Teoscar Hernandez’s improved approach bodes well for continued success

Dodgers outfielder Teoscar Hernandez clubbed another home run Wednesday against the Marlins in a 3-1 win for Los Angeles. It was his 10th of the year. He’s on pace for a career-high 42 in that category. Hernandez is also posting his highest on-base percentage (.333) and slugging percentage (.510) since 2021, and his 142 runs-created plus (wRC+) is tied for the best mark of his career.

While the producing at that clip is good news for LA, the better news is that Hernandez’s approach indicates he’s in a zone that may allow him to continue producing like this throughout the season. 

For starters, Hernandez is simply seeing the ball very well. His 8.8 percent walk rate (BB%) is his highest since he posted a 9.7 BB% in the 2019 season. He hasn’t eclipsed 6.8 percent since then.

Watching pitches miss the zone isn’t all there is to this though. He’s being more selective about what pitches he’s swinging at. 

According to FanGraphs Hernandez is swinging at pitches out of the zone just 31.5 percent of the time. That’s well below the 38.5 percent mark he posted last season, and it’s his lowest number since 2019.

At the same time he’s swinging more often at pitches in the zone — 76.4 percent of his swings are at pitches inside the strike zone. That’s the second-best mark of his career, trailing only his 77.0 percent in 2021. As a result his swinging strike rate is down to 14.9 percent (the second-lowest of his career) from a career-worst 17.8 percent last year. He’s also taking strikes just 12.7 percent of the time (the second-lowest of his career). 

The TL;DR version of the above for those readers whose eyes gloss over when numbers come out (guilty!): Hernandez is swinging at pitches inside the zone more often than usual and outside of the zone less often than usual. The numbers also point to him swinging more often at hittable pitches and taking less of them in the strike zone. 

It’s not just plate discipline that’s helping Hernandez get off to such a good start. He’s also altered his approach to use all parts of the field more often. 

There’s nothing particularly notable with how often Hernandez is pulling the ball or going up the middle. What does jump out is that he’s hitting the ball to the opposite field 30.5 percent of the time. That’s the highest rate of his career by nearly five percentage points. 

Already three of his 10 home runs have gone the other way. For reference, when he clubbed a career-high 32 in the 2021 season only five were to the opposite field. 

It’s hard to quantify exactly how much value hitting to the opposite field has, and by itself it isn’t really indicative of anything.

However, when combined with the plate discipline numbers it’s easy to tie the approach to the production that has him on track for a career-year. It lends more credence to the idea that there’s a sustainable model of success here for Hernandez and it’s not just a random hot streak where his luck will run out. 

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