Explaining Mike Olt’s 2014 first half

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It is not often that baseball fans have the opportunity to witness the extreme dichotomy in MLB-readiness that Cubs fans have seen while watching Mike Olt in his first extended look in the Majors.

Through 204 plate appearances, Olt has incredibly hit 12 home runs, despite a batting average of just .144 on the season.

While Olt has an encouraging walk rate of 9.3 percent, his strikeout rate of 38.7 percent is at a level where players are typically sent back down to the minors to make the necessary adjustments.  In the case of the Cubs though, Olt has been allowed to struggle throughout the first half as a trial by fire for a prospect who, at 25 years old, is no longer a bright-eyed youngster.

Olt’s strikeout rate is clearly the driver behind his abysmal batting average, however, there has also been some bad luck involved as he has a BABIP of just .152 on the season.  For all players with at least 200 plate appearances, Olt’s BABIP of .152 is by far the lowest with the next lowest number of .177 belonging to Raul Ibanez.

An as extreme fly ball hitter, Olt will naturally have a lower BABIP than the league average of around .300, but at .152 he should see some positive regression to the mean in the second half as more balls find holes.  It may seem obvious, but in order to see some balls bounce his way, Mike Olt is going to need to actually hit some balls on the ground.  Currently only three players in baseball hit more fly balls than Olt, so unless he changes his approach at the plate in the second half, he may be doomed for two and a half more months of misery.

Olt’s batting average is sure to rise above .144 simply due to natural regression to the mean, but he is going to need more than a few lucky bounces to resurrect his offensive value.  The problem is that Olt rarely hits line drives, as his rate of 11.5 percent ranks as the lowest in baseball for players with 200 PA.  Instead of swinging for the fences in every at bat, Olt needs to focus more on hitting the ball on a line and letting the home runs come to him.

If Mike Olt does not adjust at the plate, Cubs fans may be laughing a few years from now about how he was once thought of as part of the future.

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs

Categories: Cubs

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