Obligatory & Early Edwin Encarnacion Is Struggling Piece

So it has been quite a slow start for the Blue Jays best overall hitter Edwin Encarnacion.  He has looked a little off to start the year and I wanted to see if there was anything that stood out in his stat set that might explain why?  April can be a difficult month to write about baseball given the small sample sizes that abound in the early going.

Thus far our beloved EE has amassed 83 plate appearances over the first 19 games so there is at least a reasonable level of data to analyze.  The first stat that obviously sticks out is the big donut in the homerun column.  Encarnacion has been one of the best power hitters in baseball over the last two seasons hitting 42 and 36 dingers respectively.

So far this season Encarnacion is slashing a pretty dismal 230/313/324 and considering he is returning from the occasional power sapping wrist surgery Blue Jays fans have the right to be a tad concerned.  Let’s compare some stats from the early going to his last two complete seasons to see some of the trends.

First some basic and counting stats:

EE AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ wOBA ISO
2012 .280 .384 .557 13.0% 14.6% 151 .396 .277
2013 .272 .370 .534 13.2% 10.0% 145 .388 .262
2014 .230 .313 .324 10.8% 22.9% 81 .291 .095

It doesn’t take a strong grasp of advanced statistics to see that Encarnacion is off to a rotten start.  His 2014 line looks more like Munenori Kawasaki than that of one of the most dangerous sluggers in the game.  Perhaps most concerning is that Encarnacion is striking out well above his career rate of 15.9% and over twice as much as his 2013 10.0% mark.

Let’s take a closer look at some batted ball data:

EE LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB BABIP
2012 17.6% 33.0% 49.5% 12.0% 18.7% .266
2013 21.6% 35.1% 43.3% 9.3% 17.6% .247
2014 18.2% 38.2% 43.6% 4.2% 0.0% .309

Overall there is nothing that stands out besides the unsustainably low homerun to fly-ball percentage.  I really expected to see his infield fly-ball percentage to be high-ish but clearly Edwin’s two biggest problems thus far are the fly-balls he is hitting currently aren’t leaving the yard and overall contact issues.

Let’s visit the latter claim to see if it holds true:

EE O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% Z-Contact% Contact% F-Strike% SwStrk%
2012 21.8% 59.8% 41.0% 87.0% 82.1% 55.4% 7.2%
2013 24.4% 60.5% 41.3% 89.4% 84.3% 59.9% 6.3%
2014 27.8% 60.0% 42.7% 87.8% 79.0% 67.5% 9.0%

So far this season Encarnacion is fishing a little more outside of the strike-zone according to Fangraphs pitch f/x data.  He is also making a career low overall contact rate and a near career worst swinging strike percentage.  Simply put he is swinging through a lot more pitches that in the past he has been able to ‘barrel’.

Based on the ‘eye test’ of watching his at-bats it isn’t hard to tell that he is definitely out of sync.  He appears less balanced, more easily frustrated and a touch late on pitches he can hit.  Hitters will always go through prolonged slumps and given the track record of success for Edwin Encarnacion one need not ring the alarm bells quite yet.

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