Wild stat that explains Mookie's greatness

He's making contact on 99% of pitches in the strike zone this year

August 17th, 2020

If swings at a pitch in the strike zone this year, he's not going to miss. Really. He’s swung at 101 pitches in the zone thus far this season and missed on just one of those swings, a 99.0% contact rate in the zone that leads all players who've swung on at least 100 in-zone pitches.

Not swinging and missing much in the zone is certainly a hallmark of Betts’ game, but it has never been quite this pronounced. His highest in-zone contact rate in a season is 94.8%, in 2016. It’s been at least 89% in each season of his career -- including 92% last season.

Betts is also slugging .663 this season, which would be the highest of his career. He led the Majors with a .640 slugging percentage when he won American League MVP honors in 2018.

His one swing and miss in the zone this season? An 82.7 mph splitter from Kevin Gausman on July 24, in the second game of the season.

This kind of in-zone contact and a high slugging percentage don’t usually go hand-in-hand. There have been 81 qualified hitters who have produced an in-zone contact rate of 95.0% or higher in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008). Only one of them slugged above .600, and only seven slugged above .500.

The highest in-zone contact rate by any qualified hitter in a completed season in that span is 98.7%, by Marco Scutaro in 2012 and Ben Revere in 2014. But Scutaro slugged .405 that season, and Revere was at just .361.

The highest slugging percentage for a hitter with at least a 95.0% in-zone contact rate in that span is .653, by Albert Pujols in 2008, when he had a 96.2% in-zone contact rate. That was the year Pujols won the first of two straight National League MVP Awards, and the second overall of his career.

Of the six other instances of a player having at least a .500 slugging percentage in a season with a 95.0% in-zone contact rate, three were by Robinson Canó -- in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

Highest slug pct in qualified season with 95.0% in-zone contact rate
.653 -- 2008 Albert Pujols, 96.2%
.595 -- 2016 Daniel Murphy, 95.1%
.535 -- 2008 Chase Utley, 95.6%
.534 -- 2010 Robinson Canó, 95.0%
.520 -- 2009 Robinson Canó, 95.9%
.516 -- 2013 Robinson Canó, 95.0%
.506 -- 2014 Michael Brantley, 96.0%
Pitch-tracking era (since 2008)

It’s still early in the season, of course, but Betts is off to a stellar start in Los Angeles, and his in-zone contact rate is on pace to be unlike any we’ve ever seen.