major Leagues, there have been 347 players who have recorded at least 750 plate appearances. Only 25 of those players have an OPS higher than Winker’s .878. And he seems to be getting better. In 2018 and 2019 he put up an OPS of .836 and .830. Since the start of 2020 he’s put up an OPS of .991 in 257 plate appearances, hitting .295/.401/.590. The sample size there is still small, but it’s not insignificant, either.

At the start of the day on Tuesday, Jesse Winker leads the National League with a .382 batting average. His .432 on-base percentage ranks 6th in the league. His .691 slugging percentage ranks second in the league. And his 1.124 OPS also ranks second in the league – only Ronald Acuña Jr. has a higher OPS at 1.224!

Good hitters tend to have positive numbers in Fangraphs “Win Probability Added” stat because, well, they hit. And when you record hits or walks, it increases the odds that your team will win. Given the previous few paragraphs it seems pretty established that Jesse Winker is a good hitter. He currently trails just Acuña Jr. and Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani (WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING ABOUT HIM MORE?!) in Major League Baseball in WPA.

The odds are against Jesse Winker continuing to hit .382. It’s not impossible, but it’s incredibly improbable. But the odds seem pretty good that Winker’s going to continue to rake. He’s been an above-average hitter since the day he stepped onto a big league field and he’s getting better. The power is playing more now than it has in the past and it’s helped take him to that next level.

25 Responses

  1. Scott C

    And he gets a great joy out of playing. He is fun to watch, it is like watching a kid play.

  2. SoCalRedsFan

    I saw Winker play in high-A Bakersfield and my step-son got his autograph. I told my step-son to make sure he takes care of that auto because he’s going to win a batting title someday.

  3. west larry

    Winker is so good, I think he will win a batting average titeer e before he hangs his spikes up. I just hope that he plays his entire career as a red.

  4. LDS

    When Shogo returns, maybe it’s time to move him to 1st. Or maybe sooner.

    • Rednat

      i agree. if shogo can be the table setter he was at the end of 2020 at the leadoff spot, you can move winker to the number 3 hole. maybe move votto down to 6. if Suarez ever wakes up this could be a dangerous offense

      • SoCalRedsFan

        I think he’s saying to move him to first base.

      • LDS

        I am. Winker at first, Votto pulling a bunch of bench time. Don’t see him coming back.

  5. Bred

    Doug, I remember being excited about Winker from all your posts on RML. You said he could rake, and you nailed it. RML is a invaluable website to know what players we have to look forward to on the Reds. Thanks for keeping both sites informative and entertaining.

  6. SultanofSwaff

    Reminds me of Don Mattingly. DM had a wonderful 4 year stretch where he OPS’d in the mid .900s. Jesse is in year 2 of that stretch…..hopefully. Like Mahle, the Reds need to be proactive in buying out a year or two of free agency. Locking up these two would help solidify a nice core of players and keep the Reds in reload, not rebuild, mode for the foreseeable future.

    • SultanofSwaff

      Bonus—the shift has little to no effect on Jesse. Quite rare for a lefty.

  7. Old-school

    Winker has been an outstanding hitter with elite plate discipline his entire pro career. He s had his share of naysayers- lack of power in the minors, speed, defense,injury prone- but an elite hit tool trumps everything. His September slump a year ago is reason to not overreact when players with a pedigree struggle. To Winkers credit, he’s always been confident and had enthusiasm playing this great game

    • RojoBenjy

      The power in the minors was sapped by a significant wrist injury

  8. DBall

    From a team perspective: If not for Winker, it’s hard to imagine where this team’s mind is tonight. Let’s see what happens in this series. This may prove pivotal to the rest of this week. Trevor is going to get his Cy Young tonight. Big for these guys to know they can win without him because it’s a long season, and you got a guy like Jesse who can single-handedly stop losing streaks. From a Jesse perspective: It’s about time he got his respect. If you can do it in LA, you can do it anywhere. All-Star.

    Post edited due to language. Doug – keep it clean as if you were in 2nd grade with the language.

  9. Jon

    Reds need to sign him to an extension (along with Mahle).

  10. Tim

    Now it’s time for the Reds to get him RBI’s. This is an important stat for someone hitting like he is. Get some baserunners in front of him and let him “put the barrel on the ball.”

    • RojoBenjy

      That would be smart baseball.

      So there is little chance of that taking place.

  11. 2020ball

    Lol at a HR derby instead of extras. Manfred is drunk.

  12. RojoBenjy

    “Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani (WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING ABOUT HIM MORE?!) “

    Because he plays for the Angels and not the Dodgers, Yankees or Red Sox

  13. Ron

    It’s amazing what playing every day can do for a player. Now if we could get Nick Senzel to find a groove similar,

    • 2020ball

      If Nick wants to play then he’s gotta figure out how to produce first. That’s how this game has always worked. We’ll bemoan Bell for playing Votto and Suarez too often, then turn around and just give a pass to someone younger who hasn’t even come close to establishing himself when given the chances he’s had.