Do you know what’s sort of insane? It’s obvious to everyone that Kris Bryant is still adjusting and getting comfortable this season, yet the 2016 MVP still has a 111 wRC+ on the season. Specifically, Bryant’s biggest adjustment is to the locations at which pitchers throw him fastballs with two strikes.
Compared to last season, when he normally saw four-seamers away, pitchers are now attacking Bryant up and near his hands in two-strike counts. We can illustrate this change by plotting the probability of four-seam fastballs by zone location. It’s pretty wild just how much pitchers have changed their approach this season.
Bryant hasn’t yet been able to make contact against those up-and-in fastballs, which probably is giving pitchers more reason to throw there. In 2018, there was less than a 10 percent chance Bryant would whiff against fastballs in on his hands with two strikes. But this year, that likelihood is greater than 75 percent.
So should Bryant just look for fastballs up an in with two strikes? Not necessarily. The odds he sees such a pitch is much lower than seeing a breaking pitch. So It might be best for him to figure out why he is whiffing against high-and-in pitches rather than just expecting them. I think these sorts of analyses can be dangerous if over-interpreted, and only Bryant and his coaches know possible solutions.
All we know is that when pitchers throw KB a fastball with two strikes, most of them are aimed right at his hands and he’s whiffing against a lot of those pitches. But don’t bet on that being the case for long.