Staturday: Quality of Contact
Last week we looked at plate discipline stats for both pitchers and hitters. Today, we will be looking at another set of stats that can apply to both. Quality of contact stats are broken down to three categories: Soft%, Medium%, and Hard% and it pretty much is what it sounds like. What percentage of the time does a hitter generate hard, medium, and soft contact or what kind of contact does a pitcher give up.
The calculations to determine what makes a batted ball soft, medium, or hard contact is proprietary so I cannot tell you that but FanGraphs tells us that it is a calculation based on a ball's hang time, where it was hit, and what trajectory it took.
The rule of thumb is for a hitter, you want higher numbers of Hard% and Medium% because those types of contact usually result in hits and extra bases. Soft% as a hitter means you are hitting weak ground balls or are popping up pitches and neither one of those usually ends in success.
The opposite is true if you are a pitcher. You want to generate Soft% at a higher rate than Medium% and Hard% because that usually means you are getting easy outs. It also means there are fewer opportunities for you to give up damage like allowing home runs or seeing a runner score from first on a base hit.
Let's look at the contact for the same nine hitters we looked at last week.
Last week we saw confirmation that Javy loves to swing at pitches. He led the team in swinging at pitches in the zone and out of the zone. Because Javy swings at pitches out of the zone more than anyone on the team, we should expect to see him close to the top in Soft%. Surprisingly Javy had the fourth highest Soft% on the team so he actually was better than I would have guessed. On the other end, Kyle Schwarber led the team in Hard% with a hard contact rate of 42.0% and sure enough he led the team in home runs with 38.
Let's look back at the four returning starters to see how they performed.
Last week we saw the Yu Darvish had the second best O-Swing% (swings at pitches outside the zone) and the best SwStr% (swinging strike rate) on the team. Those two pieces of info will usually tell us that a pitcher is good at generating weak contact either because hitters are swinging at poor pitches, or the hitter can't make contact with the pitches. Sure enough, Yu led the returning pitching starting rotation in Soft% and even limited the Hard% to a starting rotation best of 31.0%.
So piecing together this week's Staturday with last week's, we can get a pretty good idea of the kind of season a player had and if they earned that season. Sometimes a hitter just mashes but for some reason the ball finds a fielder's mitt versus a patch of grass in the outfield. Other times you might think a hitter is pressing and you can see his O-Swing% is higher than his career average. In the case of a pitcher it could be he is getting a lot of ground balls but they are just finding holes in the infield.
The quality of contact stats and plate discipline stats are usually not my go-to stats but they do tell a story. One more thing I like to use them for is to see if a player is healthy. You may remember in 2018 Kris Bryant suffered some shoulder and wrist injuries. If we pull up his contact percentages for his career on and look at 2018, we see that he had his lowest Hard% and highest Soft% of his career. So KB was definitely hurting that year.
Okay so that's quality of contact and plate discipline stats. Again, they are not my go-to but they are definitely useful and can tell what kind of season a player is having/had. Next week we will start to breakdown the different fielding stats.