With eight home runs over 80 PA in August, you don’t need to look too far beyond the counting numbers to know that San Diego Padres‘ Jedd Gyorko is having himself quite a month.
What it doesn’t tell you, however, is that he’s also been a poor hitter despite the fireworks display.
Yes, as the Friars are finding out, even power can be a double-edged sword when it comes with very little outside of it. Not that they should be complaining about their second baseman’s team-leading 15 RBIs over that span and second-ranked 0.6 fWAR, of course, but the difference between the 24-year old and the team-leading Will Venable (1.6 fWAR) is practically night and day.
There’s plenty to be concerned about when it comes to Gyorko here, as the layoff from his groin injury seem to have turned him into a completely different hitter. Even with all the ball that he’s hitting out of the park (good for a .590 SLG), the infielder is hitting just .231 for the month, having notched hits and just two of his last six games.
It’s been like that since his return really, as his .197/.210/426 post-break line indicates — although it is worth mentioning that he did go through a wicked slump upon his return in July (.218 OPS through 51 PA).
Did this slide change his approach for the worst?
Well, considering that he did hit over .300 through May and part of June (before he was hurt), you’d have to think so. His .272/.330/.440 overall line in the first half isn’t fantastic, but it did represent a balanced offensive profile with a 21.7 percent strikeout rate against a 7.5 percent walk rate — Gyorko could hit line drives (26.9 percent), and get on base without making too many outs.
These days, he’s basically a two-outcome hitter. With exactly two walks since his return on July 12 (both coming in August), the youngster’s batting eye has been all but blinded as he owns a 1.7 percent post-break walk rate. Thanks mostly to a wild July (31.4 percent K-rate), his second-half strikeout number is at 26.1 percent, a stark contrast to his first half.
More concerning, however, is perhaps his batted ball and plate discipline profile, which has seen him hitting more fly balls than ever (47.7 percent vs. 36.0 in first half) at the expense of his ability to line the ball (15.1 percent vs. 26.9). Sure, a whole lot of those fly balls are going for home runs these days, but when Gyorko is creating outs otherwise, the positives that come with it are somewhat diminished.
Unsurprisingly, the root of his problems come from the fact that he’s less discerning that ever before.
Relying solely on his power by swinging away, Gyorko’s swing rate at pitches outside the zone has alarmingly risen from 28.1 percent in the first half to 39.6 percent in the second. He’s making contact with the outside pitches (56 percent compared to 53.4 earlier in the season), but as the results already tell you, reaching hasn’t exactly helped him out.
You would normally say that a team shouldn’t mess with something like Gyorko’s home run production this month, but the fact is that it belies a whole host of other problems that hide the mess at the plate Gyorko is right now. And once the run of power ends … well, let’s just say it won’t be pretty.
In this case, getting him to hit fewer home runs may actually turn out to be a good thing.