Kevin Kiermaier set career highs in both his walk rate and his on base percentage while still missing a good chunk of time recovering from his hand injury. Previously, we have looked at his diet plan, how he stuck with it, and Hanselman took a deeper dive into what was happening on Kiermaier’s 2016 player card. Let us know take a look to see what adjustments Kiermaier made to get on base more often to take advantage of his speed.
The consistent critique in past reviews of Kiermaier was that he was too aggressive on high fastballs given the very poor return on investment from going after those pitches. The good news is that he did make overall progress in that area compared to his behaviors in 2015.
He was more selective on pitches up in the zone and made more contact on the ones he did swing at. Yet, let us take a deeper dive into a particular aspect of that approach.
One thing that Hanselman’s look noticed was Kiermaier was apt to go after pitches up and away. Kiermaier may look like Superman in center field on defense, but those pitches up, up, and away has historically been kryptonite to the young man. As Hanselman said:
One way that Kiermaier could take a step forward would be to show a better opposite field approach that sees him hitting more grounders and liners and fewer fly balls…If they’re going to continue to pound him out there then he’s going to need to show an ability to turn those pitches into base hits more often.
If we look back at the same metrics from the previous table, Kiermaier did improve in his approach against those pitches:
However, he did not heed the full advice and actually hit more flyballs than previous seasons. If we look at pitches on the outer and upper half of the zone, Kiermaier’s G/L/F splits in 2016 were 34/19/47 as compared to a 40/37/23 split the season before. We can look at that as a contributing factor to his batting average declining last year as just three of the flyballs he put into play off those up and away pitches became hits – one a double and two left the park:
The other oddity with his batted ball outcomes is when he did turn those up and away pitches into groundballs, they were typically hit to the pull side thus greatly reducing his chances to use his speed to beat the throw to first:
Kiermaier made gains in his overall pitch selectivity by offering at fewer overall pitches and chasing fewer pitches out of the zone which helped him get on base more frequently. That said, the gains were somewhat offset by generating too many straight and opposite way flyballs and pull-side grounders that have a low chance of becoming hits. If Kiermaier could adjust his approach on those pitches to going with the pitch to slap it down or line it the other way as well, he could set another career-high in on base percentage in 2017. Given the new aggressiveness in the stolen base game from him (15 of 16 after the break), Kiermaier getting on base more frequently could add a dormant weapon to the offense that needs help manufacturing runs and not waiting for them to come from home runs.