Matt Vensel in the Baltimore Sun praises Vladimir Guerrero's (BAL) free swinging ways.
Guerrero might not wear down starters with epic at-bats, but at least he’s getting on base. Just to be safe, though, Orioles manager Buck Showalter should make the team's younger hitters wear blindfolds in the dugout during Vlad’s at-bats.
Unfortunately, despite a .298 batting average, Vlad is not getting on base that much. His BA is high, 82nd percentile, but his OBP is low at .325, 48% percentile. He's also not driving the ball, with a .429 slugging percentage that ranks at the 64th percentile. Put it all together and Guerrero's wOBA comes in at .329, 58th percentile. That's above average, but given that he's a designated hitter, he should be blasting the ball out of the park.
Vlad really does go outside the strike zone often.
He likes to swing at inside pitches and high pitches. He's a little better on pitches outside and pitches down.
Pitchers know Guerrero will swing out of the strike zone, but that doesn't mean they're afraid to put the ball in the zone.
The work him away, but mostly on the outer half of the plate. Why do they throw in the zone so often? Vlad is good at making contact when he swings the lumber:
The above heat map looks very much like his swing heat map, so he's putting the bat on the ball. Here, however, is where we start to see the problem with his swinging so much:
Vlad is making contact, but many of those balls are going foul, especially the pitches inside and up, pitches that would be balls otherwise. Guerrero is turning mistakes into strikes.
Finally, Vlad is just not doing a good job when he puts pitches in the strike zone in play:
Look at the big blue rift in the middle of the strike zone. That's where Guerrero should be killing the ball, but pitchers get him on change ups right in the heart of the plate. He doesn't walk because he turns balls in fouls. His power abandoned him, so even if he gets a hit, it will probably just be a single. Guerrero no longer gives pitchers a reason to fear him, so they go after him. More often than not they get the out or hits that do little damage.