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Paul DeJong is Crushing the Ball...When He Hits It

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DeJong has struck out in 7 of his 19 plate appearances. He also has a team leading 93.8 mph exit velocity.

Pittsburgh Pirates v. St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/MLB Photos via Getty Images

There is practically no meaningful data that can be gleaned from such a small sample size as 19 plate appearances. However, it is interesting to see how Paul DeJong has begun the 2020 season. The Cardinal shortstop is batting just .235, but one of his four hits has been a home run while another fell for a double. While he also has two singles and six batted ball outs, he has still hit the ball hard in most of his at-bats that ended in something other than a walk or strikeout. In fact, DeJong has posted a 40% hard hit rate and a 20% barrel rate in the first few games of the season.

Additionally, DeJong is not striking out more because he is swinging at bad pitches. The soon to be 27 year old has actually experienced a 5% drop in his chase rate, from 28.1% in 2019 to 23.1% in 2020. The problem is that DeJong is simply making less contact. One possible reason for this could be that he simply had less time to get ready for this season as he only had an abbreviated summer camp before facing live arms in a competitive setting. It could be possible that his timing is slightly off or that he is still getting adjusted to in-game pitching.

Due to this, it seems unlikely that DeJong will continue to strike out at such a high clip. Additionally, it is possible, and even likely, that Dejong will stop hitting the ball so hard especially since he has just ten batted balls on the season. However, it is encouraging that DeJong has been able to hit the ball so hard to start the year. If he was making more contact in this period then it would be likely that the shortstop would be rivaling or even surpassing Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill as the most productive hitter on the team. In fact, there are just two hitters with the Cardinals with an xWOBACON above .400. The first is Tyler O’Neill at .405, and the other is DeJong at .547.

If DeJong could decrease his 35.5% whiff rate to near the 24.2% whiff rate he tallied in 2019, then he would be in a much better position to do damage, especially with how hard he is currently hitting the ball.

However, once again, it is important to remember that he has only taken 19 plate appearances, so these numbers essentially mean nothing. They are simply highlight an early season trend for DeJong that is prone to change as his numbers are simply too extreme to remain static. Regardless, it would entertaining to see DeJong make more contact while he is hitting the ball so hard and if he can keep crushing the ball, then he might be headed for a bit of a hot streak at the plate.