Let’s Look at the Data Behind Bo Bichette’s No-Stride Approach

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Bichette is a ton of fun to watch at the plate, and that’s especially the case in two-strike counts. He takes on the old school approach of physically altering his swing to avoid striking out. There is something aesthetically pleasing about a player who refuses to strike out; it’s admirable, even. It can also be rewarding.

Bichette has used a no-stride two-strike approach his entire career, but back in 2022, he started standing a bit taller, with his weight pre-shifted into his rear hip to go along with his no-stride load. In 2021, his .212 wOBA with two strikes was well behind the league-wide mark of .236. As a hitter with an above-average hit tool and a knack for making good contact on pitches off the plate, that performance simply wasn’t good enough. Indeed, it’s the exact sort of thing that would force most hitters to try something else, which is what Bichette did. While his wOBA and xwOBA in two-strike counts showed no tangible improvement, 2022 was (and still is) his best full season by wRC+ (130). Whatever the results were, Bichette’s overall offensive game was thriving, so instead of reverting back to the more crouched setup, he built upon his new two-strike stance to improve it.

In 2023, Bichette’s .233 two-strike wOBA was in line with the league average (.232), while his .250 xwOBA was .018 points higher than league average. He decreased his whiff rate with two strikes by about four percentage points from 2022, and his strikeout rate dropped three percentage points as a result. That’s notable, of course, but remember: More contact isn’t always better for a chase-prone player like Bichette, as a batter’s quality of contact on pitches outside the zone is typically worse than on those over the plate. The key here is that Bichette’s reduction in whiffs came with better contact; last year he had the best xwOBACON with two strikes (.389) of his career.

Despite the continued improvement in his two-strike approach this season (.283 wOBA), Bichette’s 2024 has been rough overall. After 261 plate appearances, he sits at a 83 wRC+ and grim .322 xwOBA. The root of his issues seems to be with his approach. His SEAGER mark, which measures selectivity and rate of hittable pitches taken, dropped from 16.7 in 2023 to 8 this year. That’s a drop from the 74th percentile to the 23rd. For some reason, that hasn’t carried over into hurting his two-strike approach, but it is still concerning for his overall offensive profile.

That said, Bichette’s two-strike improvement has kept him afloat. Altogether, these improvements not only represent a significant development for him going forward, but they’ve also proven essential for saving his 2024 season. But why is Bichette’s two-strike approach working and continuing to improve? What did the taller posture and shifted weight actually do for his swing? For that, we’ll have to look at some video.

2021 Two-Strike Swings

2024 Two-Strike Swings

While this would be much easier to see from a side-facing angle, it’s still evident how Bichette has cleaned up the small things in his swing. His hands and hips are in a better position to fire than they were in 2021. In the past, he created an over-rotation with his hips and torso when he got his swing going. Everything got spinny, and he would often end up off balance or with his head thwacking toward the third base on-deck circle. From the pitcher’s perspective, it was clear he was wrapping his bat way too much. The letters on the back of his jersey were almost facing the second baseman! Now, his feet are securely on the ground and his body isn’t dancing in the batter’s box even when he is off balance in the upper half. This has resulted in the best start to his career with two strikes. (As an aside, Bichette still uses a leg kick every now and then with two strikes. I’m not sure why, but I thought it’d be important to clarify. Now, back to his approach.)

In the past, this was about where an analysis of a two-strike approach would end. Thankfully, we can now put Bichette’s approach in the context of Statcast’s new bat tracking data. A couple weeks back, Mike Petriello explored the overall two-strike approach in the majors and found some interesting things. On average, hitters slow their swings down by 1.6 mph in two-strike counts. But like anything in baseball, two-strike approaches exist on a spectrum. Hitters like José Caballero and Nolan Arenado slow their swings down as much as 4 mph on average, while Jesse Winker speeds his up.

Bichette falls in line with the rest of the league. He drops his average bat speed from 71.1 mph in counts with fewer than two strikes to 69.3 mph in counts with two strikes. Overall, Bichette is in the 30th percentile in average bat speed at 70.6 mph. The fact that he slows his bat in two-strike counts isn’t the surprise – Petriello’s research has made that clear. What I’m interested in is whether a player who changes his mechanics in tandem with slowing down his swing is doing so effectively, and if not, what we should take away from that. While it’s the norm for hitters to slow their swings down with two strikes, not everybody is doing so with success. Just because you slow your swing down doesn’t mean you automatically have a better opportunity to put the ball in play or – more importantly – square the ball up. For some guys, it can lead to mechanical deficiencies.

Bichette’s mechanics and approach are an interesting starting point to this conversation because the adjustment he makes is so visually obvious, which isn’t necessarily the case with other hitters. With the new bat tracking data and metrics, we can assess the quality of his swings and determine if his approach leads to shorter swings that produce solid contact. Generally speaking, the concept of shortening and slowing your swing down with two strikes has two goals: to avoid whiffing and to give yourself a better chance to square the ball up, even if it won’t lead to big time contact. For Bichette, that seems to be working better than ever.

He uses a shorter swing in two-strike counts (7.4 feet vs. 7.3 feet), just like the rest of the league. While we may not be able to confirm that for previous years, we now have data that say so for this season. Shortening up has also helped him whiff significantly less with two strikes than the league average (19.3% vs. 24.3%). It’d be ideal if his whiffing less led to a lot of solid contact. With the help of Statcast’s new squared-up and blasts metrics, we can get an idea of how Bichette has fared.

A squared-up ball is defined as a batted ball where a hitter attains at least 80% of the maximum exit velocity based on their swing speed and pitch speed. In two-strike counts, the league average rate is 26.5% of all swings. Bichette’s rate is 25.4%. It’s fluctuated above and below the league average rate all season. So based on flush contact alone, he’s been close to the league average hitter. What helps him is his ability to spray the ball at an ideal launch angle, and that leads to his very good wOBACON in two-strike counts so far in 2024.

Where Bichette has really excelled relative to the league has been with blasts. A blast is usually when a batter squares a ball up when swinging the bat at least 82 mph, though there are other components that could make a batted ball qualify as a blast with a swing speed below 82 mph. It’s much more difficult for a hitter with below-average bat speed to produce blasts, as it takes closer to their peak bat speed to produce this type of swing. Bichette has produced blasts in two-strikes counts with 13.2% of his swings, whereas the league average is a mere 9.7%. That puts him in the 75th percentile out of 214 qualified hitters. Pretty darn good for a hitter with 30th percentile average bat speed! Basically, despite his shortening up, he is still able to swing fast and impact the ball if the situation calls for it. Being able to crush a mistake while also not whiffing on well-executed pitches is a fantastic blend for a two-strike approach.

The combination of video, performance, and bat tracking information helps tell a nice story about a hitter’s two-strike approach. For Bichette, his no-stride and pre-set rotation helps him create above-average contact while also avoiding too many whiffs. As we get a better understanding of how to apply the bat tacking data, I’ll continue to pay keen attention to hitters with clear two-strike approaches. We’ve known that hitters have always employed these strategies, but seeing how they go about doing so is an exciting development in public analysis.

Esteban is a contributing writer at FanGraphs. You can also find his work at Pinstripe Alley if you so dare to read about the Yankees. Find him on Twitter @esteerivera42 for endless talk about swing mechanics.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cool Lester Smoothmember
10 days ago

A .322 wOBA would have him at a 110 wRC+, in this year’s run environment!

Great film breakdown as usual, Esteban!