Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Promising Small Sample Size Statistics From The First Week Of The Season

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Oneil Cruz
55% Chase Contact Rate

When the Pirates promoted Oneil Cruz last season, one of the major issues that presented itself was his strikeouts. While Cruz was never a Tony Gwynn-like batter in the minor leagues, his early career strikeout rates were through the roof and way worse than you could have expected. However, heading down the stretch in 2022, Cruz started to improve his plate discipline, and he has started to show better plate coverage in 2023.

Cruz's chase rate still sits at a below-average 29.9% rate. It's a slight improvement from 2022, but the big number to focus on here is his chase contact rate of 55%. That's an 11.5% uptick from 2022. Sure, he is swinging outside the zone a little more than you'd like to see, but at least when he is swinging, he's making contact. So far, he's only had an 87 MPH exit velocity, but that's just on 21 batted balls. Everyone knows he has the raw power to have an exit velocity above 91 MPH consistently.

Cruz is batting .267/.378/.400 in 37 plate appearances. Impressively, he's walked nearly as often as he has struck out with a 6:88 BB:K ratio. Again, small sample size, but a promising one nonetheless. Don't forget that after Cruz made his late-season adjustments, he was hitting .275/.353/.523 line and 145 wRC+. He also struck out less than 30% of the time in the final month of the year.

Cruz's plate discipline has come a very long way since last season. Not only is it promising to see these changes that will help him out in the long run, but it shows he's a mature hitter who is able to make these adjustments in a short amount of time in the first place. Sometimes it takes rookies years to figure it out, but it's taken Cruz less than a full year before changing things up to where he is able to be a productive batter.