Last week we kicked off this series by looking at how Eugenio Suarez performed on pitches inside and outside of the strikezone. In short: He was very good by comparison to the league at both. Today we are going to examine how Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett performed on pitches that would have been balls, or strikes, had he not swung at them.

In the 2018 season, Scooter Gennett put together another strong offensive season. He hit .310/.357/.490 with 30 doubles, 3 triples, and 23 home runs. The overall numbers weren’t quite as strong as the were the previous year, as his OPS dropped by 27 points. But his OPS+, which is adjusted for the ballparks played in, was actually 1 point better than in 2017.

For his career, Scooter Gennett has been a hitter who swings at pitches out of the strikezone quite a bit. His 39.1% “out of the zone swing rate” ranks 345th out of 377 players with at least 1000 at-bats since 2013 (when Gennett debuted). He’s one of the more aggressive swingers in baseball on pitches out of the zone. In 2018 he swung at non-strikes 40.3% of the time. The league average was 30.9%, meaning he swung at pitches out of the zone nearly 33% more frequently than the average hitter did. What also happened was that he made more contact on pitches out of the zone, too – jumping to 74.7% in 2018 – up from 71.0% in 2017. That’s much higher than the league average, which was only 62.8%.

On pitches in the strikezone Scooter Gennett also upped his swing rate in 2018. Sort of. 2017 saw him post a career low 63.9% in-zone swing rate. 2018 saw a jump up to 66.0%, but that was still the second lowest rate of his career. That’s close to the league average rate, which was 67.3% during the 2018 campaign.

When Scooter Gennett got strikes, he hit them very well. On pitches inside of the strikezone that he swung at, he hit .364 and slugged .575. His .364 average on pitches in the zone was best among the Reds hitters in 2018 who had any sort of real playing time. His isolated power of .211 (slugging minus average) was middle of the pack for the team.

What set Scooter Gennett apart among Cincinnati hitters was what he was able to do on non-strikes during 2018. He swung at a lot of them, but he found some marginal success, too. He hit .255 on them – best on the team. And he slugged .401, also best on the team. And that wasn’t close.

The chart above shows a comparison of how Scooter Gennett hit both in and out of the strikezone. He’s certainly better out of the zone than anyone else on the Reds. But even so, he’s still a significantly better hitter on pitches in the zone than he is on ones out of the zone. If he can be a little more patient and cut down on pitches out of the zone he swings at, he’d likely improve his overall output quite a bit.

Data on average and slugging percentage in and out of the strikezone is from Brooks Baseball. The data was manually tabulated based on their raw numbers provided.

29 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    I’d be interested to see his RHP vs. LHP splits as well. Either way, a little more plate discipline likely goes a long way toward better performance.

  2. Bill

    “If he can be a little more patient and cut down on pitches out of the zone he swings at, he’d likely improve his overall output quite a bit.”

    This can’t be true, we all know you should swing at everything instead of trying to walk

    • Mark Moore

      I see what you did there Bill …

  3. CFD3000

    These numbers surprise me, not because of Scooter, but because of the way he’s pitched. When a hitter is so prone to swing at balls, why throw him strikes? Essentially Scooter makes the strike zone much bigger, and tells pitchers that he’ll get himself out if they can throw balls that are even moderately close to the edge of the strike zone. And it also makes me wonder will scouting reports catch up to Scooter in 2019? I’ve long been on the trade Scooter side of things, and still hope the Reds will do just that. I know it’s a bad year to have an extra second baseman, especially one with no versatility, but with just one year left of team control, and a very capable, cheaper, possibly all-star level alternative in Senzel, I’ll say that trade Scooter looks a LOT better to me than extend Scooter.

    • Bill

      The trade should have already happened if he was getting traded. As it stands now, trade value is low and the team is obviously better with him in 2019. With the other additional one year guys acquired in the recent trades put them in a weird spot. Depending on the record going into the All Star break and needs of other teams they might be able to get some low level prospects in return. However if they are in contention and Gennett is hitting like he has the last two years he won’t be going anywhere and will be a free agent.

      I was on team “trade Scooter” last year, but with his shoulder issues and the Bob’s desire to extend him that wasn’t going to happen. Now it appears Bob has agreed to let the baseball people run the show and an extension is not going to happen as easily. If Gennett really wants to be here and is willing to sign for below market value for a few years I would do it. I just don’t see him taking below market value, and I don’t see the Reds giving a long term contract.

