Jason Kipnis is on fire, batting .338 with .971 OPS since April 21. And as impressive and unexpected as the numbers are, a closer look at his approach at the plate indicates he may be capable of sustaining this pace over the long haul.
One of the most difficult aspects of hitting for young players to grasp is patience. The game’s elite hitters take what’s given to them, while youngsters like Kipnis are often overaggressive. But that hasn’t been the case for Kipnis so far this season.
The heat map below shows Kipnis’ batting average on outside pitches since April 21. He’s batting .444 on outside pitches during that span and, as you can see from the accompanying hit chart, he’s consistently going the opposite way with the ball.
The fact that he’s taking these pitches to the opposite field is encouraging, as is the fact that’s not swinging for the fence. While Kipnis has power, he hasn’t been trying to force it. Of his 12 hits off outside pitches, only two have gone for extra bases (both doubles).
Kipnis has also demonstrated a keen eye, only chasing 12.5% of the pitches he’s seen off the plate on the outside (league average 24.1%).
Obviously we’re dealing with a small sample size here, but these are encouraging numbers to see from a young hitter. By remaining patient at the plate, Kipnis has cut down on the number of holes in his swing which allows him to take advantage when pitches make mistakers, rather than the other way around (which he did on a grooved cutter from Josh Beckett last night).