Anyone who’s watched a Pablo Sandoval at-bat should be able to realize within a few pitches that Sandoval likes to swing the stick. According to Fangraph’s O-Swing% statistic (the number of pitches outside of the strike zone that a batter swings at) Sandoval has swung at 41.8% of the pitches he’s seen this year outside of the strike zone. Among qualified hitters in the majors, Sandoval ranks 2nd in O-Swing% behind teammate Bengie Molina. Sandoval currently sports an OBP of .379.
On the other side of things, Fred Lewis rarely swings at pitches outside of the zone. Fred has an O-Swing% of 19.4 this season while posting an above-average OBP of .352. Sandoval gets on base by swinging at everything and making contact. Fred, on the other hand, is more selective at the plate, rarely goes outside the zone, and compliments his OBP by taking walks.
Two hitters with wildly different approaches, but nearly similar results. Thankfully, with PitchF/X we can take a visual look at how Sandoval and Lewis swing the bat at the plate. Below, I’ve plotted every at-bat this season for Pablo and Fred and broken their AB’s down by swings vs. non-swings. I’m not tackling what type of contact they’re making in today’s post, but rather a simplified look at how many times they swing — or don’t swing — outside of the zone.
Click to enlarge
Pretty interesting. Right from the start you can really see that Sandoval has a very large swing zone. Up, down, in, or away, he’s likely to take a hack. Fred Lewis is much less likely to go outside of the strike zone when he swings. If Lewis does swing at a pitch outside of the zone, it looks like it’s going to be either down or away in the zone. It will be interesting to see how Sandoval changes his plate approach over time — if he changes it at all. In 2008, he swung at around 50% of pitches outside of the strike zone. This year, he’s “lowered” it to 40% of pitches outside of the zone. Pablo Sandoval and Fred Lewis are as different as it gets when it comes to their plate approaches. But, they’ve both excelled at getting on base.
One of the many reasons why I like baseball so much is that you can have two different players succeed with totally different play styles. You won’t find a better example of that theory in Pablo Sandoval and Fred Lewis.