MLB's True Hackers
It's hardly breaking news that swinging at pitches thrown outside of the strike zone is a lousy idea. Hitters have a paltry .185 batting average and a .254 slugging percentage when going after a would-be ball in 2012. But not all swings on outside pitches are created equal. Some of those "chases" are on pitches just a hair off the corner of the strike zone. Others, meanwhile, are so far outside that even Vlad Guerrero wouldn't swing (OK, he totally would, but you get my point).
Trumedia keeps track of what happens when hitters swing at such "non-competitive" pitches, defined as offerings that are thrown at least 18 inches away from the center of the strike zone. And it's not pretty: a .048 batting average and a .058 slugging percentage. Naturally, batters rarely go after these terrible pitches, swinging at them just 8.9% of the time. But some guys just can't help themselves. Here's the list of batters with the highest swing rate against "non-competitive" pitches. These are the game's true hackers:
Highest swing rate vs. "non-competitive pitches," 2012
You'll note that appearing on this list hasn't precluded Trumbo (156 OPS+) Hamilton (137 OPS+), Jones (132 OPS+) and Soriano (118 OPS+) from raking. They've made up for the hacking by hitting for elite power. But young hitters with good-not-great pop like Moustakas (106 OPS+), Montero (99 OPS+), Espinosa (93 OPS+) Castro (92 OPS+), Viciedo (85 OPS+) have seemingly been held back.
Soriano actually has the highest swing rate at non-competitive pitches during the Pitch F/X era (22.6%), and Vlad ranks near the top at 20.4%. Neither Soriano (.040 average, .044 slugging) nor Vlad (.112 average, .145 slugging) should be happy with their performance against those pitches. The take-away? If you're going to take that many bad swings, you better put a lot of souvenirs in the seats.