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).

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
  1. nymets_news_esp March 21, 2013 at 7:45 am
    I would give him a chance. With Duda in the outfield, a good glove in CF would be more than welcome.
  2. AV March 21, 2013 at 7:52 am
    He’s a left-handed Mike Cameron. Eventually his defense will get him to the majors for a team that needs defense and would be fine with him hitting 6, 7, or 8 in the lineup.
  3. Craig Roth March 21, 2013 at 8:28 am
    At every level he has proven that he figured it out after a slow start and his power increased as well! He has speed and is starting to hit in ST like yesterdays basehit to drive in two runs late in the game to give the mets the lead for good! With his gold glove defense and the fact that Duda is in left and 35 year old Byrd is in right MDD’s defense would really make a difference and maybe save a run a game here and there! When Murphy returns platoon Spin with Byrd in RF so that 35 year old Byrd can stay fresh!
    • Joe Janish March 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm
      I’d like to see MDD’s glove in center but I’m not sure I agree with your statement that his power increased at every level — from the stats, it appears that he either stayed the same, or his power decreased, though it depends on your perspective.

      In 2010, the sample size was too small in his jump from Brooklyn to the GCL (only 21 plate appearances in GCL), but combined he hit 0 HR and had a .459 SLG in 135 PAs.

      in 2011, his combined stats at two levels was 17 HR and .460 SLG in 616 PAs. It’s hard to compare 616 PAs to the 135 in 2010, so instead let’s look at the two levels:

      2011 A (Port St. Lucie): 6 HR, .494 SLG in 302 PAs
      2011 AA (Binghamton): 11 HR, .426 SLG in 312 PAs

      His home runs increased in AA, but his overall power decreased by nearly 70 points.

      In 2012, his combined stats at AA and AAA were 17 HR, .458 SLG in 585 PAs. If you compare 2012 to 2011, those numbers are fairly identical. Now let’s look at the split.

      2012 AA (Binghamton): 8 HR, .563 SLG in 268 PAs
      2012 AAA (Buffalo): 9 HR, .373 SLG in 317 PAs

      So, he hit one more homer in AAA, but did so in more plate appearances, so his HR rate actually dropped. Then there is the nearly 200-point drop in slugging — wow.

      Again, this is just looking at the end-of-year numbers. I didn’t get to watch nor follow him through each season so for all I know, his production increased toward the end of each year at the new level.

  4. Dan B March 21, 2013 at 11:34 am
    Am I the only one tired of debating the Met outfield? I keep feeling that whoever the starters are on Opening Day have only a slight chance to be the starters on Aug. 1st. And I wouldn’t be surprised if at least two of the Aug 1st outfielders are not in the Met system now. I am not interested in lefty/righty or power/speed since right now nobody qualifies as an outfielder of the future and if someone does step up, the Mets can find others to fit around that one.
    • Joe Janish March 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm
      Well, it’s either talk about the three question marks in the outfield, or start talking about the distressing situation in the starting rotation — i.e., “the team strength.”

      Which rabbit hole is more depressing?

  5. Bowl-O-Rama March 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm
    The Mets should continue to bowl all Spring. It’s doing wonders for their team health.

    Marcum (shoulder)
    Murphy (intercostal)
    Wright (ribs)

    I know I’d rather hear about Marcum’s “wicked bowling ball” that he uses “only for spares” (According to Terry Collins) than about him pitching for the Mets.

  6. Dan B March 21, 2013 at 1:21 pm
    I am just getting cranky. I want it warm and I want regular season baseball. As much as I fear Marcum and Santana will combine for 30 starts between them (because if they are not hurt, they will be traded) and as much as the Mets might still need a number one ace in a few years which will be Santana-expensive, at least there are starting pitchers in the Mets system now who could still be around when the punting is over.
    • Joe Janish March 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm
      Fair enough Dan. Agreed on the starting pitchers in the Mets system — they do provide optimism. Reminds me of the mid-1990s, when the Mets stunk but at least we had Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher down on the farm and scheduled to enter the rotation and lead the Mets to the Promised Land soon enough.

      Oh, wait …..

  7. Izzy March 22, 2013 at 7:42 am
    If you are building a team around pitching you should also think a bit of building some defense. This guy can help pitchers on the field, unlike Duda, the old roid dude, Murphy and to a lesser extent Tejada. I guess Alderson continues to prove he doesn’t have a plan. He wants to be a quilter. Unfortunately, quilting rarely works in baseball.
  8. Bowl-O-Rama March 22, 2013 at 9:18 am
    Tim Byrdak rolled a 300 last night at PSL Lanes.