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Brad Wilkerson, and swinging and missing

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There was a comment to the Victor Diaz diary entry that included this:

[Brad Wilkerson is] the one guy in this lineup that shocks the hell out of me when he actually makes contact with the ball. I've never seen a hitter swing and miss as much as this guy does.

Reading the comments to the DMN and T.R. Sullivan blogs, along with the comments here and at the NMLR, this is a very common complaint.

But do the stats really bear that out?

Baseball Reference has the pitch data for Wilkerson.

(As a point of reference, "strikes," as used below, means any pitch called a strike or swung at, even if the ball is put in play or fouled off).

Both during this season and in his career, he's made contact on 74% of his swings. The average is 80%, so he does swing and miss more often than is usual.

However, both this season and over the course of his career, 59% of the pitches Wilkerson has seen have been strikes, compared to 62% on average. That means that Wilkerson swings and misses on 15% of the total pitches he sees.

Is that really a disproportionate number?

Let's compare him to Alfonso Soriano. Soriano makes contact on 75% of his swings...that's below average, and just 1% better than Wilkerson.

However, 67% of the pitches Soriano sees have been strikes, over the course of his career. That means that Soriano swings and misses on 17% of the pitches he sees.

In other words, Soriano swings and misses more often than Brad Wilkerson...the guy who, according to many, many Rangers fans, swings and misses more than anyone they've ever seen.

A few others, as points of comparison...Michael Young, considered by many to be a great contact hitter, makes contact on 82% of his swings (although that is down to just 77% during 2007). 64% of the pitches he sees are strikes, so about 11.5% of the time he swings and misses.

Mark Teixeira makes contact on 78% of his swings, and 60% of the pitches he sees are strikes. Thus, 13% of the time he swings and misses.

Hank Blalock has a 77% contact rate and a 62% strike rate, which means he swings and misses 14% of the time.

What about Sammy Sosa? Over the course of his career, his contact rate is 68%, and his strike rate is 61%. So, over the course of his career, he's swung and missed at 19.5% of the pitches he's seen...a greater rate than Wilkerson or Soriano.

If you look at other high walk, high strikeout guys, some of them also have higher rates (Jim Thome at 16%, Adam Dunn at 16%, Travis Hafner at 16%) while Juan Gonzalez, to name a former Ranger great, also has a rate of 16%.

The reality is, while Brad Wilkerson swings and misses more often than the average player, he doesn't do so at a rate that makes him unique in baseball.