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Niko Goodrum’s pitch recognition is improving

If he can keep it up, he may stick around for awhile.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Tigers’ surprising breakout player of 2018 is Niko Goodrum, who has taken over second base from Dixon Machado. While his defense is less than stellar, Goodrum is hitting .230/.305/.431 and is third among the Tigers with 13 home runs. On a team lacking in the power department (Tigers are last in the American League in home runs, 99, and in wRC+, 82), Niko Goodrum’s power production has stood out. He leads all Tiger hitters in ISO, barely ahead of Nicholas Castellanos, .200, and is second on the team with 41 extra base hits. This has led manager Ron Gardenhire to utilize him in the middle of the order on most nights; 52 of his 90 games started, Goodrum has batted third, fourth or fifth.

Niko Goodrum has never met a fastball he did not like; his batting against fastballs is one of the best on the team. According to Statcast, Goodrum has hit seven of his home runs against fastballs (four-seamers, sinkers, and cutters) with a .272 batting average and is second on the team (after Miguel Cabrera) with a .366 wOBA.

wOBA on fastballs 2018

Player wOBA
Player wOBA
Miguel Cabrera 0.453
Niko Goodrum 0.362
Nicholas Castellanos 0.360
Grayson Greiner 0.359
Jose Iglesias 0.346
Jeimer Candelario 0.343
John Hicks 0.341
Jim Adduci 0.332
Victor Martinez 0.290
Mikie Mahtook 0.289
JaCaoby Jones 0.286
James McCann 0.277
Victor Reyes 0.228
Ronny Rodriguez 0.222
Mike Gerber 0.222

Opposing teams have gotten word on Niko Goodrum’s fastball murdering ways, as only 57.9 percentage of pitches he has seen have been fastballs, the lowest amount for regular Tigers hitters. According to Statcast, on offspeed pitches, Goodrum is batting .181 with a .234 wOBA and on breaking pitches, he has a batting average of .195 with a slightly better wOBA of .277.

There are some positive signs recently, though. While Niko Goodrum started the month of August slow, batting .111/.143/.148 in the first 28 plate appearances in August. In his next 10 games, Goodrum is back to his power production ways, hitting .235/.395/.559 with three home runs in 43 plate appearances. Most impressive of those home runs is that all of them have come off of non-fastballs, two off of sliders and one a changeup.

August 10 Goodrum’s home run off a slider

August 11 Goodrum’s home run off a changeup

August 16 Goodrum’s home run off a slider

It is a small sample size, but a step in the right direction of being able to recognize these pitches and still hitting the ball a long way. It would be easy to see Niko Goodrum as a flash-in-the-pan, much the same as Matt Tuiasosopo, Brennan Boesch, and even Mikie Mahtook. But the fact that he seemingly has made an adjustment where these other players weren’t able to is a good sign that he can stay a bit longer as a starting player, and possibly contribute to the next contending Tigers team.