Saturday, April 16, 2011

Progress report: Michael Brantley

If you missed it, I did a detailed analysis of Brantley's game in April. I argued that if Brantley could walk as much as he strikes out (something he did in the minors) he would be a very good leadoff hitter.

The season is of course is still very early, but Brantley is hitting .333/.400/.417. Those are excellent numbers for a leadoff hitter.

How is Brantley generating those numbers?

The batting average should not surprise anyone. Brantley has a career .303 batting average in the minor leagues. In the majors, he hit .313 in 28 games in '09 and .292 after July 31 last year. Further, Brantley continues to make contact on 92% of his swings. This is an excellent percentage. The league average is 80%. Brantley does a great job of putting the ball in play. Considering all of these factors, we should expect Brantley to hit around .300 going forward into the season.

Another encouraging sign is that the on base percentage is up as well. He seems to be doing this by walking as much as he strikes out. Brantley has 6 walks and 6 strike outs. The one aspect of his minor league career that he has yet to mirror in the majors was a 1:1 walk to strike out rate. If that part of his minor league game is now translating to his major league game, then we should expect roughly this OBP to continue as well.

To my amateur eyes, Brantley looks comfortable hitting with two strikes. If he is comfortable hitting with two strikes with his contact rate, he should be able to consistently work into deep counts. Presently, he is still only seeing 3.76 pitches per plate appearance. That is pretty much the league average. Ideally, you would like your leadoff hitter to see more pitches.

Brantley's power numbers have stayed on par with his career numbers. Brantley has .a 082 ISO mark at both the majors and minors. Thus far, he has a .083. Those isolated power numbers tell us that Brantley is primarily a singles hitter.

What we are seeing so far this season is the real Michael Brantley. He is going to hit a ton of singles. He is going to walk some. He won't hit for power. This is very encouraging. That makes him a good leadoff hitter.

Oh, and did I mention that Brantley is only 23 years old? (He turns 24 next month.) So, there is potential for improvement. If you aren't excited about Brantley's game, you should be.

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