Infante growing up

This is going to be a pretty uncharacteristic post for me in that it is a mostly subjective analysis of a player. Watching Omar Infante for the last two weeks is like watching a completely different player than last year. In 2003 Infante looked severly overmatched, and the popular knock is that he appeared to drift. Watching his at-bats this year I see a confident hitter with a great command of the strike zone. Going into Friday night’s game he was hitting .288/.387/.519.

He has increased his walk rate from .075 BB/PA to .145 BB/PA. What’s particularly impressive about the walk rate is that it’s coming from the number 9 spot in the order. A spot that typically doens’t get pitched around. Looking at #9 hitters with at least 50 plate apperances, Infante leads by a sizable margin with Chris Gomez second at .086. Even beyond the walk rate, just watching his at-bats he’s not just not swinging at bad pitches. He’s also laying off strikes that he doesn’t like early in the count, and waiting for pitches he can handle. He’s averaging 4.10 pitches per plate appearance. While 62 PA’s is a pretty small sample size, if he continues to use this type of approach it should be a very successful season for him.

So what happened to Omar for this turn around to occur? Afterall, he struggled mightily last year with Detroit and Toledo. In AAA his OPS was just .596! Then in Infante went to Venezuela for winter ball and he had a strong season. Another possible explanation is the influence of fellow Venezuelan Carlos Guillen serving as a mentor. The third possiblity is that at 22, it just started to click for Omar.

Quick Hits
-I’m working on moving from the old table flavored design to a CSS layout. Things won’t really look that much different, but I hear this is a good thing to do.
-The Hardball Times, one of my favorite sources of cool and unusual stats has a blog posting (no permalink) about pitchers with the largest strike out percentage. Nate Robertson leads the AL striking out 26.3% of non-intentional walk batters faced.
-Even though the Mariners are struggling, the quality of Mariner blogs is very high. Given that we’re playing the M’s, here are two of my favotites, Mariner’s Wheelhouse and Mariner’s Musings.