When Brett Gardner got off to a hot start, I dove into it so now I’d like to do the same thing for Francisco Cervelli, who’s hitting even better than Gardner was.
Going into last night, the Yankees’ catcher was hitting .400/.471/.517/.987 with a .439 wOBA and a 179 wRC+. The .117 IsoP is very “meh” but the .071 IsoD is encouraging. This is the product of an 8.5% walk rate, up from just over two percent in 2009. That mark is close to his minor league mark of 9.42% (.367 career MiL OBP, .094 IsoD) and is a big reason why he’s been able to produce so well thus far in 2010. If he can keep that walk rate up, it will help him keep some value when his BABIP regression comes.
Speaking of BABIP, we can trace a lot of Frankie’s early success to that. Right now, he’s putting up a BABIP of .453. This could be coming from a 22% line drive rate, which is pretty high. A .453 BABIP obviously points to a good deal of luck, but when it comes with a 22% line drive rate, we can deduce that some of those hits are falling because they’re well struck. Cervelli has also had more ground balls (48%) than last year (45.8%). Those grounders are also turning into hits more often than they were last year. On grounders this season, Cervelli is hitting .333 as opposed to .289 in 2009. Frankie has also hit fewer fly balls this year, which shows us he’s doing a good job of staying on top of the ball. That, obviously, leads to more line drives and grounders, which are more likely to turn into hits than flies.
In terms of plate discipline, Francisco has been swinging less. He’s overall swing percentage is down to 43.7 from 50%. Most importantly, his O-Swing% has dropped from 28.0% to 23.3%. Looking at contact percentage, we see a 1% increase. So, he’s swinging at fewer pitches, but making contact with a few more.
So how’s Frankie been doing it? By walking more, swinging at fewer pitches, hitting the ball hard, and with a little bit of luck. The BABIP is definitely going to fall, but let’s enjoy this awesomely energetic ride for as long as it goes on. With his defense and (hopefully) an increased walk rate, Cervelli will be a very serviceable player.
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