India's most consistent, helpful tool? His eye

June 9th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CINCINNATI -- Pitch recognition and plate discipline are important to . Despite spending much of the first two months of the 2024 season trying to escape a hitting slump, there was one thing that the Reds' starting second baseman did not do.

India did not expand his strike zone. He rarely chases bad pitches. In fact, the 27-year-old's 15.2 percent chase rate is ranked by Statcast as the best in the Major Leagues. It was 19.6 percent in 2023, which had him in the 93rd percentile among hitters.

“I’ve always had a good eye, I think," India said. "I’ve always been able to have a good zone and I stick to my zone. I’ve been like that since college, honestly. It has stuck with me. I think sometimes it helps when you get your pitch, you stay committed to your pitch. Sometimes it hurts being too patient, so you have to find the happy balance between it. That’s what I try to do every year -- find the balance between seeing pitches and being ready to hit.”

That knowledge of pitches and strike zone is transferable to India's teammates.

"I tell them, 'First year is always going to be tough,'" India said. "You’re seeing new curveballs you’ve never seen, seeing new pitches. But the more you see them, the better you get just being able to adjust. It takes time. People adjust to you, and you adjust to them. See ball, hit ball is my mentality.”

India's ability to avoid swinging freely paid off during the Reds' 8-4 win over the Cubs on Thursday, when he worked a two-out walk with the bases loaded to force home a run. Two more runs scored when Will Benson added a two-run single.

In the previous game, a 12-7 win at Colorado, India helped secure a come-from-behind win with a ninth-inning grand slam.

“He comes up there with the bases loaded. He hit the grand slam yesterday. He gets ahead in the count and still doesn’t get overaggressive," Reds manager David Bell said. "That’s tough to do. That’s a big part of why he’s been successful. When Jonathan has been at his best in his career, that’s what he’s done.”

India, who signed a two-year, $8.8 million contract in the offseason to avoid arbitration, regained his regular spot at second base when Matt McLain underwent left shoulder surgery during Spring Training. But after a decent first week, India's production plummeted.

By April 17, India was hitting a season-low .159 with a .538 OPS, and eventually found himself dropped from the leadoff or higher spots in the lineup to the order's lower third.

Entering Sunday, India is up to a .242 average with a .703 OPS, four home runs and 26 RBIs. Last season, he hit 17 homers, and his career high is 21, which he did in 2021 on his way to winning the National League's Rookie of the Year Award.

“I feel OK. I’m not where I want to be, of course," India said. "I know how good I am and what I can be. But I’m trending in the right direction. I’m confident in myself every day. I haven’t changed anything. It’s all going to turn. I know it is. It’s going to be a big next four months, I know that.”