While he’s never been a power threat, he’s no longer getting singles at the rate he has during his last two full seasons. Jose Iglesias with no power and a below average BABIP is essentially a replacement level player.
Now of course, it’s still only June and players are entitled to slumps. It’s not like Iglesias was expected to be a major offensive force. He’s a guy you’d be happy to see in the 90 wRC+ neighborhood and anything more is gravy. So while Justin Upton’s wRC+ in the 60s is very bad, Iglesias’ time down there is just kinda bad. All hope is not lost.
But I have noticed something about the way Iglesias is being pitched and felt it worthy of exploration. As you may know, Iglesias is one of the league’s best contact hitters. That is, he’s one of the hardest batters to face if you want a swinging strike. He may not bomb the ball around the park, but he makes contact. This year, pitchers are coming inside against him much more, potentially to generate weaker contact (which I’ll get to in a moment).
Those categories are based on two imaginary vertical lines that split the plate in third. Inside and outside extend for forever and middle covers the ~6 inches in the middle of the plate. Pitchers are definitely pitching inside more this year.
Here are those categories carved up into balls, called strikes, swinging strikes, foul balls, and balls in play. For 2015, 2016, and then a comparison.
As you may notice, inside pitches are resulting in more balls, similar strike numbers, and slightly fewer balls in play. Middle has lots fewer balls, lots more strikes, and fewer balls in play. Outside has more balls, fewer strikes, and about the same number of balls in play.
There isn’t an obvious implication for those values. Any of them could be good or bad depending on the value of the balls in play. So let’s look at that. Please note I called this wOBABIP to jive with the MLBAM “in play” tag, but it’s the same as wOBACON (as his homers are included).
This is interesting. Iglesias is seeing more pitches inside and is performing better against them when he puts them in play. Mix that with a relative push on balls and strikes and he’s doing better against inside pitches overall despite seeing more of them. However, he’s doing much worse on pitches down the middle and outside this year.
It could easily be the case that Iglesias’ desire to make contact against everything is actually harming his overall production because he’s had to focus inside more this year to the detriment of his production elsewhere. Down the middle, he’s taking more strikes and producing less and outside he’s producing less.
There are other explanations like health, sequencing, etc that might explain something like this, but this fits the facts on the ground. Iglesias is still making contact when he swings, he’s just not producing as much overall. It seems likely that this is partly due to pitchers challenging him inside and Iglesias having a tough time catching up to those pitches without sacrificing some oomph on the outer two thirds.
While I greatly admire his contact ability, it might be time for him to accept some swings and misses inside if it means doing a little more damage overall. Pitchers are attacking him differently and are winning, he needs to explore an adjustment.