By all accounts, Stephen Piscotty’s 2016 season, his first full season in the majors, was a success. In 153 games and 649 plate appearances Piscotty slashed 273/343/800 with 22 home runs, 35 doubles, 85 RBI, and an OPS+ of 112. His fWAR of 2.8 put him 7th among eligible right fielders. That fWAR was 7 spots higher on the right fielder rankings than the man he replaced, Jason Heyward. But upon doing the research, I’ve discovered a few areas of concern and needed improvement.
First, the good. Stephen Piscotty was absolutely amazing for the first two months of the season. While hitting mostly in the 2 hole (we’ll get back to this in a second), Piscotty slashed 323/400/897 with 14 doubles, 6 home runs, 31 RBI and a 21/37 walk to K ratio in 48 starts spanning 220 plate appearances. That is a damn fine, or as fangraphs would say “above average”, K rate of 16.8%. That’s definitely a bat that you would want in the middle of a batting order.
As I mentioned, most of Piscotty’s plate appearances in the first two months came while hitting 2nd. 137 of 220, to be exact. In those 137 plate appearances he slashed 349/397/953 with 5 home runs, and 9 doubles. The walk rate of 9.5% was nearly above average, and the K rate was a tidy 16.8%. If that number looks familiar it’s because it’s the exact same number as his overall rate in the first two months. Probably not a coincidence.
Then, June rolled around. While hitting exclusively in the 4 spot in the lineup, Piscotty saw his production take a nose dive. He slashed 209/299/694 with 3 home runs, 7 doubles, a walk rate of 9.3%, and 18 strikeouts in 97 plate appearances. That’s good for a strikeout rate of 18.56%. Piscotty was relatively the same selective-type hitter in June but with that approach ticking in the wrong direction.
Then, From July 1st to the end of the season, and while hitting mostly third and fourth, Piscotty slashed 259/318/767 with 13 home runs, 14 doubles, 45 RBI, a decreased walk rate of 6.3%, and 78 K’s in 332 plate appearances. That made his K rate for the 2nd half jump to a sub-standard 23.5%. And as the months went by Piscotty seemed to get worse:
July: 277/313/813 20% K rate, 5% walk rate
August: 240/325/777 26.5% K rate, 8.5% walk rate
Sept/Oct: 262/316/714 23.5% K rate, 5.2% walk rate
Now, I’m not bringing up where he was hitting in the lineup to lobby for him to stay in the 2 hole. Rather, I’m doing it because sometimes, especially with young players, a hitter might change his approach to fit a spot in a lineup. Maybe sacrificing contact for power in the middle of a lineup. whatever the reason might be, all of the information above suggest that Piscotty sacrificed patience and contact for power. So, I had to know how his last 3 months went when he hit 2nd. This is how it looked:
87PA 77AB 19H 5Doubles 1Triple 4HR 7BB 18K 20.7% K rate, 8% walk rate. A move back towards league average.
Is all of this information a serious cause for concern, or just a young player struggling to adjust to the major league grind in his Sophomore season? Could he have changed his approach while hitting 3rd or 4th to fit what those spots in the order typically do? Is he a guy that has to hit 2nd in the lineup to maximize his hitting tool? To all of this I say “maybe”. I do think the rebound in the 2 hole proves that his struggles are fueled by how he views the production needed from the spot in the lineup that he is hitting out of. Young player problems, amirite??!
With a player like Piscotty so early in his career, only time will tell. It can be said about nearly every player in baseball, But the one thing that is glaringly obvious, regardless of where he is hitting in the lineup, Stephen Piscotty absolutely needs to revert back to the selective hitter he was in the first three months of the season and cut down on the strike outs to have an improvement for the 2017 season.
Thanks for Reading!