Pittsburgh Pirates: Cal Mitchell Making Improvements in September

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 15: Cal Mitchell of the Pittsburgh Pirates runs the bases for a run during the second inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 15, 2022 in New York City. Players are wearing number 21 in honor of Roberto Clemente Day. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 15: Cal Mitchell of the Pittsburgh Pirates runs the bases for a run during the second inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 15, 2022 in New York City. Players are wearing number 21 in honor of Roberto Clemente Day. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates rookie outfielder Cal Mitchell has made several promising improvements at the plate since returning to the big league club.

The Pittsburgh Pirates recalled Cal Mitchell at the start of September. Since the team has recalled the young outfielder, Mitchell has seemingly found his groove. While it is a small sample size of playing time, plenty of underlying numbers suggest that Mitchell may have figured things out.

Since being recalled and playing his first game upon his return on the second, Mitchell is batting .273/.373/.386 with a .340 wOBA and 119 wRC+. In that time, he’s had a home run in 51 plate appearances with seven walks and 10 strikeouts, leading to a 13.9% walk rate and 19.6% strikeout rate. On top of that, he’s ripping the cover off the ball. He’s averaged 91.1 MPH off the bat with a hard hit rate of 52.9%.

Those are all good numbers, but the more important thing I want to focus on is his plate discipline. Before being recalled, Mitchell was swinging wildly at a whole lot of pitches. Mitchell’s out-of-zone swing percentage was approaching 40% at 38.9%. The League average is only 32.6%. When he was swinging out of the zone, it’s not like he often made contact with a 50% out-of-zone contact percentage when the league average is 63.6%. This led to a swinging strike rate of 13.7% when the average is currently 11.1%.

However, since his promotion to the big league club, Mitchell has been swinging a lot less outside the zone. His out-of-zone swing rate is now just 26.9%. Even when he is swinging at offerings outside of the strike zone, he is making contact 62.1% of the time. He’s also cut down his swinging strike rate to just 11.4%.

Overall, he’s just become much more patient at the plate. He’s only swung at 45.3% of pitches he has seen over his last 51 trips to the plate, compared to the 52.9% swinging rate fans saw in his first 146 career plate appearances. Mitchell was known for his low-strikeout rates throughout his minor league career, and it appears it is starting to translate to the major leagues.

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It is a small sample size, but it’s clear that Mitchel is being much more selective at the dish, leading to more walks and fewer strikeouts. He’s still far from a perfect batter as, despite his raw power, he has a high ground ball rate. Still, Mitchell has overcome one of the hardest tasks in baseball at the major league level: being able to know what pitches to lay off and which ones to swing at, as well as make contact more often.

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