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Michael Brantley doesn't swing and miss

Michael Brantley's success isn't an argument for being aggressive at the plate, because Michael Brantley isn't aggressive at the plate.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Brantley is one of the best hitters in baseball, with a batting line of .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, and wRC+ of 145, which ranks 11th among all qualified MLB hitters. Looking at those two years compared to his career totals prior to then, his walk rate is up a bit, his strikeout rate is down a bit, and the biggest difference is the boost in his power numbers. He's still a fairly modest home run threat, but has hit 45 doubles in each of the last two seasons, putting among among the league leaders.

Because even his improved walk rate is still somewhat modest, Brantley has developed a reputation for being an aggressive hitter at the plate, and his approach has been cited as something others on the team (most often Carlos Santana) should aspire to, rather than being "too patient," something some hitters (most often Carlos Santana) are accused of.

The thing is, Michael Brantley is not an aggressive hitter. He is, not quite to the degree Santana is, but still far more so than the average MLB hitter, a selective hitter.

Brantley ranks 103rd out of 117 qualified players over the last two seasons in terms of the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone that he swung at. He ranks 79th in terms of the percentage of pitches inside the strike zone that he swung at. He ranks 93rd in terms of the percentage of overall pitches he swung at.

That isn't to say Brantley and Santana are the same sort of hitters, but it is to say the differences between them do not come down to how aggressive, passive, selective, or whatever term you want to apply to them, because in terms of that part of approach, Brantley is the most similar player on the team to Santana.

The difference, between not just Brantley and Santana, but between Brantley and pretty much everyone, is that when Brantley swings, he rarely misses. Brantley's contact rate over the last two seasons is 91.9%, meaning that he connects with 91.9% of the pitches he swings at. That's the highest rate in MLB (Santana is at 82.0%, the AL average is 79.7%).

Another way to measure this sort of thing is to look at swing-and-miss rate, which also factors in the number of pitches a batter sees but does not swing at. Brantley's swing-and-miss rate for the last two seasons is 3.4%, best in MLB, and barely a third of the AL average of 9.4%.

Ben Revere is #2 on both of those lists, and he's a better fit for the sort of player who makes swings and misses as infrequently as Brantley, in that Revere has very little power. He has the sort of bat control that allows him to make contact, but doesn't lend itself to hitting for extra bases.

Nobody makes contact as often as Brantley, and among the guy who are anywhere close to him, most of them don't have enough power to collect 60+ extra-base hits a season. Brantley is a tremendous hitter, but like the incomparable Liam Neesons, he has a very particular set of skills.