Yes, I am aware we are only a little over a week into the season, and Luis Robert’s MLB career. There was concern about his overly aggressive approach coming into the year, but he’s been killing it so far. How good has he been though?
Robert is tied for 2nd in the MLB in WAR (Fangraphs) and 1st in the AL- he’s tied with Aaron Judge, who is on fire and just hit six homers in his last five games for the Yankees. The scary part here is that Robert is generating this much value without really hitting for the power we know he’s capable of. He’s hitting .351 right now with two home runs and he has definitely shown power, but some of his WAR is also coming from his elite defense in centerfield; he’s currently 5th in the MLB in Def- which measure’s defensive value relative to league average. Check out the Top 5 below.
Robert’s defense has helped boost his WAR, but he’s also hitting .351 with two homers and I want to focus in on his hitting now.
Robert’s approach is to swing at pretty much everything. Think I’m wrong? Check out the MLB leaders in swing percentage this season. (Number of pitches swung at / Number of pitches seen).
Robert is all alone in first by quite a large margin. Usually you’d like to see a more patient approach, but Robert’s success has actually come from his aggressive approach so far. Below is the MLB leaders in swing percentage on pitches in the strike-zone
Robert leads the MLB at swinging at pitches in the strike-zone. So even though he swings at almost everything, he’s definitely not letting the good ones by. When you swing at that many pitches it’s tough to not get anything to hit, especially with Robert’s incredible ability to hit.
The next step for pitchers against Robert is to throw even more balls to try to get him to chase (he is top five in swing % outside of the zone too). If Robert can do a little better job recognizing those balls, he can be even more scary, but at the same time you don’t want him to get in his own head and take some of those good pitches he’s been crushing.
It should also be noted that Robert has also gotten the second-highest percentage of sliders of anyone on the White Sox thus far (41.5%- only behind Eloy Jimenez) and has fared above-average against them. His struggles have been more with cutters and changeups.
Robert has already had 11 balls leave his bat with a 95+ mph exit velocity this season- so the power is there. Even though he has been the most aggressive hitter in the league at the plate, he swings at such as high percentage of the good pitches that it hasn’t hurt him. He also has such an advanced hitting ability that he can hit bad balls too. He is a problem for opposing pitching who are still trying to figure out how to beat him.