Just as everyone predicted, after 10 games, Myles Straw leads the Guardians with a 168 wRC+.
While Straw doubling career average wRC+ over the course of a full season seems about as realistic as winning the MVP (which he would have a very good shot of doing with that kind of offensive performance), it’s good to see him continue the positive signs at the plate he showed to conclude the 2022 season.
After a torrid April 2022 in which he put up a 125 wRC+, Straw dipped to a 35 wRC+ in May-August. Thankfully, he accompanied this dreadful slump with amazing defense in center field, for which he won a gold glove. It wasn’t until the calendar hit September that Straw righted the ship as a hitter, putting up a 112 wRC+ from Sept. 1 through the end of the season.
There is one particular metric that stands out as we look at these small stretches of a season — his pull rate. Here it is over the course of last season, along with his wRC+.
- April 2022: 34.9% pull rate
- May-August 2022: 20.7% pull rate
- September-October 2022: 37.9% pull rate
- 2023 season so far: 28% pull rate (35% through his first week)
In 2021, his best season as a full-time player, Straw put up a 97 wRC+ while being in the 15th percentile for average exit velocity and the third percentile for both hard-hit balls and barrels. He was elite at not striking out, not chasing bad pitches, taking walks, and in sprint speed, but he offered very little to the team in terms of power. That trend still holds two years later.
So, how do you make the most of the contact you make when you don’t hit the ball particularly hard? You take any pitch thrown on the inside half of the plate and smack it as hard as you can into the pull-side of the field.
Anytime Myles Straw sees a pitch on the plate and towards his body or hands, he should be swinging as hard as he can trying to hit it as hard as he can. Not worrying about going oppo, or about poking one through — just trying to turn on them like his good friend José Ramírez does. That’s exactly what it looks like Straw has decided to do since last fall through today.
For his career, Straw has a 144 wRC+ any time he pulls the ball. When he hits it to center or the opposite field, his wRC+ is 72. For comparison, another Guardians outfielder who doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard, Steven Kwan, has a 164 wRC+ when he pulls the ball, but still manages a 100 wRC+ when he goes to center or opposite field. Straw doesn’t have the same ability to get line drives to center and the opposite field that Kwan does, so he needs to focus all his energy on finding pitches to pull.
The encouraging thing about this approach is that if Straw can maintain a pull rate of around 30%, it would be around his 28.8% pull rate from 2021, giving him a decent shot at maintaining a wRC+ over 100. Combined with his defense, I estimate we’d be looking at a 4-5 win player if that’s the case.
As you head to Guardians games, cheer for Myles Straw’s highlight reel catches, for sure. But, don’t forget to save some hollering for any time you see him get the bat-head out on a pitch middle-in and sock it into left field. Pulling is the path to hitting success for the Guardians center fielder.