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Brennan Boesch's plate decisions resulting in better consistency in 2011

Brennan Boesch is swinging at fewer pitches and making contact more often on the ones he swings at.
Brennan Boesch is swinging at fewer pitches and making contact more often on the ones he swings at.

With all the games and all the trade rumors to report, it's far to easy to let analysis fall to the background. But I noticed an interesting statistical trend with Brennan Boesch over the all-star break that fits well with what the eye perceives: He's making better decisions at the plate this year and avoiding prolonged slumps because of it.

It was no secret last season that Brennan Boesch had a few holes in his swing and would chase the pitcher's pitches. So after a fast start to his major league career Boesch quickly plummeted.

Boesch has been pretty consistent during 2011. In three of the four months of the MLB season, his OPS is no worse than .814 and average no worse than .266. He did stumble in one month of the season: May. That month he batted .186 with a .551 OPS. He admitted he changed his approach at the plate, more or less swinging for the fences. Since getting back to what worked in April, Boesch has remained a productive member of the Tigers' lineup.

Looking at a few plate discipline stats as presented on Fangraphs helps detail this.

Brennan Boesch's Plate Discipline

Year Swing%
Outside Zone
Swing %
Inside Zone
% overall
Swinging strikes%
2010 41.1% 81% 57.3% 66.6% 12.1%
2011 38% 72.6% 51.9% 69.1% 9.5%

Boesch is swinging at fewer pitches, both outside and inside the strike zone. As a result, he sees 3.70 pitches per plate appearance now, up from 3.46 last season. That puts him pretty much on par with Miguel Cabrera in the stat, though he still ranks in the lower half of the Tigers' lineup. Although Boesch's walk rate is down slightly -- 7% this season compared to 7.8% last -- his strikeout rate is down to 17.2% from 19.3%. When he puts the ball in play, he's hitting more line drives (up 3%) and fewer ground balls (down 4%), which results in more hits. He also has a higher home run per fly ball rate this year.

From Boesch's stand point if he does get his pitch early he's doing to swing at it. He's not just taking pitches for the sake of taking pitches. He told MLive's Chris Iott for a story this weekend:

"As a hitter, you can be pleased with how you battled, but it’s one of those things. You’d rather get a hit on the first pitch than see 17 pitches in one at-bat and get out."

So what we might be seeing is Boesch understanding his swing and the strike zone better. So he is laying off pitches he knows he can't do anything with, and jumping on pitches he knows are in his hitting zone.

In any case, these stats indicate to me that Boesch is less likely to hit a hard slump like in 2010 as long as he stays true to his approach at the plate. He appears to have taken 2010's lessons to heart and became a better ballplayer for that.