San Francisco Giants: Chase d’Arnaud has Joined the Fly Ball Revolution
By Jeff Young
San Francisco Giants utility infielder Chase d’Arnaud is a different hitter these days. He is hitting the ball in the air with a higher frequency. This could make him an intriguing addition to the roster.
Chase only has 21 Major League at-bats with the San Francisco Giants this season, so there is not enough of a sample to analyze. However, he has been impressive during this small sample.
Prior to his promotion, d’Arnaud had 253 at-bats in Triple-A. He has over career 2,500 at-bats in Triple-A — that’s a lot of time spent in Triple-A. During this time, he has a career .262/.328/.388 slash line. So, for much of his Triple-A career, he has been hitting Triple-A pitching with Adrianza-like power.
Despite these results, d’Arnaud produced vastly different results this season. With Sacramento, d’Arnaud was batting .292 with a .915 OPS — that’s a huge change. The graph above focuses only on slugging percentage. However, it shows he has transformed into a power hitter very quickly. So, how does a player go through this type of transformation in the middle of his career?
Well, there is a difference with how d’Arnaud is hitting the ball. For much of his career, around 40 percent of his batted balls were ground balls — that is a high percentage. Since we are in the midst of the Fly Ball Revolution, we know that ground balls tend to produce a lower amount of hits and extra-base hits.
For a ground ball to convert to a hit, it has to get past five infielders — including the pitcher. That is not an easy task. Especially, since every team shifts its infield based on how you hit the ball and where you hit the ball.
As a result, relying on ground balls to be an effective hitter is not an ideal approach. It can work for some hitters, but it is not ideal. Below is a graph of d’Arnaud’s batted ball data:
The major change is in the gray line from the 2018 set. d’Arnaud decided he did not want to be a ground ball hitter anymore. He wanted to join the Fly Ball Revolution. It appears he has adjusted his swing mechanics to get a better launch angle at the contact point.
The results have been encouraging so far. d’Arnaud’s fly ball and line drive rates have improved considerably. His fly ball rate is close to 50 percent. Similarly, his groundball rate has experienced a major decline as it is below 30 percent on the season.
Based on these numbers, he is a different hitter than he has been in previous seasons. This does not appear to be a minor mechanical tweak resulting in a hot streak. Rather, the numbers suggest a significant swing overhaul.
The changes in his batted ball data appear to be translating to better numbers on the back of his card. He is hitting the ball with more consistency and authority than ever before. At least, that is what his Triple-A stats are saying this season.
Triple-A stats do not always translate to Major League performance. So, just because he was producing in Triple-A does not mean we should expect him to continue producing with the Giants.
However, d’Arnaud is an infielder who can play multiple positions. He is showing that he can hit left-handed pitchers, and the San Francisco Giants are struggling against left-handed pitchers. There could for a role for him.
Chase has been a light-hitting middle infielder for much of his career. Then, he started hitting well against Triple-A pitching, which he really has not done before. The stats suggest that he is a different type of hitter this season. It could be the result of a swing overhaul.
Next: San Francisco Giants: The Second Half is Win or Bust
I doubt d’Arnaud will sustain this level of success, but when a player experiences a major improvement like this, it is intriguing at the very least.