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Plate Discipline Improvers

Who has improved their plate discipline the most since 2015? Which breakouts seem legit? Who might still improve more as the season goes on? These answers and more within!

Brandon Belt has taken his game up another level this year and his plate discipline gets some of the credit. Who else has improved in this area?
Brandon Belt has taken his game up another level this year and his plate discipline gets some of the credit. Who else has improved in this area?
Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, I had a post about the 25 biggest plate discipline decliners, in terms of O-swing % and SwStr%, two key measures of how well a hitter is seeing pitches and whether he is "reaching" more than last year. These can be early indicators of a decline or breakout, since strikeout rate, walk rate, and average can lag behind improvements in these measures. If a hitter is swinging at pitches outside of the zone less and swinging and missing less, it means he is in better control of the strike zone and can wait for his pitch. This usually leads to improvements in strikeout rate, walk rate, and average, among other things.

We're going to look on the positive side today at the 25 hitters that have most improved their out of zone swings and their swing and misses. Swing and misses. Sounds like Mr. Swing got married! Bazinga!

Anyway, poor puns aside, here's three tables. The first one is for O-swing %, the second is for SwStr% and the third, well, that's for the guys that have the good fortune of showing up on both lists. Those guys merit the most attention.

Name O Swing % Change
Billy Burns -14.8%
Adam Jones -13.5%
Jose Altuve -13.0%
Anthony Rizzo -12.6%
Chris Owings -12.2%
Christian Yelich -11.9%
Mike Moustakas -11.8%
Odubel Herrera -11.3%
Ian Desmond -11.2%
Hunter Pence -10.9%
Chase Utley -10.7%
Kevin Pillar -10.3%
Ryan Howard -9.3%
Brett Lawrie -9.2%
Asdrubal Cabrera -9.2%
Joe Mauer -9.1%
Jacoby Ellsbury -9.1%
Brandon Belt -9.1%
Adrian Gonzalez -9.0%
Avisail Garcia -8.8%
Ryan Braun -8.7%
Jean Segura -8.6%
Carlos Correa -8.5%
Victor Martinez -8.3%
David Freese -8.3%

Name SwStr% Change
John Jaso -5.4%
Billy Burns -5.1%
Chris Owings -4.7%
Brandon Belt -4.4%
Odubel Herrera -3.8%
Brett Gardner -3.6%
Nolan Arenado -3.6%
Chris Carter -3.4%
Kris Bryant -3.4%
Adeiny Hechavarria -3.3%
Joe Mauer -3.2%
Matt Holliday -3.2%
Chris Davis -3.1%
Ryan Braun -3.0%
Randal Grichuk -2.9%
DJ LeMahieu -2.8%
Hunter Pence -2.7%
Jean Segura -2.6%
Christian Yelich -2.6%
Eugenio Suarez -2.6%
Danny Espinosa -2.6%
Miguel Sano -2.5%
Lucas Duda -2.4%
Nelson Cruz -2.1%
Jonathan Schoop -2.1%

Lower O Swing% and SwStr%
Billy Burns
Chris Owings
Christian Yelich
Odubel Herrera
Hunter Pence
Joe Mauer
Brandon Belt
Ryan Braun
Jean Segura

Don't be too down, Billy Burns owners! He has 8 steals already! Also, his walk rate looks poised to increase, along with his average. He may not reach the power from last year, but he can still steal a ton of bases for you with a decent batting average.

Chris Owings is now a centerfielder. Chris Owings now has better plate discipline than he did last year. Chris Owings still has no power and not enough speed to make up for it, even at a shallow position. He's a deep league SS option only. The improvement is nice, but it's not enough.

Yelich has added a little power and a stellar OBP to his already good game. His BABIP is its usual insanely high value (0.375), but his walk rate has jumped. This looks like a legitimate breakout season. The improved discipline has taken his game up a level.

Herrera is another guy that seems to be in a legitimate breakout season. His insane walk rate will come down some, but he has made changes to his approach and I would expect a good OBP all year. Throw in an ok average, decent speed, and just a little power and you've got a mixed-league-relevant OF in OBP leagues.

Hunter Pence is basically doing what he always does, except he has added a career high walk rate with these discipline improvements. Hunter Pence + tons of walks = fantasy goodness. He's not going to steal 20 bases again, but he can hit 20 HR in the middle of the Giants lineup with a 0.280 average and a great OBP and an OPS in the 0.800s.

Joe Mauer has simply returned to being Joe Mauer. He still doesn't have any power, but at least he is once again the OBP dominator he was before. Without power, he is basically an empty OBP at first base, so he doesn't have much value, but at least he's much better than last year!

Brandon Belt is another guy in the middle of a real breakout season. He has improved more than just his discipline. His strikeout rate has fallen off a cliff (26.4% to 14% !!!) and his walk rate has decided to nearly double (10.1% to 19.6%). What a change! I don't think he can maintain that walk rate all year, but it doesn't matter. He is controlling the zone well and getting pitches he wants. This is leading to more power and a better average. If you paid draft day prices for him, you will be very pleased with your investment this year (if he stays healthy, sigh). I like him a lot and think he might crack the top 5-7 at first base.

Ryan Braun is back! Well, he's not going to be in MVP/steroids form, but he looks finally healthy again. Like Belt, his walks are way up, strikeouts way down, and his power is at 2012 levels. The batting average is a mirage (0.396 BABIP), but that doesn't even matter because he will still be a top 10 OF without it. Another guy that just needs to stay healthy to give owners that took a chance on him a great return. I'm sure AJ Pollock and Yasiel Puig owners would rather have him right now.

Finally, we have the enigmatic Jean Segura. He leads the NL in hits right now. I simply can't believe this is the same guy that looked completely done in Milwaukee the last two years. His power is back, his average is elite, everything is going great. However, I'm still not a believer. First, like Braun, his BABIP is sky high and will bring his average back to 0.280 or so. Second, even with improved plate discipline, he's still not walking much. Throw in a 55% ground ball rate and a career high 15.2% HR/FB rate and you have a recipe for regression.

Oh, and his 0.536 slugging percentage is a career high by over 100 points! He had six homers all of last year and he has five already! Obviously, he will hit double digits this year, but I don't think 20 is happening, maybe even not 15. So, don't get too excited about Segura just because he's off to a blistering start and because he's on this list.

Well, that's the list! See you next time! Tschus!