      • CFD3000

        Agree with all this Bill. I don’t really expect a trade to materialize, and with the rest of the new one year players Scooter is probably worth more just playing out 2019 with the Reds, especially if he doesn’t keep Senzel out of the lineup. My point was more that I’m really hoping against an extension. No way Gennett is worth more than Senzel in the long run, especially relative to salary. One way or another I hope this is his last year in Cincinnati – not because he’s bad, but because there are even better options, which is a really good situation.

  4. KDJ

    Thanks, Doug. I’d be curious to see if his hot streaks coincided with periods of swinging more in the zone and less out of the zone. Conversely, did his fade at the end feature more swings out of the zone than what he did earlier in the season?

  5. Ron Payne

    I’m on the fence with Scooter. Like his offense a lot. If he were an above-average fielder, an extension would probably have been offered already and Senzel would be focusing primarily on becoming the everyday center fielder.
    I think the only way you get value for Scooter in a trade is if he’s part of a package.
    How about Raisel Iglesias and Scooter to the Red Sox for CF Jackie Bradley Jr. and LHP Eduardo Rodriguez?

    • LWBlogger2

      If I’m the Sox, why wouldn’t I just sign Ottavino and Jed Lowrie or DJ LeMahieu and hold onto Rodriguez and Bradley Jr?

      • Phil

        LeMahieu’s numbers appear to be a product of Coors Field. He has a career 673 OPS on the road vs 835 at home.
        Lowrie is already 35 years old. The Red Sox have seen with Pedroia (as the Reds did with Phillips) how quickly things can go down hill for middle infielders in their 30s.

        Scooter is younger and has been as productive, if not more so the last 2 seasons, than all of the free agent second-base options.

        Iglesias is on a very reasonable contract for 3 seasons and is cheaper and/or more talented than most free agent options out there.

        The Red Sox, or any other team, might decide they don’t want to pay the price the Reds are asking in return via trade but it’s easy to argue that Scooter and Iglesias could be better options that any of the free agents available at their positions.

  6. WVRedlegs

    I know the 2B market is saturated at this time, but I don’t get the disinterest from other teams on Scooter. Sure, there are several 2B free agents still available, but all have more warts than Scooter does. Scooter doesn’t have drastic home/away splits like the Coors Field stats of JD LeMahieu. Scooter isn’t looking for a rebound season after a terrible 2018 like Brian Dozier and Neil walker. Scooter hasn’t advanced as far along the aging curve as has Jed Lowrie. Scooter is a better offensive threat than Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Harrison. And Scooter has much, much more 2B experience than Marwin Gonzalez. Yet these names are more often bandied about than Scooter’s name.

    • Phil

      I’ve wondered the same thing. The best I can come up with is that if I’m the team looking to add a second-baseman I’m only trading for 1 year of Scooter then have to make the same decision next season on re-signing him or looking for another free agent.
      MLB Trade Rumors has the current free agent second-baseman projected at $10-million per year for 1-4 years. Gennett is set to earn about $10-million this year through arbitration.
      So Scooter will cost something in a trade, then make roughly the same salary in 2019 and still leave you looking for a second-baseman for 2020 and beyond. Unless a team thinks he will be that much better than the free agent options I can see them passing on a trade.

      • WVRedlegs

        MLBTR’s list for 2B free agents this time next year (2019-2020) is fairly unimpressive. 2B needy teams ought to get their 2B this year. I could see the obtaining team giving Scooter an extension. Reds just aren’t a 2B needy team.
        Understandably, signing a free agent saves you on the prospect end, but doesn’t always deliver a better option. I think you can pencil in a 2019 for Scooter that is at least a .280 BA, a .340 OBP, 20-22 HR’s, and at least 80 RBI’s. With those other free agent 2B, that is mostly not the case.
        Tampa Bay lost most of its power from last year, cutting CJ Cron and his 30 HR, they traded Wilson Ramos and his 17 HR and traded Jake Bauers and his 11 HR. They have some rookies they are looking at for some power in Austin Meadows, Yandy Diaz, and Willy Adames.
        Tampa Bay does not need a 2B, but they could use a LH hitting DH. They don’t have much LH pop at all. I wonder if the Rays could move Scooter to DH? The Reds did get $7MM from LAD, maybe they could kick in some of Scooter’s salary in a trade to TB? TB is not the same team that won 90 games last year. I wouldn’t mind getting INF Daniel Robertson from TB to be the Reds ultra-versatile role player.

    • greenmtred

      I wonder the same thing. Hitting is viewed as supremely important, and Scooter hits. Why wouldn’t somebody be willing to give up value for him?

  7. jreis

    I still think the solution is to try to sign him long term for a discounted rate with the assumption that he will be a key player off our bench for the future. I think Scooter wants to stay in Cincy. I agree with the above statements that the offensive is excellent and stable but he just doesn’t give us enough defense.

