Scooter Gennett: A Brewer’s Quest for Discipline

Scooter Gennett came into the season with a .300 batting average in 704 big-league plate appearance. The stat obviously has limited value, but it does suggest an ability to put a bat on a baseball. Gennett excels at it, sometimes to his detriment.

The 25-year-old second baseman puts a lot of balls in play. His Z-Contact% as a Milwaukee Brewer is 91.9 and his O-Contact% is 74. Both are higher than average, as are his swing rates on pitches in and out of the strike zone. Those aren’t issues when batted balls are going for base hits. They are when they’re being converted into easy outs.

Gennett was hitting .154 in mid-May and he was still south of the Mendoza line in late June. Quality of contact was the main culprit. The left-handed hitter was topping, and popping up, too many pitcher’s pitches. With his frustration level rising, he also began chasing out of the zone on two-strike counts, causing a slight up-tick in his K-rate.

A change of approach was in order. and so far the results are to his liking. Gennett has hit .317/.338/.444 over the last four weeks, raising his seasonal slash line to a more respectable .266/.300/.402. He still isn’t drawing many walks, but that’s not his goal. What he wants is to attack pitches he can barrel up, and not ones he can simply reach.

Gennett talked about his quest for discipline when the Brewers visited Wrigley Field in mid August.

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Gennett on his early-season struggles: “This is one of those years for me. Early on, nothing really went my way. Now I’m kind of clawing my way to getting back to a decent average. It’s been tough, but once you’ve proven you can hit .300 – a .300 hitter is a .300 hitter, give or take 10 or 20 points. Hopefully I can string together some hits and get closer to my normal numbers by the end of the season.

“I’m just trying to make solid contact, and from there it’s all about what the ball does after I hit it. All I’m really trying to do is hit the ball hard. The baseball gods take care of the rest. Of course, swinging at good pitches plays a role in that.”

On adjusting his approach: “I have good eye-hand coordination and tend to put the ball in play quite often. That can get me in trouble. Sometimes I’ll roll over balls that other guys would swing and miss. If I swing at something borderline and ground out to the third baseman, I probably should have waited for a better pitch to hit later in the at bat. I need to be more selective and not just swing at everything they throw up there.

“Instead of putting a ball in play on 2-1, there are times I should be taking. Maybe I’ll get to 3-1, and even if it’s a strike, he might make a mistake on 2-2. The more pitches you see, the more chances the pitcher is going to throw something middle. A guy like Matt Carpenter sees a lot of pitches. The better hitters won’t necessarily swing and miss more, but they will foul off tough pitches until they get something they can capitalize on.

“The adjustment I’m trying to make is to treat every pitch like it’s 2-0. I’ve come up with a simpler plan, which is to look for a pitch I can drive, rather than a pitch away that I can hit to left field. I tend to expand the zone when I do that.”

On how he’s being attacked: “I don’t know that I’m really being pitched all that differently this year. They’ve always seemed to want to get ahead, away, then get me to chase. I think that’s always been my (scouting) report. Get ahead, then throw me a bunch of whatever and hope I swing at it. They’ve use my aggressive against me.

“They’re not certainly grooving me fastballs. It’s not like when you first come up and it’s almost like, ‘You have to prove to me that you can hit my fastball.’ They’re not giving me good pitches to hit, but at the same time, I haven’t been putting myself in a position to get good pitches to hit. I haven’t been patient enough.

“It’s not easy to start taking more pitches. It’s not a thing you can just snap your fingers and do right away. It’s a process. It’s a goal, and I’m definitely not there yet. But if I can stop giving away at bats by swinging at the borderline pitches I’m seeing, the numbers are going to come.”

On the balancing act: “In the past few weeks, I’ve been in more 0-2 counts than ever before. I’m trying to be more patient, so if they’re throwing me tough pitches early on, boom, it’s 0-2. With all the great stuff a lot of these guys have, that doesn’t make it any easier. But in order to get better, I need to deal with that. Being more patient – even if the result is striking out a little more – means I can pick my spots a little more.

“A guy with really good stuff – maybe a great breaking ball – is someone I maybe don’t want to be quite as patient with. No one wants to get behind 0-2 on a Madison Bumgarner. Conversely. if a guy doesn’t really have a strikeout pitch, why would I swing at a tough pitch before I’ve got two strikes?

“You’re kind of sacrificing one for the other. If you’re more patient, you might have better power numbers – you might get a few better pitches to hit – but you’re also going to be in the hole more, and striking out more. That’s kind of where I’m at now, and I’ve never been that guy. I’ve never been real patient, so I don’t know what to expect. But I think that if I can incorporate patience into my game, I’ll benefit. I think I’ll be a better hitter.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Phillies113
7 years ago

This article is going to become retrospectively hilarious if Gennett is ever caught in some sort of S&M scandal in the future.

Damaso's Burnt Shirt
7 years ago
Reply to  Phillies113

Hope the Brewers don’t go hiring him a “Discipline Daddy” although I hear Tobias Funke is available.

Anonymous
7 years ago

I think we could all use an Analrapist at times