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Brewers: Keston Hiura’s Return Showing Same Plate Discipline Issues

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Apr 26, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Keston Hiura (18) looks on after striking out during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Keston Hiura (18) looks on after striking out during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s been about two weeks since Keston Hiura was brought back up to the Brewers following Daniel Vogelbach’s injury. Since coming back, Keston is playing like a brand new player.

Few have had as rough a start to the season as Keston Hiura. His mom is currently battling cancer, and Keston seemed completely lost at the plate. He was up and down, spending two separate stints in Nashville before being recalled on June 23rd.

Since coming back on June 23rd, Keston Hiura has looked far more like his 2019 self than he had at any part of the past two seasons. Slashing .244/.360/.488, with a wRC+ of 131. In addition he is hitting the ball harder, at 52.0% being classified as hard hit. Those are positive signs, but there are still underlying trends that show Keston is not fully back.

Keston Hiura’s third stint up with the Brewers has seemed to be going better on the surface. However, looking at swing data shows the same discipline issues he struggled with earlier continue.

Keston Hiura is still not making contact on his swings. Since coming back, Keston is making contact on 58.3% of his swings. When looking at only pitches in the zone, Keston is making contact on 65.7% of pitches. As a result of this, Keston by far has the highest swinging strike % on the team at 20.8%.

Over the nearly two weeks since he has been back, the only player with a higher swinging strike % is Javy Baez, who sits at 21.3%. Keston’s contact % of 58.3% is third lowest in baseball over that time frame, behind Adolis Garcia and Trevor Larnach.

Those numbers are not great, but they are better than where he was before coming up again. From Opening Day until June 22nd, Keston’s Major League stats aggregated a .130/.217/.222 slash line, with a 25 wRC+. His hard hit% was only 38.7%.

When looking at Hiura’s plate discipline, he made contact on 54.4% of swings, and 59.1% on pitches in the strike zone. His swinging strike % was 24.1% in that timeframe, which would have been the highest in all of baseball among qualified batters (3.1 PA per team game).

Keston Hiura has looked better since coming back up. However, he still appears to be struggling with pitch recognition, and making contact with the pitches. His strikeout numbers are still very concerning, striking out 34.0% of all plate appearances since coming back.

One thing to consider is BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), which can be used to indicate if a player is lucky or not. The league average for BABIP is typically around .300, and deviations above that indicate a player is lucky, while deviations below that mark can indicate a player is getting unlucky.

Since coming back, Hiura’s BABIP is .318, while before coming back up it was .220. Some of the more recent success we are seeing with Keston may be simply that he was extremely unlucky on balls put into play, and that is starting to level out.

While early returns appear promising, the underlying data still shows Keston has not fundamentally fixed the issues that plagued him at the start of the season, making first base still an area of need as we approach the Trade Deadline.

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Keston Hiura was projected to be a big part of the Brewers offense this season, and his struggles have created a massive whole in the lineup.

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