Since Nick wrote about Mesoraco and his place in Reds history a few days ago, I thought now was a perfect time to break down his game piece by piece.
Nick pretty well covered the basic numbers, so I won’t go into those. Instead, I’m going to jump right in to the more advanced stats. Compared to his previous major league seasons, three numbers really jump out as seeing dramatic changes: his strikeout rate, his isolated power, and his batting average on balls in play. All three of those are way, way up. His strikeouts have gone from around 18% to around 23%. His ISO has more than doubled to its current .286, and his BABIP of .330 is 66 points better than his previous best.
Mesoraco’s major league career show no precedent for these kinds of numbers, but both his BABIP and his ISO have reached these levels in the minors. His strikeouts have never been this high in significant playing time at any level.
Want to know what’s going on? It’s pretty simple, I think. He’s swinging harder. A lot harder.
Last week, I noted that Cozart had lost six feet of distance on his fly balls. Well, Mesoraco has gained more than 20 feet. His HR/FB rate of 23% is way above the league average this year, but it’s not a mirage. His fly balls are going much, much farther this year.
Further, his swing profile fits with a harder swing. He is swinging less often, especially at balls outside the zone, and that’s probably helping him make better contact. When he does swing, however, he’s making contact less often (70.3% this year verses 80.9% last year). He’s also pulling the ball more, which is in line with what we’d expect given the other numbers we’ve seen.
The above numbers explain both the power and the strikeout changes, but not the BABIP spike, and that is a reason for concern. His LD% is right around league average, meaning there’s not any really good reason to expect an abnormally high BABIP (Votto, for instance, has both a LD% and a BABIP that are significantly above league average for his career. This makes sense.)
If there is something concerning about Mesoraco it is that oddly high BABIP. As far as I can see, we should expect some regression still as the season moves forward. This does not mean, however, that Mesoraco’s great numbers are an illusion. Rather, it means that while he has greatly, greatly improved, not all of that improvement is attributable to a change in approach. At least a little bit of it is luck.