Paul DeJong is an exciting talent and has the potential to be much much more. However, moving forward Paul must embrace patience and aggressiveness.
If you held a gun to my head and asked me what this upcoming St. Louis Cardinals season hinges on, I’d probably wonder why you were holding a gun to my head for such a trivial question. However, I’d probably tell you that guys like Paul DeJong are going to play a crucial role in how this lineup develops.
From Opening Day last season to the day, he got injured Paul DeJong was having a really good season. He was slashing .260/.351/.473 with 16 extra base-hits (eight homers and eight doubles). The most impressive part of these numbers is his OBP at .351, this is incredible for a guy who’s been primarily a high strikeout low walk guy in his career.
This shows that he had a much more confident approach and was on the trend to improving as a hitter before the injury. Our own Erik Neff took a look at the adjustment that Paul made early in the season last year.
The injury came at a really bad time for DeJong and he missed a significant amount of time. Not to mention the injury was to his finger which ultimately would affect how he swings the bat post-injury.
Since the day he came back from injury, DeJong slashed .231/.292/.413 with 26 extra base-hits (11 HR, 17 doubles). DeJong was rated with a 90 wRC+ which means that Dejong was 10% below your average major league hitter.
Even worse, it appeared that DeJong was a lot more aggressive at the plate in a bad way. The first portion of the year he had a swing percentage of 40.8%, but the second portion of the year his swing percentage was 48.7%. So, he was swinging at an almost eight percent higher clip than the first portion of the season.
Now, this also led to him having a higher contact percentage on pitches inside and outside of the zone. The biggest gain in percentage of contact was on balls outside the strike zone.
The jump from 45.1% to 60% is a near 15% jump. When you put that over the larger sample size of the second portion of the season, it jumps out even more that Paul seemed to be pressing and trying to do too much.
For a slightly more detailed look at DeJong’s approach last season, take a look at Tanner Puckett’s piece at Viva El Birdos.
What’s It Matter
Now the most confusing part of this is that Paul believes that he wasn’t being aggressive enough in that second portion of the season and the data shows otherwise. Now DeJong did mention to us at Winter Warm Up that he didn’t feel real comfortable after the injury until about August when the team started to heat up.
However, his stats from Mid August until the end of the year don’t offer any example of that. Something definitely changed in his approach. I can’t nail anything down in his swing or stance, but there had to be a difference in the way he approached the plate in the first half versus the second half.
If I am able to figure this out, I am sure that Jeff Albert (who the players are raving about) can figure this out. Manager Mike Shildt mentioned yesterday that both DeJong and Bader are hungry and ready to compete after this offseason. If he and Albert are able to key in on what DeJong was doing in April to Mid May, we will have a pretty special player on our hands.