When Francisco Lindor took the league by storm and
was robbed of just missed winning the American League Rookie of the Year last season, there was a thought that he may regress in 2016. Surely Lindor's BABIP would drop and surely he would not hit with the kind of power we saw in his 99 games that season. In order for that to happen, pitchers would have to adjust, and Lindor would have to go through what is commonly referred to as a Sophomore Slump. Well, pitchers have adjusted and it has barely made a difference.
I say "barely," because Francisco is hitting with less power so far in 2016. His slugging percentage is a full 0.098 lower than last season, and his ISO is 0.100 lower. He has not stopped hitting, but he is not hitting as many home runs yet. For some more comparisons to last season (with the caveat that 2016 is still an incredibly small sample size at 84 plate appearances), Lindor is walking more (2015: 6.2%, 2016: 10.7%), and he has gotten on base at a better clip as a result (2015: .353 OBP, 2016: .361 OBP).
So, as a whole, Lindor is largely the same hitter that was the absolute best in the league for half a season in 2015 -- just not as many of his hits are going for extra bases.
Let's take a look at what kind of pitches Lindor is seeing in this early going:
|2015||36.9 %||13.3 %||4.8 %||1.6 %||7.7 %||9.8 %||9.2 %||3.2 %||13.0 %|
|2016||39.4 %||10.6 %||5.1 %||5.5 %||6.4 %||9.6 %||9.9 %||1.6 %||11.9 %|
Looking at the raw numbers, pitchers appear to be attacking Lindor a bit more with fastballs, including a 3.9 percent bump in the number of sinkers/split-finger fastballs (FS) and a small drop in the number of off-speed pitches such as slow "knuckle" curveballs (KC) and changeups (CH).
These pitch types only tell us half of the story, however. What about where these pitches are being located? And how well is Lindor making contact?
|2015||31.9 %||69.4 %||50.0 %||68.9 %||90.2 %||83.1 %||48.3 %|
|2016||29.6 %||56.3 %||43.3 %||60.0 %||86.7 %||77.8 %||51.3 %|
The gist of this is that Lindor is seeing more pitches in the zone, and he is also being picky about what he swings at outside of the zone. He has swung at 3.1 percent fewer pitches outside of the zone, and his overall swing percentage has dropped 6.7 percent.
Some of this can be attributed to the type of pitchers that Lindor has faced this season. With only 19 games under his belt, he has only faced a handful of starting pitchers in 2016. Facing two New York Mets pitchers who rely heavily on fastballs (Bartolo Colon and Matt Harvey) slant the percentages to more overall fastballs.
However, the overall approach against Lindor seems to be attack, attack, attack, and -- for the most part -- it is not slowing him down. Yes, Lindor is hitting for less power, but that could easily be attributed to him hitting as his true power potential, and not the insane beast we saw last season. He is a more patient hitter so far this season, chasing fewer pitches out of the zone and (quite unfortunately) watching more pitches in the zone go by for strikes.
If this trend continues, and pitchers continue to attack while Lindor watches pitches in the zone, it will be up to him to make the adjustment and start making better decisions on pitches on the outside edge of the strike zone. Hitting another dozen home runs wouldn't hurt, either.