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With 33 home runs, 95 RBI and a .274 batting average, Toronto Blue Jays DH Edwin Encarnacion looks like your typical low-contact, high-strikeout slugger.
But he's different.
Of the 16 players in the majors who have at least 25 homers this season, just two have a strikeout rate below 14.7 percent: Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre and Encarnacion.
It's not often in today's game you'll see a player with 33 homers and just 55 strikeouts, but that's where Encarnacion sits over 558 plate appearances this season. Unlike Beltre, however, who has 27 homers and a 9.7 percent strikeout rate, Encarnacion isn't batting .327. Or .300. Or even .280.
Despite having a 22.1 percent line-drive rate, a 17.7 percent HR/FB and a 9.9 percent strikeout rate, Encarnacion is hitting just .274 due to a crippling .250 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which is the seventh lowest mark in baseball among batting title qualifiers.
Encarnacion has never really been a big strikeout guy -- his career rate is 15.9 percent -- but he has really cut down on them this year, especially over the last three months.
Since the start of June, Encarnacion has struck out in just 7.0 percent of his 316 plate appearances in that span. He also walked in 14.9 percent and had a 0.47 K/BB. However, he produced a .281 batting average in that timeframe due to a BABIP of .250, identical to his season balls in play average.
It's easy to pinpoint why Encarnacion's BABIP is so low -- he's hitting a miserable .135 on groundballs this season (20-for-148).
He has pulled 102 of his 148 grounders, so it's possible he is just hitting into shifts, but Encarnacion had a higher pull rate last season (51.4 percent to 50.1 percent) and he still managed to bat .287 on groundballs.
Encarnacion is a .220 career hitter on grounders; if he was hitting that high on them this season his overall average would be .301, but because he has been particularly unlucky he's only batting .274.
The Blue Jays slugger has actually had better luck since the All-Star break, hitting for a .276 average on balls in play, a number that is still 20 points lower than the major league average, and it has led to him hitting .301 over 36 games.
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