Three Ways Corey Dickerson Is a Big Giant Freak

Even though the Rays lost on Tuesday, they’re still hanging around, with a higher number of wins than losses. The pitching staff, overall, has been neither good nor bad, which I suppose is what you’d expect from a roughly .500 ballclub. Something a little more surprising might be that the Rays have been baseball’s second-best baserunning team. And even bigger than that, the Rays presently rank fifth in team wRC+, between the Dodgers and the Reds. The Rays have struck out, but they’ve still scored runs, with the team very much a legitimate wild-card contender.

If you want to talk about the Rays offense, you should give some attention to Logan Morrison. Once you’re done doing that, you should give further attention to Steven Souza Jr. And once you’re done doing that, you should give the rest of your attention to Corey Dickerson. Dickerson’s been the best hitter on the team, and he’s also been one of the very best hitters in the league, placing just behind Bryce Harper in wRC+. The Rays have known for a while that Dickerson is a pure and talented hitter, but so far he’s made the most of his skills. We should discuss those skills. Dickerson’s is a highly unusual offensive skillset.

This is all inspired by a double that Dickerson just hit. Chances are you’ve already seen it because it was the sort of highlight that tends to go viral. Here’s Corey Dickerson doubling in his most recent game:

Looks kind of weird, right? There’s a good reason for that. A side view:

Zoom that in.

Corey Dickerson got a pitch that bounced in the dirt. Corey Dickerson hit a pitch for a double. They were the same pitch. To make matters all the more insane, Dickerson had done this before. And he claims to have done it in the minor leagues. No hitter really wants to swing at pitches in the dirt, and no hitter could ride that trait to sustainable success, but here’s Dickerson, with more than one dirt-covered knock. In the following plot, courtesy of Baseball Savant, you can see all of the 2017 hits, with Dickerson’s double in red:

There’s one lower hit. I can’t just gloss over that, so, real quick, come with me back to April 12. Here’s the aftermath:

Congratulations, J.T. Riddle! How did you-

Suffice to say we’re dealing with different kinds of hits. They count just the same as far as batting average is concerned, but Riddle tried to not swing, and the ball found both the bat and fair territory. That Riddle wound up with a single was basically an accident. Dickerson’s double was less of an accident. He swung with intent and wound up rewarded. OK.

In the headline, I promised three things. This is getting to one of them. One way that Corey Dickerson is a weirdo is the way he covers the plate. Perhaps it would be better to say the way he covers the hitting area. Dickerson made his big-league debut in 2013. Since 2013, Dickerson is tied for the big-league lead in number of hits off pitches less than one foot off the ground. At the same time, he’s tied for second place in number of hits off pitches more than four feet off the ground. Dickerson goes low, and Dickerson goes high. The ball doesn’t always find the barrel, but it finds the barrel in some unusual places.

Why don’t we move on to point number two? Dickerson is aggressive. He swings aggressively. His career swing rate has steadily climbed, and right now he has the highest swing rate in baseball. Related to that, he has the highest out-of-zone swing rate in baseball. Dickerson chases a lot, and he does so arguably too much. But his swing rates don’t tell you everything. One could also look at how often Dickerson makes actual contact. Here comes another scatter plot. This shows in-zone contact and out-of-zone contact since 2013.

It’s a sample of 455 players. In terms of in-zone contact rate, Dickerson ranks 427th. However, by out-of-zone contact rate, he ranks 78th. To put it differently, Dickerson’s contact-rate difference comes out to 7.6 percentage points. The average difference is 24.6 percentage points. Dickerson is tied for the very lowest difference in the sample, with Pablo Sandoval. And that, in this way, makes for a fitting comparison. Dickerson hits kind of like peak Sandoval did, and the situation in 2017 is even more extreme. This year, so far, Dickerson has made 75% in-zone contact, and 74% out-of-zone contact. Dickerson hasn’t actually excelled when he’s put bad pitches into play, but he’s made himself tough to attack, and challenging to put away. He hits the pitches he’s thrown. A breaking ball off the plate isn’t necessarily going to get a better result than a fastball down the middle.

One more thing. The third thing. This is something I’ve written about here once before, but it’s been a while. Since then, Dickerson’s pattern has kept up, as the sample has increased in size. Dickerson is running a .269 ISO, and his career mark is .236. Dickerson has pulled 45% of his grounders, and his career mark is 43%. That’s an atypical mix. It’s not like we give a whole lot of attention to grounder pull rates, but look what happens when you do! Here’s one more plot of data going back to 2013.

There’s scatter, obviously, as different hitters produce in different ways. But the general link is clear: If you want to hit for power, you’ll end up pulling more of your grounders. It’s reflective of how swings work, as swings that send grounders in other directions tend not to strike the ball with authority. There’s just no denying what Dickerson has accomplished. This particular sample includes 356 players. Dickerson is 12th in ISO, and 337th in pulled grounder rate. The 10 players around him in pulled grounder rate have averaged an ISO of .101. The 10 players around him in ISO have averaged a pulled grounder rate of 58%. The only other players with ISO marks over .200 and pulled grounder rates under 50% are Paul Goldschmidt and Ryan Braun. They’re still not all that close. Dickerson stands alone as a statistical anomaly.

And that’s what he is as a player. In terms of total plate coverage, few hitters have bigger zones. In terms of where contact takes place, few hitters care so little whether a pitch is a strike. And the way that Dickerson’s very swing works is uncommon, as it manages to spray grounders while also punishing extra-base hits. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Corey Dickerson ought to be a future hitting coach. It’s a short list of players who can come close to doing what he does. But he’s been doing it now for a number of years. By the numbers, Corey Dickerson is a big giant freak. A freak the Rays love to have hitting first.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

I’m sure he can run high BABIP but .400 seems to be pushing it. This piece read well but may not age well!

The Ghost of Stephen Drews Bat
5 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Sullivan

Can confirm. Was weirdo in elementary school, still weirdo in college.

5 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Sullivan

Man I can’t argue that!

Also dude you are a grinder. How you keep churning out so many quality pieces so frequently is insane.