Kyle Blanks doesn’t make contact very often.
Last season, only 67.2 percent of Blanks’ mighty hacks made contact with the baseball. The league average was about 80%.
In particular, Blanks couldn’t touch pitches outside of the zone, making contact on only 38.6 percent of swings there. The league as a whole made contact on over 60 percent of their out-of-the-zone swings.
With that sort of issue, Blanks needs solid plate discipline and pitch selection.
Last year, he had it, swinging at a roughly average number of pitches outside and inside the strike zone. It wasn’t ideal, but Blanks managed to walk over 10 percent of the time. That boosted his OBP enough that his 37.2% strikeout rate didn’t kill his value.
This year, however, Blanks is off to a .207/.281/.481 start. The power is obviously still there, but his plate approach has disintegrated.
Blanks has offered at 34% of pitches outside of the zone, an 8.1 percent increase from last year. He’s also swinging at nearly three-quarters of in-the-zone pitches, 10.3 percent up from last year.
Overall, he’s offering at 55 percent of pitches after swinging at 44.9% last year.
Unfortunately, Blanks is making even less contact than before, largely because he’s chasing more pitcher’s pitches. His contact rate is all the way down to 63.9%–he misses on nearly double the percent of swings as an average batter.
This can’t continue if Blanks is going to be a productive hitter. He’s certainly not a defensive asset in left field, and without plate discipline, he becomes a power-only hitter in a park wildly ill-suited for power-only hitters.
Jack Cust showed that this sort of player shouldn’t expand his zone in 2009. After posting two strong years in 2007 and 2008, Cust attempted to reduce his strikeouts by swinging at more pitches. He hit for less power, walked much less, and saw his average improve by a whopping nine points.
I’m hoping that Blanks’ hacktasticness is just a small-sample thing, because if it’s not, he’s in some trouble.