Do You Smell What The Rod Is Cookin’?By: Brendan Bilko
Rod Roddy Piper, Bod Rarajas, Baja Fresh, In Rod We Trust, Inanimate Carbon Rod, Rod the Bod. You may have stumbled across some of the aforementioned nicknames in this early season to describe none other than Mets catcher Rod Barajas. In his brief tenure with the Mets, his penchant for getting some big time hits has helped him achieve cult like status amongst the fan base.
The California native is known for his “all or nothing” approach at the plate, and his career numbers support that (slash line of .240 / .284 / .415). However this season, despite starting out with a batting average higher than his OBP (a rare early season feat), he has produced better than expected (2.70 / .303 / .568). His wOBA sits at .364 and his ISO is at a startling .297 good for 5th in the National League. So why the uptick in his early season statistics? His swing percentage (54%) is consistent with his career (52.7%), and he’s actually swinging at worse pitches. His O-Swing% is at 42.8% (career 30.5%) and his Z-Swing% is at 66.5% (career 70.9%).
According to Texas Leaguers, in ’08 and ’09 Rod was swinging at about 55.2% of four seam fastballs thrown his way. As you can see above, he’s swinging at significantly less this season.
Based on these Pitch f/x charts, it looks like Rod is just waiting for the fastball he likes. If it’s outside he’s spitting on it and if it’s belt high and up, middle-in he’s swinging. In the process, it looks like he’s failing to recognize the change-up and getting fooled pretty bad on them. Rod’s poor results against the pitch will most likely be exploited by opposing pitchers going forward.
Barajas’s current numbers look due to regress across the rest of the season (he’s never produced better than his .331 wOBA and .212 ISO 2005 season with Texas), so enjoy this power surge while it lasts. It’s certainly been fun to watch him mash despite his inconsistencies with getting on base.