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What the hell got into Scooter Gennett?

He is clearly much better at hitting baseballs this year than ever before. What gives?

MLB: Miami Marlins at Cincinnati Reds Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a rough year. I expected as much, I mean, this is the thick of a rebuild. But expecting it and enduring it are different things. I drink a lot.

One of the refreshing surprises is the power display being put on by Scooter Gennett. He has walloped 18 wangoes in just 275 PAs, pumping a slash of .305/.353/.582. Dat SLG is 15th in MLB among hitters with more than 250 PAs. That’s elite-level power.

The Reds got him for free on the waiver wire just before the season started. The Brewers got Travis Shaw to play third base, moving Johnathan Villar over to second. They didn’t wanna pay Scooter $2.5 mil to be a bench player, so they just cut him. The Reds were wise to snatch up the Cincy native. You can’t blame the Brewers for moving on, though. It’s not like he had been anything special while in Milwaukee.

In four years with the Brewers, he posted a respectable-but-not-exceptional line of .279/.318/.420 in 1637 PAs. So how has he managed to so suddenly start smashing the ball so hard?

Looking at the deep numbers gives us a few interesting points. The first thing to look at when you see a player unexpectedly spike like this is his BABIP. While in Milwaukee, he sustained a pretty impressive average on balls in play. His BABIPs over those four years were .380, .321, .309, and .315. He has always done well on balls in play, so his BABIP of .341 this season isn’t exactly extraordinary. It certainly doesn’t handle all the accounting for an ISO boost of 125 percentage points.

Looking at his batted ball info raises a few other interesting points. His HR/FB ratio explains a bit here. A full quarter of his fly balls are landing beyond the field of play, which is elite Giancarlo Stanton territory. He probably won’t be able to sustain that.

Of course, looking at his home run tracker results, he isn’t exactly getting lucky on these homers. Only five of his 18 dingers are labeled as “just enough.”

He’s also not just taking advantage of the generous dimensions of Great American Ballpark either, as half of his home runs have been slugged on the road. He is actually slugging better on the road (.588) than at home (.576).

Some of his other batted ball numbers are interesting, too. He is pulling the ball more this year and hitting it harder, too.

Scooter’s batted ball percentages

34.9 34.9 30.2 17.8 53.2 28.9
45.4 30.9 23.7 13.9 47.9 38.1

(SBN’s new CMS is crap for inserting tables, so I dunno why this screwed up. Anyway, the top is his 2016 #s, the bottom is this season. All info from FanGraphs.)

As you can see, he is pulling the ball more (10.5 more percentage points), and also hitting the ball harder (9.2 more percentage points). This suggests to me that he has altered his approach at the plate. He has been able to really sell out on pulling the ball to RF without sacrificing in the K dept.

Is this sustainable? I think kinda, yeah, to an extent. His BABIP will probably come down a bit to his career levels, but that won’t affect his home run rates. His HR/FB will probably come down a bit, but it will probably settle in better than his career mark of 11%. He is hitting the ball harder now, so it stands to reason that his BABIP and HR/FB will remain in the good.

Whatever the reasons might be, he is the Reds’ starting second baseman now. And it looks to me like he will be a good one for the foreseeable future.