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Monday, May 18, 2015

Cozart's success from being...more aggressive?

Tom Groeschen had a nice article over the weekend pointing out Zack Cozart's excellence this year.  With 1.4 fWAR in the bank, Cozart has already surpassed his 2014 total, and seems on his way to cracking 2.0 fWAR for just the second time in his career.

Asked what he's doing differently this year, Cozart said this:
"I'm just more aggressive," Cozart said. "Not going up there looking to take a lot of pitches and fall behind in the count. Last year I felt like I got 0-1 and 0-2 a lot without even swinging the bat. This year I'm on the attack. I'm actually seeing a lot better pitches to hit, for that reason. 
"I'm getting in better counts and being able to put good swings on them."
Hmph.  I've long thought that Cozart's problem was that he was too aggressive.  And, in fact, Cozart's walk rate is actually up quite a bit this year:

...which is not exactly in keeping with the "more aggressive" remark.  But that's not really his point, right?  He's claiming that he's showing higher swing rates on pitches in the zone, and as a result, pitchers aren't challenging him as much early?

Let's look at plate discipline stats.
I know it's hard to read.  Sorry.  You can see it bigger by clicking the image, or going to FanGraphs.

So...his Zone Swing percentage is actually down.  His overall swing percent is down.  In fact, even his swing percentage outside of the zone is down.  That doesn't fit his story.

The only thing that really does fit is that, this year, he is seeing fewer first-strike pitches.  I don't know if that's a sampling issue (has he faced pitchers with poor control?), or if it's because he's hitting so much better so far this year than he has during his career.

When I read that quote, I hoped this would be one of those fun times when we can go to our data and see the adjustment a player has made.  Unfortunately, there's nothing here that really jives with Cozart's claims.  Maybe it was just something to say to a reporter.  Or, maybe that's what Zack actually thinks he's doing, regardless of how it manifests in his actual results at the plate.

Whatever he's doing, I hope he can keep doing it, because it's been fun to watch him hit with authority this year.

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