Is Rosario Hitting Better Because He’s Batting Leadoff?

Amed Rosario is scorching hot. Entering Tuesday, since August 10th, Rosario had hit .307/.342/.467, looking more and more like the top-100 prospect he was proclaimed to be in the minor leagues. All of that production has come while Rosario has hit in the lead-off spot – something of note as Callaway has said publicly that he likes Rosario’s approach in the leadoff spot. But is Rosario truly seeing better results as a result of hitting in the leadoff spot, or did Rosario start riding a hot streak coincidentally at the same time that he began leading off?

The difficulty in batting low in the order is that pitchers are unafraid to pitch around hitters, as the next hitter is usually a weak hitter or the pitcher – as a result, one might expect batters to see fewer pitches in the zone or pitches to hit, as there is less of a penalty for walking a hitter in facing the next. So if lineup orders had a specific impact on what Rosario was seeing at the plate, we should expect to see a difference in pitches from when Rosario is batting down in the order and when Rosario is batting leadoff. From March 29th (the start of the season) to July 21st, Rosario primarily hit down in the order, usually 8th or 9th. Since then, Rosario has primarily hit leadoff – we’ll compare what Rosario is being offered in these two spans to see if pitchers are pitching Rosario differently as a result of him hitting leadoff.

Before July 21 After July 21
Pitches in Zone 53.10% 51.00%
Fastballs in Zone 33.10% 32.00%
Middle-Middle Pitches 7.90% 5.90%

Despite seeing a majority of plate appearances in the leadoff spot instead of batting down in the order, pitchers have not been pitching Rosario more aggressively¬†as a result of him batting up in the order – pitchers have not been giving Rosario more to hit or throwing him better pitches. Perhaps Rosario feels more comfortable batting leadoff – but he’s not seeing an increase of results simply from pitchers throwing him differently.

Rosario is also not seeing a particularly new mix of pitches from batting leadoff – pitches have consistently fed him fastballs with some offspeed stuff away to keep him at bay.

Rosario Pitch%

What is driving Rosario’s hot streak, then? Since August 10th, Rosario has run a .357 BABIP (compared to a .305 total for his career) – it seems as though Rosario is riding some flukey BABIP luck to improved numbers. But beneath the surface, there are some tangible improvements that Rosario is seeing – for starters, Rosario has been steadily improving on his swing-miss rate on in-zone pitches, and it’s starting to show.Rosario Zone Swing/Miss

Rosario wants to be making contact on his zone swings. Considering that Rosario’s value comes usually from a combination of contact and speed, the more contact he makes, the better – he can’t afford to be like Joey Gallo in swinging through everything in hopes that when he connects, it goes somewhere hard. Considering Rosario has run a .343 wOBA on zone-contact pitches this season, improving his zone-contact rate is a promising development. So Rosario has been seeing the ball better – and seeing better results.

How sustainable is this? It’s a little bit too soon to tell. But at the very least, it’s a promising improvement for Rosario, who has certainly struggled in his first full season. Taking small steps like this are the keys to unlocking Rosario’s full potential for the Mets for next season.

About John Edwards 16 Articles
John Edwards is a baseball analytics writer, contributing to MMO, The Athletic, and Sporting News. In his spare time, he moonlights as a college student.