This may come as a surprise, but David Bote has created more runs than an average hitter since the All-Star break. It’s easy to overlook Bote’s numbers because they’ve come in limited action after he was optioned twice due to roster crunches. But folks, let me bring attention to Bote’s quietly productive last 90 plate appearances.
We’re not talking about slightly better than league-average numbers here. No, Bote’s 138 wRC+ means he has created 38% more runs than the average hitter. That has come as the result of his improved plate discipline.
In the first half of the season, Bote swung at 34% of the pitches he saw outside the strike zone. But in the second half, he has only swung at 27% of those would-be balls. For reference, the MLB average swing rate against pitches outside the zone is roughly 31%.
What’s the pitches Bote is laying off of are located on the edge of the plate. Notice below in the first figure that he swung at 35.85% of pitches at the lower, right edge through July 11. But since July 13, his swing rate against identical located pitches has been 14.89%, not even close to half as often.
I haven’t been able to discern any particular mechanical changes that could further explain Bote’s second-half numbers. It’s possible, though, that his early-season tweaks took time to translate into run creation. Cubs Insider noticed back in May that Bote quieted his batting stance and flattened his front foot. The working theory was that he made the change to better handle the high fastballs opposing teams were using to attack him.
While Bote’s second-half production has been valuable, the fact that it’s come in just 90 plate appearances suggests Joe Maddon is using him in highly favorable matchups. In particular, Bote is being shielded from pitchers who with big fastballs. As seen in the chart below, he has still struggled against high heat since the All-Star break.
I’m thinking that Bote’s second-half success is partially attributed to hand-picked matchups by Maddon and successful early-season discipline adjustments. It’s obvious that he still needs to get better against high heat and will have to continue working on such a deficiency in the offsseason. But for now, Bote can still provide much more value than the average hitter when put in the right situations.