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Michael Saunders and the Right Kind of Aggressive, Maybe

Wow, remember this was an outfield one time? I think literally, one time.
Wow, remember this was an outfield one time? I think literally, one time.

Current sore groin aside, there's plenty for Michael Saunders to be pleased about this season on the baseball field. For the first time, he'll have spent an entire year on the Major League roster and though the opportunity to break camp with the Mariners likely only sprouted due to Franklin Gutierrez's multitude of calamities, Saunders finally seized that chance and justified the roster spot and playing time.

We hope that this is not the peak for Michael, that he continues to build and it's worth remembering that he's still young, not yet fully 26. However, the 2012 version of Saunders has been acceptable, made moreso by him exceeding what little outside expectations there were. Reportedly, he remade his swing over the winter with the unknown hitting guru Josh Bard's brother and we've seen some of the dividends of that (or coincidentally! Don't forget good ol' coincidence!) in Saunders' career high isolated slugging.

Perhaps separately, perhaps part of those adjustments, perhaps coincidentally, Michael Saunders has become more aggressive at the plate this season as well. Aggressive is a beaten down word around these parts. Just reading it seems to trigger a Pavlovian response in some people ready at every opportunity to bash Eric Wedge for he endorsed it.

However, as mentioned many times, aggressiveness, devoid of context, isn't a vice or a virtue. What matters is where it is applied. Dustin Ackley being more aggressive on pitches that are likely to get called strikes even though they are out of the strike zone is probably a good thing. And Saunders is another potential example of good aggression.

I'm going to go by StatCorner's current measurement of the strike zone, which is the Pitch F/X assigned top and bottom and the width of plate plus one inch on either side, but FanGraphs shows a similar trend for Saunders.

Swing rate in zone Swing rate out of zone
'09-'11 62% 29%
2012 71% 32%

Saunders is swinging more at pitches outside the zone, but not many more. And his swinging rate on pitches inside the strike zone has gone way up. That's generally good. It matters, of course, what the player does with the swings too, but generally the hope when it comes to plate discipline is to swing at strikes and not swing at not strikes. Michael Saunders has gotten better at that.

Saunders is, probably not coincidentally but possibly coincidentally, posting a career low strikeout rate in 2012. The extra swings haven't hurt his walk rate (7.2%) too much either as it is in line with his pre-2012 average of 8.2%.