Corey Dickerson Doesn’t Care About Your Stupid Strike Zone

Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson is quietly having an excellent season at the plate. Believe it or not, the 25-year-old is hitting an impressive .315/.371/.577, which even after adjusting for the effects of Coors Field, is still good for a 144 wRC+ — 13th highest among players with at least 400 plate appearances. Dickerson’s batted pretty sparingly against lefties, which has certainly played a role in his gaudy stat line, but platoon or no platoon, a .405 wOBA is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

While Dickerson’s out-of-the-blue breakout is interesting, the approach he’s used to get there is what makes him truly unusual. Since debuting last season, he’s swung at 62% of pitches inside the strike zone and 42% of pitches outside of it, making him about 1.5 times (62%/42%) as likely to swing at a strike than a ball. This is the lowest such ratio of any player with at least 600 PA’s these last two years. Dickerson’s not a free swinger, per se — his overall swing rate of 51% is 38th out of 251 players with at least 600 PA’s — but he just doesn’t discriminate based on whether or not a pitch is in the strike zone. Here’s a look at the hitters with the lowest Z-Swing%/O-Swing% these last two seasons:

Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Z/O-Swing%
Corey Dickerson 42% 62% 1.47
A.J. Pierzynski 47% 74% 1.58
Salvador Perez 40% 65% 1.60
Dee Gordon 33% 53% 1.61
Shane Victorino 32% 53% 1.66
Alfonso Soriano 42% 69% 1.67
Scooter Gennett 40% 68% 1.68
Charlie Blackmon 39% 66% 1.70
Oswaldo Arcia 39% 66% 1.71
Juan Lagares 35% 59% 1.71
Evan Gattis 41% 70% 1.72
Pablo Sandoval 44% 76% 1.73
Ryan Zimmerman 31% 53% 1.73
Howie Kendrick 38% 65% 1.73
Chris Johnson 40% 70% 1.74

Dickerson’s contact rates tell a similar story. Just like his overall swing rate, Dickerson’s contact rate of 81% isn’t all that interesting. Here, he checks in at 151 out of 251. But also like his swing rate, it doesn’t change very much depending on a pitch’s location. He’s put wood on 83% of pitches he’s offered at in the zone, compared to 74% outside of it, making him 1.1 times as likely to connect on a pitch within the zone –fourth lowest out of 251.

Name O-Contact% Z-Contact% Z/O-Contact%
Victor Martinez 87% 93% 1.07
Pablo Sandoval 80% 87% 1.09
Dustin Pedroia 82% 92% 1.12
Corey Dickerson 74% 83% 1.12
Nick Markakis 83% 94% 1.13
Alexi Amarista 78% 90% 1.14
Brian Roberts 80% 92% 1.14
Eduardo Escobar 74% 85% 1.14
Dee Gordon 80% 91% 1.15
Adrian Beltre 78% 90% 1.15
Ichiro Suzuki 78% 90% 1.15
Yadier Molina 78% 91% 1.16
Denard Span 83% 96% 1.16
Jed Lowrie 77% 90% 1.17
Nori Aoki 81% 95% 1.17

Multiplying these two metrics (Contact% x Swing%) gives us Dickerson’s contact rate over all pitches seen, regardless of that pitch’s location. Lets call this AllContact% to distinguish it from the traditional Contact%. This number shows just how much of an outlier he really is. For the average major league hitter, a pitch thrown in the strike zone results in contact 2.9 times as often as one outside of it, but for Dickerson, a pitch in the zone is less than 1.7 times as likely. Even if we set the bar as low as 70 plate appearances to include 577 players, this is still the lowest in baseball since the start of 2013.

Name Z/O-Swing% Z/O-Contact% Z/O-AllContact%
Corey Dickerson 1.47 1.12 1.66
Luis Sardinas 1.39 1.24 1.73
Reed Johnson 1.34 1.33 1.79
Alexi Casilla 1.67 1.10 1.83
Dee Gordon 1.61 1.15 1.84
Pablo Sandoval 1.73 1.09 1.88
Ramiro Pena 1.55 1.22 1.89
Jose Iglesias 1.54 1.24 1.90
Salvador Perez 1.60 1.19 1.90
C.J. Cron 1.52 1.25 1.90
Jeff Francoeur 1.63 1.18 1.93
Endy Chavez 1.61 1.20 1.94
Joaquin Arias 1.60 1.22 1.95
A.J. Pierzynski 1.58 1.24 1.96
Ryan Goins 1.46 1.34 1.96

And unsurprisingly, he also the all-time leader since 2007 (the earliest year with PITCHf/x data). Dickerson had the lowest among all players with 100 PA’s here, but I set the threshold to 600 PA’s to avoid having leader board filled with obscure players like Jesus Feliciano and Jordan Brown. In case you were wondering, Vladimir Gurrrero checked in at 2.13.

Name Z/O-Swing% Z/O-Contact% Z/O-AllContact%
Corey Dickerson 1.47 1.12 1.66
Tony Pena 1.47 1.22 1.80
Dee Gordon 1.56 1.15 1.80
Salvador Perez 1.61 1.17 1.88
Garret Anderson 1.51 1.25 1.89
Pablo Sandoval 1.74 1.09 1.90
Joaquin Arias 1.58 1.22 1.92
Alexi Amarista 1.73 1.14 1.97
David Eckstein 1.71 1.15 1.97
Bengie Molina 1.74 1.13 1.97
Ichiro Suzuki 1.75 1.12 1.97
Erick Aybar 1.69 1.18 2.00
A.J. Pierzynski 1.68 1.20 2.03
Reed Johnson 1.50 1.36 2.03

Dickerson’s indifference to a pitch’s location means its probably only a matter of time before pitchers just stop throwing the ball in the strike zone, especially if he keeps slugging well above .500. So far this year, opposing pitchers have thrown Dickerson a strike just over 45% of the time. This is lower than the league average of 49%, but isn’t exceptionally low, especially for a free-swinging power hitter. Guys like Jose Abreu, Carlos Gomez, and Pablo Sandoval see strikes around 42% of the time, so pitchers could almost certainly get away with throwing Dickerson a few more balls. Sure, he’s shown that he’s able to hit those pitches, but even for a player like Dickerson, chasing after bad pitches is still a recipe for lots of swings and misses. His 74% O-Contact% is well above the league average of 63%, yet still lower than the overall Contact% of 80%.

Dickerson’s one-size-fits-all approach to swinging has worked well so far, but it remains to be seen what will happen when pitchers start exploiting it by throwing more balls out of the zone. Maybe he’ll be unfazed and keep on raking. Maybe he’ll turn into a strikeout machine, who needs to refine his aproach to even stay in the big leagues. Either way, Corey Dickerson’s a fascinating player, who’s unlike any we’ve seen in recent years, and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to keep succeeding going forward.

All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

This article originally appeared on Fangraphs.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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