With his game-winning, walk-off home run last night, Matt Adams reminded Cardinal fans that he is almost single-handedly carrying the offense this season. In his postgame interview, he explained the secret to his success: He’s laying off pitches down in the zone.
It’s true that he’s at his worst on pitches down on his knee:
The funny thing is that last night Adams actually laid off only two of three pitches out of the zone low, one in the sixth inning and one of two in the fourth (the one he didn’t lay off was a curveball in the dirt for strike three):
We suppose that it’s all relative.
As Jenifer Langosch later quoted the first baseman, “I wanted to make sure I got better strike zone discipline. I just wanted to see the ball better. That’s one of the things I worked on down in Triple-A when I was rehabbing, and it’s still working right now. We’re just going to continue to ride it out.” One would therefore expect to see his O-Swing% (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) to have gone down a bit since his return on June 13:
Is Adams just having some fun with us? Not only is his O-Swing rate not lower, it’s actually higher. The sample size is small, but that shouldn’t matter here, because we’re comparing it against Adams’s claim.
Our only explanation is that Adams is being slightly more selective with pitches inside the zone, particularly pitches low and inside but still strikes. That discipline wouldn’t show up in his out-of-zone numbers but would in his Z-Swing%. That would square with his game Monday, when he laid off low-and-inside first-pitch strikes in the first and fourth innings.
It also may be a case that Adams gained some confidence in his rehab stint, and possibly did hone his eye for the zone, but has merely locked in a bit more than usual, which would explain his increased out-of-zone contact rate. Whatever the reason, we’re glad of the outcome.