    I love hitters that can do damage with balls out of the strike zone and Scooters ability to mash a high fastball is pretty amazing

    • Phil

      Your pitch to Scooter would be “We understand that you’ve been an all star and one of the better second basemen in the league since you arrived in Cincinnati. We’d therefore like to pay you less than you’re worth while giving you less playing time and assume you’ll be ok with that just because you like Cincinnati so much.”?

      • Big Ed

        That is pretty much it. From the Reds’ perspective, they can pay Senzel to play 2B next year for 1/20th of the price that they would have to pay Scooter.

      • Bill

        Ed, I don’t think anyone is arguing the fact that Senzel can play 2B for league minimum. That is almost guaranteed. The point Phil is making, and any rational person would agree with is, Gennett is not going to agree to a massive pay cut for the opportunity to sit the bench after putting up the type of numbers he has the last two years. He either plays 2B, is traded, or walks at the end of the year

    • Bill

      He isn’t taking a contract at the going rate for a backup and the Reds can’t afford to pay their backups $10 million a year. He also isn’t going to sign if you tell him he is sitting the bench. He is good enough to start for someone for the next few years at least. There is also no way I am putting a 4 WAR player on the bench. If Gennett is on the team he is your starting 2B and Senzel is traded or in the OF.

      How do you think the conversation will end with his agent when the Reds say; “I know you were an All Star, but our final offer is four years/$12 million and the honor of sitting the bench for the Cincinnati Reds”?

      • LWBlogger2

        Yep, yep and yep. I agree with you.

        Lots of people have said the same thing in past threads. I know I love the Reds but if I were in Scooter’s shoes and someone came to me with an offer similar to what he is proposing, I’d say “No thank you.” and may in fact be insulted.

      • greenmtred

        Yeah. If Scooter, in fact, loves the Reds, such a proposal might make him stop loving them.

  8. Old-school

    Scooter has the unique ability to hit balls out of the zone. Playing in GABP helps. He has golfed curve balls off his shoe tops out to RF. His third home run in the 4 home run game was a high outside pitch near his chin. He took it out down the LF line. He’s a unique guy and certainly fun to watch.

    DW and DB seem prepared to play 10 guys regularly and give Senzel a shot in CF. Only 2 Cubs got more than 500 at bats last year. Invariably injuries occur and perhaps the Reds will use the shorter DL to their advantage . Even Suarez had a few rough weeks due to fatigue late in the season.

    Gennett/Puig/ Wood could all 3 be candidates for a QO.

  9. roger garrett

    Scooter plays and walks at the end of the yearNo trade value when packaged alone because of his age,salary and position.Just the way it is.Someone will over pay him in 2020 on long term deal of 3 years or more.Good for him cause he will have earned it and good for the Reds that they won’t be the ones over paying.Said it once but is worth repeating.Wish he was 25 years old but well he isn’t.

  10. Jreis

    I don’t know. Scooter is a bad second baseman and it is only going to get worse. I mean his arm looks like it is about to fall off when he throws FROM SECOND BASE for heavens sake. I just can’t see him being an everyday fielder in the near future. Yes maybe he can be a dh in the American League but I really think he would rather play in Cincinnati.
    I would at least offer him a 4 year discounted offer. The worst he can say is no.

    • greenmtred

      Several people here have commented, accurately in my view, that Scooter played better at 2nd last year than the narrative usually suggests. The state of his shoulder–about which I’ve heard nothing–will certainly play a part in how his fielding looks in 2019.

  11. Bill

    No one is nominating him for a gold glove and it is a also well known fact he had some sort of shoulder injury leading to the throwing issues. I won’t argue that he is a good defender, or even that he is the best use of resources for the Reds. His bat however is good, and most likely has a few years of being good before you should expect a significant age related decline.

    Offering him a four year discounted contract is one thing. Offering him a four year extremely discounted contract and telling him to sit the bench is a completely different situation. Yes he can say no, but he and his agent could also be insulted. The last thing Cincinnati needs is to get a bad reputation and scare all free agents away, especially going into 2020 when they are going to once again need to sign some starting pitching

  12. MrRed

    Anybody care to take a guess at which “skill” ages the worst? Hint: It’s making contact on pitches outside the strike zone. Add that to a player who has little positional versatility and tell me, if you were the GM would you be eager to sign a deal for more than 3 years for that player? On the other side of the coin, would said player be eager to sign an extension for just 3 years prior to hitting age 30 after the last 2 seasons he’s had? It certainly gives some color on why Scooter hasn’t been traded or given an extension by the Reds yet.