The Atlanta Braves recently signed third baseman Chris Johnson to a three-year contract extension. Johnson hit .321 (second in the NL behind Michael Cuddyer) with 46 extra-base hits and 68 RBI last season, but has a .261 batting average, .286 on-base percentage and .342 slugging percentage through 43 games this season. Part of the reason for the downturn: lack of plate discipline.
Among players qualifying for the batting title, none have swung at more pitches out of the zone than Johnson.
When a batter swings at a pitch thrown outside the strike zone, their chances of success are severely diminished. To start, strikeouts go up and walks go down.
And the hitter creates fewer extra-base hits. Here is Johnson’s isolated power — a measure of how good a player is at hitting for extra bases — based on pitches in and out of the zone. With the exception of pitches inside the plate, he hasn’t been able to generate much in terms of extra-base hits.
There has been a steady increase in the amount of swings at “hard” pitches, which account for almost two-thirds off all pitches seen (62.3 percent). And while the corresponding downturn in hacking away at off-speed pitches is encouraging, they make up just 7.4 percent of pitches Johnson has seen in 2014.
Last season, Johnson was tied for fourth-highest wins above replacement on the Braves’ roster (2.4). This season he is second to last (minus-0.5), and if he is going to turn it around it will all start with being more disciplined at the plate.