Julio Rodríguez has been absolutely snake bitten by umpires throughout his first four weeks in the major leagues. He’s been getting the “rookie squeeze” to the absolute extreme and it’s led to a strike out rate of 32.6%; and that would be a concerning number if the strike% heat map didn’t look like this.
And before you try to argue that he’s a rookie swinging at pitches out of the zone, here’s his swing% heat map.
Not only is there less red outside of the zone, but the percentages are lower too. In fact, the 21 year old has only swung at 34.8% of pitches outside of the strike zone this season — and that is insanely low. Umps are squeezing him and yet he’s still batted .240/.303/.322 with a wOBA of .282. Rodríguez has hit that in a year where the league (as a whole) has hit .235/.308/.376 with a wOBA of .306.
The reason I’m convinced his low slugging percentage — even by this year’s standards, it’s low — isn’t something to worry about is the fact that his average exit velocity is 90.6 MPH. While his launch angle is concerningly low at 7.4 degrees, he has still underperformed his xSLG of .352 so far.
Again, it’s clear that the depressed offensive environment is definitely part of the problems for Rodríguez on top of the fact that he has to adjust to major league pitching.
What’s been interesting to really dig into is the fact that the majority of his contact has been medium (52.6%) to hard (29.5%) but his spray chart looks like this.
When Rodríguez has hit the ball the other way, which isn’t often, he hits it with authority. But when he pulls the ball it tends to not have the same level of power behind it. And I find that to be absolutely fascinating. His recent success in the last two weeks has been highly encouraging. But overall, Rodríguez’s offensive production has been stifled by the poor offensive environment and horrific umpiring behind the dish.
As for his defense, he uses his speed to cover up some poor route running decisions and at times makes high risk-low reward decisions on dives that haven’t panned out over the last couple of weeks. He’s been thrust into one of the toughest defensive roles on the baseball field so there was always going to be defensive hick-ups; but I wish he’d play it a bit more conservatively on bloopers and low line drives. Not only to save runs, but to also save his legs.
While this graph pretty much confirms that he misses a lot of pitches when he swings, and the worryingly low xwOBA, it also shows that he’s hitting the shit out of the ball when he makes contact and he’s got a ton of speed that can cause problems on the base paths.
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