Bryson Stott’s growth at the plate fueling Phillies playoff push
Rookie shortstop Bryson Stott is at the forefront of the Philadelphia Phillies’ recent success and continues to be the main factor for the ball club’s quest to end the National League’s longest playoff drought.
Taking a look at Bryson Stott’s at-bats from April-May and comparing them to July-Aug, it is almost like you are watching two completely different hitters. After slashing just just .188/.255/.307 in the first half of the season, Stott has exploded offensively, raising his average more than 100 pts to the tune of .296/.340/.398 and his OPS+ from a well below league average mark of 60 to an impressive 109.
In the beginning of the season Stott appeared overmatched at the plate. He was swinging at pitches that gave him no opportunity to pull the ball with power and outside of hitting the ball to the opposite field he often struggled to make solid contact.
After less than 300 at bats at the major league level that all appears to have changed for the 24-year-old shortstop in his first season after being selected in the 1st round (14th) of the 2019 MLB Draft out of UNLV.
Since July 1st, Stott’s pitch recognition has improved and as a result he is swinging at better pitches and when he does making better contact with the baseball.
Bryson Stott April to end of June
Bryson Stott July to Present
Comparing the Swing% charts (above) and it’s clear that Stott is choosing to swing at much better pitches toward the middle of the strike zone while better utilizing the outer 1/3rd of the plate as well.
According to Fangraphs since the All-Star break Stott has the 4th lowest K% (9.6) in the entire league sandwiched between Alex Bregman and Freddie Freeman.
Not bad company for a rookie…
Stott’s difference in contact % between the first and second halves is even more telling. Early in the season a pitcher could get away with leaving a hanging curveball or a first pitch fastball out over the middle of the plate.
That’s no longer the case.
Looking at the second chart below, based on the last two month’s a pitcher would be foolish to challenge Stott in the strike zone.
While Stott has improved his pitch recognition leading to better contact while decreasing his K%, sometimes pure luck is just as important in baseball. Stott’s BABIP or ‘batting average of ball in play’, has exploded from .209 in the first half of the season to .321 during the months of July and August.
Some of this increase can be attributed to Stott simply moving back toward the MLB mean after running into loads of bad luck, but his underlying statistics paint the picture of a rapidly maturing hitter using his advanced tool set to find success at the highest level.
According to FanGraphs, in 2021, the league average BABIP was .292. The players most likely to exceed the league average hit the ball hard, are above-average runners or combine both. Taking a more detailed look at some of Stott’s percentiles gives you immense hope that the improvement we have seen of late is a better indicator of what we can expect in future seasons.
Even with the slow start to begin the season, Stott now sits in the top 25 percentile in a few telling statistical categories including K% (75th), Chase Rate (74), Speed (89), and Whiff% (89). Even at a young age Stott is advanced at putting the ball in play and utilizing his underrated speed when he hits the base paths.
Last weekend, Stott’s newfound confidence was on full display when he became the first ever player to reach base four times in the same game against Mets ace and future Hall of Famer, Max Scherzer. He has also been batting leadoff with Kyle Schwarber missing time recently due to a lingering calf strain.
Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long believes that Stott’s blend of plate discipline and contact skills makes him a great candidate to take over the lead off spot in the lineup; a position the Phils have notoriously had trouble filling over the last few seasons and something that has really hurt them in an attempt to get guys on base ahead of NL MVP Bryce Harper.
Even if what we are seeing from Bryson Stott turns out to be closer to his statistical ceiling than his career average, the Phillies and their fans should be excited about his potential and maybe finally locking down the shortstop position after what seems like a decade of searching for Jimmy Rollins’ replacement.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Philadelphia Phillies