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Cameron Maybin's 2016 season is not a fluke

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The center fielder has been markedly better than previous seasons in his career.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the Detroit Tigers acquired Cameron Maybin in the off-season, it was a very ho-hum type of move. On one hand, the Tigers only gave up reliever Ian Krol and prospect Gabe Speier, neither of whom were projected to produce much for Detroit in 2016. On the other hand, Maybin was considered a patchwork for center field with many fans projecting him as only a platoon option with Anthony Gose.

It did not help matters when Maybin got injured in spring training and missed the first six weeks of the season. When Maybin was finally healthy enough to join the Tigers, it was a shock when Gose was the odd man out. Could Maybin handle center field all by himself?

The answer to that was a quick "yes" as Maybin soared out of the gate. His batting average remained over .400 for his first 22 games of the season and has not slowed down much since then. A quick glance at his stat line shows that Maybin has a .399 BABIP, so surely some regression is coming.

However, it may already have happened and the results still look fabulous. Over his last 112 plate appearances, after his batting average dipped below .400, Maybin is hitting .287/.348/.366 with a much more sustainable .346 BABIP. This production looks much more like his true value and Tiger fans could not be happier with the results.

Here is how he is doing it.

Plate discipline

Cameron Maybin’s plate discipline is a lot better this season than it has been in his career. His contact rate is at 83.8 percent, the highest in career. When the ball is in the strike zone and he decides to swing, he is making contact 94.8 percent of the time -- this is an elite level. While he doesn’t have the playing time to show up on the 2016 MLB leaderboards, there are currently only three players ahead of him in this stat: Martin PradoJose Iglesias and Matt Duffy.

Year Contact % Z-Contact % Swing % O-Swing %
2011 73.5 83.4 46.8 30.7
2012 80.1 88.6 45.6 26.2
2014 77.0 88.4 43.2 26.3
2015 81.4 89.6 43.4 26.6
2016 83.8 94.8 41.7 25.2

Maybin is also swinging at fewer pitches and chasing out of the zone just 25.2 percent of the time. This improvement in Maybin's plate discipline has resulted in a swinging strike rate of only 6.8 percent. His strikeout rate is down to 15.1 percent, the lowest of his career. He has coupled this with a 9.4 percent walk rate (the highest of his career) and, of course, a career-best .342 batting average.

Batted balls

Originally considered a five-tool prospect, Maybin never developed into a power hitter. At this point, he is not trying to be one. His 61.3 percent ground ball rate as never been higher and his fly ball rate is below 20 percent for the first time in his career. Though his batting average is impressive, he is not getting a ton of infield hits, with only six so far this year (much lower than a career high of 30 in 2011). Maybin is simply being smart about where he is slapping the ball.

Year LD% GB% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
2011 15.9 55.4 28.7 39.5 40.8 19.6
2012 16.1 55.5 28.4 36.7 39.5 23.8
2014 17.0 57.2 25.8 37.8 38.8 23.5
2015 22.0 57.9 20.0 38.1 33.4 28.5
2016 19.2 63.0 17.8 35.8 33.1 31.1

Compared to past seasons, Maybin is spreading the ball around the field more than before. He has pulled 38.5 percent of his batted balls, while 31.1 percent have gone the other way. This is the first time in his career he has gone the opposite way at a 30 percent clip. The best way to hit over .300 and remain there is to constantly hit the ball the other way, something that Maybin is excelling at so far this year.

Many fans feel that Maybin is a spark plug to the Tigers' lineup. He breathed new life into the team when he was activated from the disabled list, adding a new dynamic to the offense that was missing before. While it is hard to quantify that sort of thing, the numbers that can certainly back it up. He may not be the superstar that the Tigers drafted in 2006, but Maybin's 2016 success is no fluke.