Didi Gregorius has had a fun season so far. Not fun like a day at the beach is fun, more like how a rollercoaster is “fun.” (I hate rollercoasters.)
There’s a case to be made that this adventure actually started last year. He capped off a career year with a slew of clutch home runs in the postseason. The only knock on his game was that he didn’t walk very much, resulting in a surprisingly low OBP (.318).
Gregorius’ 2018 can basically be broken into 3 parts. The first part runs from opening day through April 27th when he hit a clutch go-ahead home run in the 10th inning against the Angels. Over that 25 game span he hit .368/.459/.828, a line so ridiculous that everyone knew it wasn’t going to last. Then his next 25 games happened, between April 28th and May 30th Gregorius hit a miserable .135/.174/.192 (wRC+ or -9). A line so ridiculous that everyone knew it wasn’t going to last. Finally we have the games since then, which have been somewhere in the middle. That is how I would describe his entire 2018 campaign thus far, somewhere in the middle.
His numbers are actually kind of boring when you look at them as they stand today. There have been slight improvements across the board from last year (higher fly ball%, pull%, & SLG%), which is to be expected from someone entering their age-28 season. His defense and baserunning have been superb as always.
One thing did stand out to me though: his 9.8% BB rate is the highest of his career. When you peel back the layers, this is no fluke or aberration either. Gregorius is being more selective both inside and outside the strike zone. He has lowered his O-Swing% and Z-Swing% about 6% each, and yet his contact% has gone up 1%.
As a result of this selectiveness Gregorius has raised his average exit velocity. It is up to 86 mph, which is still not in the upper half of major leaguers, but a two MPH improvement all the same. This is what helped Gregorius to a career high HR/PA of .045, which is not so much of an improvement but more of a continuation of the strides he made last season.
It’s tough to look at Didi Gregorius’ season so far and proclaim it a good thing considering what he did last year. I can already see the comments in my crystal ball, “but he’s hitting .237! How is that good?” You’re not wrong commenter, he is hitting .237. However, his OBP is .314, almost identical to last year’s .318. The same can be said for his 103 wRC+ (it was 107 last year).
This new selective Didi Gregorius is good for the Yankees. It’s hard to fathom that right now because he has run into some bad luck so far, but his .231 BABIP is not going to last. As long as he continues to hit the ball harder as a result of being more selective both inside and outside the zone, Gregorius will come out on the other side of this slump better than he’s ever been.