The 2017 San Diego Padres aren’t good. But we all knew that.
With that being said, there is no shortage of interesting storylines to watch with the 2017 version of the Padres.
From the rookie seasons of Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe to the re-emergence of Austin Hedges to the trio of Rule 5’ers, Padre fans have plenty of fun players to watch this season, even with a losing ball club.
However, regardless of what the Padres youngsters do this season, Wil Myers is still everybody’s favorite Padre.
Coming off his first fully healthy season, Myers showed why many now consider him to be the face of the franchise. Myers not only put up career highs in home runs and isolated slugging percentage, but he was also the most consistently effective Padres hitter. Going into 2017, Myers not only was looking to build off a strong 2016, but he also had a fresh new long-term deal in hand, ensuring his place as the face of the Padres for years to come.
This season, Padre fans expected Myers to improve on what was a successful 2016 season. Despite putting up a 3.8 fWAR in 157 games, fans were looking for Myers to take an even greater leap forward in 2017. So far, Myers has not disappointed. Although he has cooled off slightly over the last week or so, Myers is still on pace for a wildly successful season.
So far this season, Myers has exceeded expectations. He has hit his share of home runs, he has put the ball in play, and he has done a good job in the field. However, there is one thing in Myers approach that has changed rather significantly so far this season. Over the first four years of his career, which included three injury-shortened seasons, Myers maintained a walk rate in the low nine percent range with a strikeout rate that never went above 25 percent. Let’s look at Myers 2017 numbers again compared to the previous years of his career.
So Myers is striking out a little bit more and not walking at all so far this year. Fair enough. But let’s look a little bit deeper using plate discipline numbers.
Now here’s where the story really comes into clearer focus. Myers swing rate is up across the board early on in the 2017 season. Not only is Myers swinging at more balls outside of the strike zone, which can help explain the changes in his walk and strikeout rates, he is also swinging at more balls in the zone. Ironically enough, despite this increase, Myers is making less contact than he was in 2016, although he is seeing slightly more pitches in the zone. Finally, Myers has seen a nearly doubled swinging strike rate, which may be all that is needed to explain the significant difference in his walk and strikeout rates.
It seems that this season Myers has made a rather concerted effort to be more aggressive at the plate, for better or for worse. The strikeout rate has increased while the walk rate has fallen, but Myers is driving the ball more frequently and making great contact when he does get the bat on the ball. In fact, Myers has not only dropped his soft hit percentage from last season, but he is hitting the ball hard exactly 50 percent of the time, good for seventh in all of baseball, tied with Aaron Judge. In swinging more frequently, Myers is selling out for power, and it seems to be paying off to this point with his .283 ISO and 140 wRC+.
It remains to be seen whether Wil Myers’ change in approach will continue to work out for him, but the results have been positive to this point. The walk rate is somewhat alarming, but if Myers can continue to make consistent hard contact and create runs in the process, the low walk rate won’t be a big deal. Very quietly, Myers may be getting even better at the plate. That bodes well for the Padres.