Matt den Dekker’s Plate Discipline Hinders Opportunity

Newsday, Matt den Dekker & Terry Collins

Newsday, Matt den Dekker & Terry Collins 

Questions continue to loom over who will be starting where in the outfield, especially in centerfield. And Matt den Dekker still isn’t the answer.

Some thought Kirk Nieuwenhuis would run away with the competition, but he’s failed to stay healthy, and has looked completely lost in his brief action. Collin Cowgill is a fun outfielder to dream about, but doesn’t prove to be an immediate upgrade over Nieuwenhuis, or have the make up of an everyday center fielder. Of course there’s the Jordany Valdespin experiment, who at this point, deserves the start in centerfield over the rest of the competition. I’ll take power and attitude over the rest. Then there’s Matt den Dekker. Everyone knows about his glove, he’s a gold-glove caliber defender; a true centerfielder.

But the question that looms with every Mets outfielder: can he hit enough?

One of den Dekker’s glaring weaknesses is his ability to put the ball in play. In his career, den Dekker has a strikeout percentage of 26.5%. One of the more glaring impressions is his increased K% from in 2012. At Double-A Binghamton, den Dekker was whiffing at 24.1%, but when promoted to Buffalo, it climbed to 28.5%. This also caused a drop in his walk rate, down 3.3%. To sum things up, according to Fangraphs, anything above 27.5% for K% is “Awful”, as is a walk rate below 4%.

Moving forward with den Dekker’s plate discipline, we now take a look at some percentages from his time in Triple-A Buffalo. Note: den Dekker spent most of his time in Buffalo (312 PA), so these will give us a good indication of what he can do against better pitching.

According to these percentages, den Dekker is well-below the league average for O-Swing%, the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside of the strike zone. This is not a bad thing, as it shows the den Dekker can lay off the stuff outside the zone. His Z-Swing%, pitches a batter swings at inside the zone, is just above the league-average.

Stat League Average den Dekkers %’s
O-Swing% 30% 16.9%
Z-Swing% 65% 69.4%
O-Contact% 46% 51.6%
Z- Contact% 88% 78.1%
Zone% 45% 56.7%
SwStr% 59% 72.9%

To the more glaring states, lets focus on his Z-Contact%, Zone%, and SwStr%. den Dekker’s 78.1% Z-Contact is well-below the league-average for the percentage of contact he makes when swinging at pitches in the zone. Moving forward, his Zone% is 11.7% higher than the league average. Furthermore, his SwStr% (percentage of total pitches a batter swings and misses on) is waaaaay above the league average of 59%; den Dekker was at 72.9% during his Tripe-A campaign.These can point out the flaws within den Dekker’s swing. He tends to have a longer swing, which can help in the homerun department, but hurts him as a leadoff hitter because of more strikeouts.

In this at-bat, you can see how he pulls out his front shoulder, but has good insticts to stay back and slap the ball the other way. Major league pitching will expose this and he will not be able to get away with the “excuse me” swing. Pitch recognition is something that has been haunting him all spring, as it haunted Kirk Nieuwenhuis throughout his rookie campaign. Questions loom over whether den Dekker has the bat speed and pitch recognition to be in the lineup every day. But if he can make those adjustments, he can play his way into the future of Citi Field.

This is what halts him from being a everyday starting MLB outfielder, to a possible Jeremy Reed type player. Lets hope for the former.

What are your impressions of Matt den Dekker? Would you start him up in the majors? (Remember, he’s not on the 40-man roster).

2013 Spring Training, Mets Minors

About the Author

Kyle Schnitzer's biggest memory as a Mets fan is when Carlos Beltran went down on strike 3 against Adam Wainwright in game 7 of the NLCS. Since then, he hasn't expected much from the Mets. The new regime gives him hope. When he's not writing here, he's writing somewhere else, bussing tables, tweeting, or riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter: @dakyleschnitzer

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