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« Expanded Strike Zones | Main | Francisco Liriano's No Hitter »
Wednesday
May042011

Is Ichiro Really a Free Swinger?

Ichiro Suzuki (SEA) earned the reputation as a hitter who will swing at anything.  We've seen him earn hits on balls at his shoe tops and way outside the strike zone.  Is he really that much of a free swinger, however?  The data indicates he may be more selective than thought.

The following graph shows Ichiro's swing rate versus the rate for the majors since the start of the 2008 season:

Ichiro Suzuki swing rate (left) versus MLB rate (right), 2008-2011.Note that most of Ichiro's swing density is in the strike zone.  Yes, he does swing out of the zone more than average, especially down.  There's a good reason for that, however:

Ichiro Suzuki contact rate (left) versus MLB rate (right), 2008-2011.When most batters go out of the strike zone, they swing and miss, especially up and down.  When Ichiro goes out of the strike zone, he makes contact.  Ichiro's strike zone is simply bigger than than it is for most players.  Not only does he make contact, he makes productive contact:

Ichiro Suzuki, in play average, 2008-2011.Notice the nice bright reds down and outside the strike zone.  Those are some of his best places to get a hit.  This represents more evidence that Suzuki's strike zone covers more area.  When most players swing out of the zone, they trade balls for outs.  Ichiro trades them for hits.  He is a selective hitter, just not in the traditional way.

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References (4)

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    Is Ichiro Really a Free Swinger? - Baseball Analytics Blog - MLB Baseball Analytics
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    Is Ichiro Really a Free Swinger? - Baseball Analytics Blog - MLB Baseball Analytics
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    Is Ichiro Really a Free Swinger? - Baseball Analytics Blog - MLB Baseball Analytics
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    Response: jungle heat hack
    Is Ichiro Really a Free Swinger? - Baseball Analytics Blog - MLB Baseball Analytics

Reader Comments (1)

This is a great analysis and visualization. Can I ask where you get the data for models like this, and what you use to create the graphics? And I hope, like me, you are a Yankees fan, and so get to see more of Ichiro this year. Thanks!

January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Lawlor

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