As anyone will tell you, the biggest problem with power hitters is their strikeout rate. Conversely, because they get pitched around a lot, they also tend to have higher walk rates than contact hitters. What has me the most bothered is Pitches per Plate Appearance (P/PA). Chris Shaw currently wavers between 3.5-3.7 in the minors, and was at 3.6 last season in the MLB. Compare this to your two Home Derby Finalists last year, Bryce Harper averages around 4.1 P/PA and Kyle Schwarber averages around 4.3 P/PA. Granted, they’ve had a bigger sample size, but the point still remains the same.
This Spring Training, Chris Shaw saw only two pitches per plate appearance, quite a stark contrast from his 4.8 P/PA back in Spring Training of 2016. For someone who strikes out nearly six times as much as he walks, this is number is pretty frightening. In 2017 is when we saw the strikeout numbers for Shaw spike big time.
After being promoted from Richmond to Sacramento, his strikeout percentage went from 16% to 29%. His walk percentage also took a major hit, but his slugging percentage remained about the same. In 2018, his strikeout percentage increased 5% from the previous season to an unheard of 34% in the Pacific Coast League, and he saw a 37% strikeout rate in the majors. Compare this to Harper’s and Schwarber’s career averages of 21% and 28% respectively.
It is abundantly clear that if he intends to make it on a major league roster, he is going to need to become a more patient hitter. We knock on guys like Brandon Belt for watching strike three, but he works to get on base. The difference between 3.5 pitches and 4 pitches per PA might be .5, but if you have over 500 plate appearances, that’s at least 250 extra pitches. That’s 250 extra pitches that a pitcher can make a hittable mistake, or possibly even take him out of the game.