Two weeks ago, I looked at the early struggles of Didi Gregorius after his return from the IL, and found that opposing pitchers were throwing less fastballs to him. As a result, he seemed to be chasing more heaters even when they were out of the zone. It appeared that Gregorius, hungry for a fastball that he could drive to left field, swung at any fastball close to the zone and racked up the strikeouts as a result.
I also found that over a recent stretch of games that included the London Series wackiness, it seemed that Gregorius was already making adjustments and getting back to his ever-improving form of productivity. Given how the shortstop has performed in recent weeks, that’s exactly what has happened.
First, let’s revisit some of the stats mentioned in my last post. Through his first 56 plate appearances of the season, Gregorius’ OPS was just .583. His last 38 plate appearances have seen that mark catapult to .937, even after an 0-for-9 stretch over his last two games before the All-Star break. In that eight-game stretch before the break, Gregorius racked up multiple hits in five of them, helping the Yanks go 6-2 in that stretch.
Now, to those fastballs that Gregorius has been seeing less of this season. After posting a chase rate of 48.1 percent against fastballs in June, Gregorius dropped that number to 33.3 percent so far in July. His overall strikeout and walk rates are at about the same mark as when we last checked in with him. The most glaring difference in game plan against Gregorius was the dwindling number of fastballs, and Gregorius seems to already be learning to hold off on the heaters if they’re out of the zone, and to not simply swing at one because he finally sees one.
Gregorius’ chase percentage on fastballs is still the highest it has been since 2012, but it’s already trending back toward the mean, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if he gets back to his 2017 and 2018 self for the second half of this season. His xSLG against fastballs is still low, but climbing fast (from .310 to .360 since my last post), as he continues to erase a slow start that shouldn’t have been a shock in the first place given how much time he missed due to Tommy John surgery.
Of course, there are still some things to be worked out. Seeing less fastballs has of course resulted in more breaking balls, which Gregorius is biting at a bit more than usual. After dropping his chase rate from 38.2 percent to 29.9 percent against breaking balls from 2017 to 2018, that number is back up to 35.2 this season. While his overall numbers have been given a boost of late, that number has continued to climb as well. Who knows, Gregorius could end up seeing even more breaking balls as the season moves along, but given how he has already responded, it shouldn’t be too much of a concern.