Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Is David Freese a good two-strike hitter?

During a recent game, Mike Shannon and John Rooney remarked upon how David Freese was such a tough two-strike hitter. Earlier this season, we looked at the example in reverse, disproving the conventional wisdom that Colby Rasmus was a poor two-strike hitter, so let’s now check on the Cardinals’ recently-returned third baseman.

We’ll employ the same methodology that we used with Rasmus. First, Freese’s splits with two strikes compared to his overall numbers:

Freese OBP SLG
overall .369 .421
w/two strikes .301 .299
82% 71%

Like Rasmus — and perhaps all hitters — Freese hits worse when the chips are down: 82% of his typical OBP rate, and 71% of his slugging percentage. But to really determine how good (or bad) Freese is with two strikes, we need to compare him with an average hitter:

MLB 2008-10 OBP SLG
overall .330 .412
w/two strikes .257 .282
78% 68%

So, like Rasmus, Freese is indeed a good two-strike hitter, hitting better relative to his own overall numbers than the league average does. Ironically, though, the player who is conventionally held to be just the opposite — Rasmus — is actually a bit more productive (again, relative to his own overall production) than Freese. And the two players are also nearly a wash on an objective basis — look at their Gross Production Average:

w/two strikes OBP SLG GPA
Freese .301 .299 .210
Rasmus .269 .343 .207

So why does one player have a rap as a bad two-strike hitter and the other a rep?It’s probably due to the fact that Rasmus strikes out more often:

Freese 21.9%
Rasmus 25.3%

Rasmus appears to be a victim of style bias that elevates hitters who “shorten” their swing with two strikes in the belief that it yields better results, whereas Freese benefits from the bias. As Rasmus and Freese show, though, a player can be a productive two-strike hitter regardless of the approach.

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