In this week’s edition of statcast standouts, we look at some chase rate risers and fallers. A chase is defined as a pitch that the batter swings at outside of the strike zone. Chase rate simply swings at pitches outside the zone, divided by pitches outside the zone.
Some hitters can possess the skill of contact on pitches out of the zone. But, this season, pitches outside the strike zone have a batting average of .159 and a slugging percentage of .217. On pitches where contact is made out of the zone, the average exit velocity is 80 mph. Generally, players who chase often have higher strikeout rates and tend to be volatile performers.
Statcast Standouts: Chase Rate Risers and Fallers
Chase Rate Fallers
|Player||2021 Chase%||2022 Chase%||Diff|
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||34.3||29.9||-4.4|
Andrew Benintendi, OF, New York Yankees
Andrew Benintendi’s tenure in New York has been less than stellar, but overall he has made major improvements in 2022. Benintendi hit .320 as a member of the Royals but has just a .240 batting average in 117 plate appearances since his trade to the Yankees.
Benintendi’s counting stats have not been there this season as he has just four home runs and eight stolen bases. It seems to be a case of the dead ball getting to him. His average exit velocity is tied for the second highest of his career, and he has a healthy 38.6 percent hard-hit rate. Benintendi’s 3.1 percent home run per fly ball rate is his career low.
The good news is that Benintendi’s plate discipline skills have made major improvements in 2022. His chase rate has the largest drop of any qualified hitter from 2021 to 2022. Benintendi’s zone contact rate is also his best since 2018.
Christian Walker, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Christian Walker is having one of the more underrated seasons in 2022. He is up to 30 home runs, and even though his batting average sits at just .227, he has suffered some bad luck. Walker has a .255 expected batting average. Since the All-Star break, Walker had a .275 batting average with eight home runs.
Walker has an average exit velocity of 90 mph and a 43.4 percent hard-hit rate. His 13.2 percent barrel rate puts him 89th percentile among all hitters. Walker has shown power in the past and has always hit the ball hard, but this season is a career best in terms of power.
Walker’s success can be attributed to his overall plate discipline improvements. He has been more selective with his pitches as his zone-swing percentage is down nearly 13 percentage points from last season. In the selectiveness, his zone contact rate is up six percentage points.
Walker ranks third among hitters who have improved their chase rate from 2021 to 2022. The improvements in the plate discipline have not provided the results in batting average, but the selectiveness has helped Walker get to more home run power. Walker is on his way to a 35 home run season, and his batting average is rising. He has been underrated all season and likely remains as such in 2023.
Chase Rate Risers
|Player||2021 Chase%||2022 Chase%||Diff|
Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
It is interesting to find Bryce Harper on the list of hitters who have seen the largest rise in their chase rate in 2022. Harper missed nearly two months of the season with a broken thumb, but when he is on the field, his performance has been excellent. He currently has a .317/.387/.587 slash line with 15 home runs in just 287 plate appearances.
Seeing Bryce Harper have an 11.2 percent increase in his chase rate might make you wonder if it is just a small sample or if the chase rate even matters. Harper’s strikeout rate is down four percentage points from last season.
In general, Harper has been more aggressive this season. His swing rate is up 12 percentage points, and his first pitch swing percentage is up nine percentage points. Despite the aggressiveness, Harper’s whiff rate is down from 2021. He may be chasing more, but he also makes more contact on pitches outside the zone.
For some, chasing more matters, but in Harper’s case, it appears he can get by with having a higher chase rate. It will be something to monitor moving forward, though.
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Statistical References: Baseball Savant