Milwaukee Brewers: What’s Up With Jonathan Villar?
In 2016, Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar stole 62 bases and our hearts as he put together a season-long display of power and speed. This year, Villar appears…mortal. He’s only slashing .211/.271/.351 and he’s only racked up five stolen bases. What is going on, and when will Villar bust out of his slow start?
The good news is that the power is still there. Villar’s .145 ISO is right in line with his career mark of .144 and he already has four homers this season. The bad news is that just about every other metric is trending the wrong way for Villar and for the Milwaukee Brewers.
- His overall swing percentage is up from 43.0% to 48.6% this season, so he’s swinging more often.
- His swinging strike percentage has increased from 10.6% last year to 13.8% this year, so he’s swinging and missing more often.
- Villar’s contact rate is down from 75.2% last year to 71.6% this year, so he’s not putting nearly as many balls in play
- Lastly, his percentage of swings at pitches outside the strike zone is up from 23.2% last year to 27.0% this year. This means that he’s going fishing a lot more, but his contact rate at pitches outside the zone has fallen from 57.5% last year to 55.7% this year. He’s swinging at pitches outside the zone more often, and making contact with them less often.
The advanced swing metrics show up in his BABIP and his strikeout and walk percentage. Villar has a career BABIP of .343, but his current mark sits at a meager .294. Last year, Villar struck out 25.6% of the time, and walked 11.6% of the time. So far in 2017, the Milwaukee Brewers shortstop has struck out in 31.4% of his at bats, and only walked 8.3% of the time.
Villar is still very much the player he’s always been. The strikeouts are an aspect of his game that the Brewers have come to live with, but his overall plate discipline and selectivity at the plate has regressed. Villar needs to get back to laying off pitches outside the zone and possibly adding a few more walks to his stat sheet to generate the stolen base numbers that he’s proven more than capable of producing.
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If we start to see Villar working deeper into counts and laying off pitches outside of the strike zone, the numbers will soon right themselves. If not, Villar could be in for a frustrating season, and he won’t stick around in the top of the Brewers order for much longer.