Going into the 2019 season, the Reds’ signing of Derek Dietrich seemed pretty irrelevant. With how good their offense looked on paper, many thought that he would never see the field. An injury to Scooter Gennett and an underperforming Scott Schebler allowed Dietrich to get some playing time. Let’s just say he’s taking advantage of it.
Ignore the poor batting average in that video, as that was over a month ago. Dietrich has brought his batting average up to .254 and is averaging a home run every seven at-bats. For whatever reason, his playing time has still been limited, but Dietrich has crushed 17 home runs in 118 at-bats. This is a career-high. His previous career high was 16 home runs in 2018 which took him 499 at-bats. So what has changed to allow for this sudden power surge? Let’s dive into it.
Derek Dietrich is currently rocking a .178 BABIP (batting average of balls in play, so excluding home runs and strikeouts). Out of his 30 hits in 2019, 17 have been home runs. He is striking out 20% of the time. So combine his strikeouts with home runs, and you get 45 of his at-bats. Eliminate these, and Dietrich is 13-73 which is .178. This is exactly why BABIP is an unreliable stat because for those who don’t know about advanced statistics, they just immediately would assume that he is a bad player. In 2018, he had a strikeout rate of 25.4% and a walk rate of 5.3%. As I said earlier, his strikeout rate has dropped to an even 20% and his walk rate has gone up to 9.3%. He is slugging a career high .720, compared to his current career high of .456. His OPS is also much higher than it’s ever been at 1.085, compared to his current career high of .802. His OPS+ (adjusted to player’s ballpark) is sitting at 173, while the MLB average is 100. Clearly, he’s doing something right.
If you take a look at his swing metrics, not much has changed. In fact, he’s swinging the bat less than he was last year and making less contact, but he is barreling the ball much more often than usual. In 2018, Dietrich had 22 barrels over the course of the whole season. Here we are in late May and he already has 17 this year. He is among the league leaders in barrel rate at 18.7%. He has also increased his launch angle from an average of 15.7 degrees to 20.5 degrees. Many people dislike launch angle as a statistic because having a good launch angle could result in pop-ups more than home runs, but you need some sort of launch angle for the ball to leave the yard. He brought his average exit velocity up to 88.5 miles per hour which is higher than the league average.
Dietrich is pulling the ball much more often in 2019 (47.5%) than he did in 2018 (41.5%). Pulling the ball has allowed him to take inside pitches very deep to right field. To go along with his high barrel rate, his hard-hit rate is at 40.7%, four percent higher than last season. His soft-contact% has also shot up from 19.4% to 27.5%, but that hasn’t hurt him at the dish too much. Nevertheless, he is still making too much soft contact which has impacted his line drive rate in a negative way. He hit line drives 23.3% of the time last year, but this season it’s only at 15.6%. Normally, this would impact power numbers in a negative way, but his flyball rate is through the roof (52.2%) which makes up for his lack of line drives. Dietrich hasn’t been as much of a free swinger this season either, dropping his O-Swing% (Swinging percentage at pitches outside of the strike zone) from 34.4% to 28.2%. It isn’t all advanced statistics that matter, at least in Dietrich’s sake. He has made a change in his batting stance that has been crucial to his bat speed.
(I apologize for the rather poor quality of the pictures). This is Derek Dietrich back in Miami. Here is Dietrich in Cincinnati.
As you can see, back in Miami, Dietrich had his front foot placed behind his back foot, but in Cincinnati, he has changed his stance so that his legs are almost even with each other. He is standing a bit more upright now than he was in Miami as well. Having his front foot even with his back foot allows for less of a load when the pitcher comes set. Rather than having to bring his leg forward and then give his big leg kick as he did in the past, now he eliminated having to bring his leg forward, so all he has to do is perform his leg kick. This allows him to get to the ball much quicker which results in the high pull rate that he has.
Dietrich went yard three times on Tuesday against the Pirates, whom he loves facing. Every single home run was a no-doubt shot that he pulled to right field. Check it out.
The Reds need to give this guy more playing time. Not only is he killing it lately, but the man has swagger. He doesn’t care about the pitcher’s feelings when crushing home runs, as you can see in the video below when he gives the Reds’ bench the Michael Jordan shrug after hitting his third home run. He’s just an awesome player to watch and it’s great to see him have so much fun with the game.
We need more players like him to make baseball even more fun than it already is.
Check Out The Other Deep Dives: Lucas Giolito | Rafael Devers | Corey Seager | Eduardo Rodriguez | Amed Rosario | Alex Verdugo | Joey Gallo | Mike Soroka | Christian Yelich| Justin Smoak| Martin Perez|Marwin Gonzalez
Questions and comments?
Follow Givanni Damico on Twitter @giodamico15
Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images