Prior to the start of the season, there was concern about Ryon Healy’s plate discipline and pitch selection; he has struggled with making contact on pitches that were low and away from him. This made Healy in 2018 a two outcome hitter, he either crushed a dinger…or was an easy out.
So far in 2019, we’ve seen a major shift in how Healy is approaching his plate appearances. The 27-year old has dramatically reduced the number of pitches outside of the strike zone he’s swinging at — his O-swing% has dropped by nearly 11% from ’18 to ’19. Healy’s improved approach at the plate has led to him walking in 9.3% of his plate appearances, a career high, and striking out in 16.3% of them, also a career low.
This improved approach at the plate is arguably the most sustainable development in Healy’s new found plate approach. What will be interesting to see is if Healy can continue to improve his contact rate on pitches low in the zone.
Low and away is still an issue for the right handed hitter, but it’s not as bad as it was last season. If he can continue to make contact on more low middle, low and in pitches then the third basemen can become a more dangerous offensive threat for the Mariners.
Another reason that Healy has had more success this season is that he’s hitting sliders and cutters better; so far this season he’s got a wRC+ of 79 and 73 against those pitches, respectively. In 2018, the 27-year old earned a wRC+ of -100 against both the cutter and the slider. To be a more complete hitter, that’s exactly what he needs to do against those two pitches, really against most off speed stuff. He doesn’t have to crush the slider and the cutter, Healy just has to not be a black hole against those pitches.
To summarize, in his first 43 plate appearances in 2019 the Mariners’ temporary third baseman is swinging at less pitches out of the zone and better identifying the two pitches he struggled most with last season. This has led to more competitive plate appearances and more production for the 27-year old. Let’s take a look at the two-run double he hit on Saturday afternoon that came after he battled back from 1-2 count to club a pitch that was just a bit out of the zone.
There’s a lot to like about Healy’s new approach at the plate, and fans should be encourage. If he can keep improving his pitch selection, then he’s going to be a very dangerous offensive threat for Seattle this season.