What Is Plaguing Gregory Polanco?
2017 has been a complete disaster for Gregory Polanco thus far, but why?
2016 saw Gregory Polanco set new career highs in every important offensive category. As a result, the 25-year old outfielder seemed to be primed for a huge breakout season in 2017. However, that has not been the case.
Instead, 2017 has been arguably the worst offensive season of Gregory Polanco’s career. He currently owns a career worst 83 wRC+ and 8.2 percent walk rate, while his .297 wOBA is the second worst of his now four year Major League career. This raises the question, what is plaguing Gregory Polanco?
Well, first off, he is hitting far too many groundballs. Fly balls are always more likely to turn into hits, especially extra base hits, than groundballs are. So far this season Gregory Polanco is hitting groundballs 44.9 percent of the time, which is a big spike over the 38.8 percent groundball rate he owned in 2016.
Additionally, his 34.7 percent fly ball rate is the second lowest of his career. Only the 31.4 percent fly ball rate he had as a rookie in 2014 was lower.
A second issuing plaguing Polanco is that he is not hitting the ball hard, at all. He currently owns a career worst 23.3 percent hard contact rate. This is well below the Major League average of 30 percent. Meanwhile, his 24.4 percent soft contact rate is higher than the Major League average of 20 percent. And soft contact rate is one area a hitter does NOT want to be higher than league average.
On the surface, what appears to be one of the more perplexing things about Polanco’s struggles is that this season he is making more contact than ever before. His 14.7 percent strikeout rate is by far the lowest of his career, and his 81.6 percent contact rate is tied for the highest of any season in his career.
However, when you dig deeper, it does start to make some sense. He is swinging at a career worst 34.3 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone this season. This is simply too high, especially for a hitter like Polanco that is not known for being a bad ball hitter.
It is worth noting that Gregory Polanco has been plagued by multiple injuries this season. A sore shoulder nearly caused him to start the season on the disabled list, while a hamstring issue did cause a DL trip in May. So, it is certainly possible that he is playing at less than 100 percent which could be adding to his struggles as well.
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There are a lot of problems that are plaguing Gregory Polanco at the plate right now. He is hitting too many ground balls and not enough fly balls, he is not making enough solid contact, and he is swinging at too many pitches out of the strike zone.
It could be mechanics, or it could be one of a variety of injuries that have plagued him this season. Whatever the cause, Gregory Polanco currently has a lot of problems at the plate and it is not doing the Pirate offense any good.
*- Stats via FanGraphs and Baseball Savant