Nomar Mazara is having a rather fine month of May 10 games into the month. The freshly 23 year old is slashing .342/.432/.974 over the past 10 games, but has there been a real adjustment or are we just seeing another flash in the pan? After all, Mazara has had scorching hot months before and there’s little doubt that this month is at least partly due to a bit of variance. Let’s take a small glimpse into what the data behind Mazara’s hot streak says and compare it to streaks of the past.
Mazara’s career batted ball profile, that has been discussed aplenty, is marked by a large ground ball rate, a solid line drive rate, and an impressive HR/FB rate. In addition, the hard/soft hit rates have always seemed a bit low for a player with his excellent coordination and raw power.
The batted ball data from May 2017’s streak looks almost identical aside from a significantly worse HR/FB. Looking at the data compared to his career average makes it easy to conclude that the impressive May of 2017 was mostly due to variance allowing a higher percentage of hits to fall in.
The current 10-game streak is a completely different look altogether. Mazara’s line drive rate is up through the roof, his HR/FB rate is actually higher than 100% due to him hitting a home run on every single fly ball he’s hit and one on a line drive, and his hard/soft hit rates are drastically improved from his career averages.
The ground ball rate is relatively unchanged, but the significantly elevated line drive and hard hit rates suggest something has changed for the moment, but what? Let’s take a look something very interesting that has a history of directly correlating to improved offensive performance.
Mazara has always been known for an advanced approach at the plate, but out of 163 qualified hitters since 2016 Mazara ranked 151st in zone control (z-swing % minus o-swing %).
Although it’s not impossible to be a successful player with below average zone control, there is a large correlation efficient between zone control and wRC+ and it isn’t hard to see why. Swinging at more strikes and less balls would logically lead to an increase in walk rate, a decrease in K rate, an increase of hard contact, and a decrease of soft contact.
Compare the numbers above with the numbers pulled from his 2017 streak:
Nothing changed. Both batted ball profile and zone control ratings suggest that the streak was almost wholly variance, but the new streak’s data?
Mazara is both swinging at a career low amount of balls out of the zone and has massively increased his swing rate against pitches in the zone. In fact, that 42.7% zone control would slot him at the 40th best tally this season among qualified hitters just ahead of Shin Soo Choo.
The hugely inflated HR/FB rate and the consistent ground ball rate suggest that Mazara won’t continue to stick at a 257 wRC+ for the rest of the season, but there are real quantifiable improvements here that haven’t been there in the past. The sample size is entirely too small to suggest that Mazara’s improvements are absolutely here to stay however even flashes of this kind of approach adjustment are welcome stories. Assuming Mazara’s approach does stick, this could be one of the first major adjustments we’ve seen in his young career that should give all Rangers fans hope for his future.