Mike Zunino’s offensive performance has left a lot to be desired this season. Whether you’re looking at his batting average (.198) or his wRC+ (82) he’s been far from a league average hitter at the plate.
A large reason the 27-year old has struggled this season is his ridiculously low BABIP of .246. Zunino’s BABIP is low despite a career low soft contact rate of 13.8% and an absurdly high hard contact rate of 43.1% — both of those numbers are primed for regression anyway. So why’s Zunino having such a hard time finding holes in the defense?
It mostly comes down to where he’s been hitting the ball.
Now compare that spray chart to last seasons “breakout”.
Zunino has been using significantly less of the field this year than he has in the past. Which means that he’s been unable to beat the shift, and his hard hit balls are going practically right to the defenders. Which is why his BABIP has been so low.
For the veteran catcher to be successful at the plate, he’s going to need to use more of the field to help break up the shift. But it’s going to be hard for him to control where his contact goes when he’s swinging at 37.1% it pitches outside of the strike zone and pitchers know they can get him to swing at garbage outside of the zone. So that’s all they’re going to throw.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Zunino can recover some form of plate discipline — his career walk rate is 6.6%, he’s only walking in 4.3% of plate appearances in 2018. If he doesn’t, you can expect pitchers to continue to take advantage of his aggressiveness at the plate and keep the ball away from his power area.