Oakland Athletics 3B Josh Donaldson has been the topic of much discussion and statistical analysis. With a breakout offensively thus far, many are discussing if Donaldson is likely to sustain this level of success. While there are some true improvements in Donaldson’s game, he is likely to regress closer to the original expectations for the third baseman.
A quick glance at Donaldson’s .363 BABIP and increased HR/FB rate would indicate that regression is in store. His .322 batting average is likely to drop towards, if not entirely drop to, his career mark of .272. Playing in his spacious home ballpark, all expectations for simply statistics should be lowered. His wOBA and wRC+, advanced statistics that do account for his ballpark, are so strong that they would still be well above average, even with moderate regression.
Donaldson has fundamentally progressed in terms of plate discipline. Though he showed a strong ability to reach base at many levels of the minors, Donaldson did not display that skill at all in his first 300 plate appearances at the major league level. Thus far in 2013, however, he has a 10.2% walk rate. Donaldson’s swing rate is down 5% and his contact rate is at a career high. As his ability to hit strikes improves, Donaldson need to swing at fewer bad pitches, leading to walks and hits. Though he is seeing a similar number of pitches inside of the strike zone, Donaldson is chasing many fewer pitches outside of the zone. His chase rate is down from 32.5% to just 23.2% this season. This is a significant improvement, which is directly attributing to his improved OBP.
Donaldson should regress in terms of his batting average and slugging percentage. He will not necessarily hit this well for the last two-thirds of the season, but his new plate approach will allow him to continue to reach base at a strong rate.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.