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Explaining the Struggles of Andrew Benintendi

I, along with many others, was greatly disappointed with Andrew Benintendi in 2019. Last year he was supposed to take a step forward. Unfortunately, he instead took a giant step backward. What happened exactly? Is this what to expect from Benintendi going forward?

These are the type of answers I seek to provide answers to.

Before diving deep into what went wrong, I like to look at the surface stats. Last season, Benintendi posted 72 runs, 13 home runs, 68 RBI and 10 stolen bases. This was accompanied by a triple-slash of .266/.343/.431. Although he only played in 138 games, the triple-slash numbers were all career-worst marks. He still managed to put up double-digit steals and home runs but it was not nearly enough production to justify the draft price he cost entering 2019. He was every bit of a draft day bust in terms of fantasy baseball goes but now comes the time to dive in deeper and figure out what went wrong.

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Plate Discipline

The best place to start when analyzing a player's performance is typically with plate discipline metrics; it gives you an instant look of possible changes in the profile.

Taking a quick look, he literally took a step backwards in every metric. With those steps back, Andrew Benintendi posted career-worse marks in:

  • O-Swing% - 33.0%
  • O-Contact% - 82.6%
  • Contact% - 77.3%
  • SwStr% - 11.6%

Although a lot of these numbers are close to league average, they are far off his career norms. The most eye-popping being the gain of O-Swing% and SwStr%. The O-Swing% was 4% higher than any previous season and the SwStr% almost doubled compared to any previous season. After posting past rates of 7.4%, 7.6% and 7.5%, Benintendi managed to put up a SwStr% of 11.6%.

Benintendi also had career-high marks in overall Swing% as well as Z-Swing%. This added aggression at the plate paired with more swing-and-miss is not exactly the kind of correlation you are hoping to see.


Advanced Stats

Right away, you see Benintendi took a step back in walk rate and the strikeout rate in 2019. The 9.6% walk rate he posted was better than league average but was his lowest walk rate since 2016. The strikeout rate was also about league average at 22.8%.

This was a career-worst mark and 6.8% higher than 2018 and 5.8% higher than 2017. Essentially, the swing-and-miss noted in his plate discipline is evident and a direct cause for the increased strikeout rate.

Benintendi’s BABIP was the second highest of his career at .333 and just about inline with his .328 BABIP from 2018. This will vary, but it seems sustainable. His wRC+ was still at 100 which is league average. The wOBA was also a career-worst at .330 which isn’t a surprise considering the way things have been trending at this point.


Batted Ball Data

Andrew Benintendi has very interesting batted ball data.

You can see the GB% of 38.3% was down from 2018. That was accompanied by a career-best FB% of 40.7%.

That is what you want to see, right?

Typically, yes you would, but this led to less than desirable results. Although Benintendi made an obvious emphasis to get the ball in the air, the desired results did not follow. We saw a career-high infield fly ball rate (or IFFB%) of 10.3% and the second lowest HR/FB he has ever posted of 7.9%. Obviously this is not the desired outcome when you see the ball being put in the air more.

When a player puts the ball in the air more and adds aggression to his profile, you sometimes see some emphasis placed on pulling the ball more. This is usually in order to maximize potential power output. Well, this was not the case for Andrew Benintendi. As you can see, he pulled the ball less in 2019 and put more up the middle. This would hurt the power production a bit due to not being a natural power hitter. There were some changes we will get to shortly that could explain this change.



Benintendi typically struggles verse lefties but hits right-handed pitching well. However, 2019 was a bit of a different story. He has a career .247 batting average against left-handed pitchers but crushes right-handed pitchers to a tune of .287.

In 2019, Benintendi hit better against left-handed pitchers than he did verse right-handed pitchers. Hitting for a batting average of .269 against said lefties and just .265 against righties. This growth verse lefties could be encouraging if it sustains but if he can pair this growth with regression to the career norms verse righties, we could see a more complete hitter in Benintendi.

Beyond the split differences, Benintendi also struggled with offspeed and breaking pitches more than usual.

Since 2016, he never hit under .250 against offspeed pitches, yet last season Benintendi hit only .167 against them. The xBA against offspeed pitches was 69 points higher at .236. This is potentially another indicator that he was a bit unlucky and could suggest a little more positive regression heading his way.


Tangible Change

It has become pretty well known that Andrew Benintendi had a swing change take place in 2019. The earliest I could find the swing change while I was watching video was 7/21/2019 against the Orioles. You can see a clear change in the stance.

On the left shows the new batting stance he started on 7/21/2019 and on the right was the old stance prior to the change. If you watch the video or look at the picture there were changes in the stances.

The changes noticed:

  • Closed his stance
  • Less pre-swing bat movement
  • Less of a leg kick

We can see there is a clear change in his stance and approach but did it pay dividends?

Taking a look at some of the ratio data, you can see a few clear changes in the production after the swing change.

The drop in walk rate and strikeout rate suggest he may have been a bit more aggressive at the plate. You also see improvements in batting average and slugging percentage as well. The change in approach seemed to pay some dividends on the surface.

Diving a bit deeper into things, this is the batted ball data.

Closing the stance would explain why Benintendi pulled the ball less and put it up the middle more. Typically, you want players to not hit less fly balls, but this may have been a good change in his profile. He dropped the fly balls but increased the line drive rate by 7.7%. That fits his skill set better as he is not a power first type of hitter. This will, however, play better for his batting average as a whole.

Although he hit less fly balls, it appears the quality of the fly balls improved. His HR/FB doubled. That efficiency would make up for drop in fly ball rate and it would also explain the gain in slugging percentage after the swing change.

Lastly, I will take a look at some plate discipline numbers.

There are actually some interesting findings. The swinging strike rate still remained uncharacteristically high and the contact rates slightly improved, while the aggression is noted in the increase in O-Swing. He did make less contact with pitches in the zone but he improved the contact on pitches out of the zone by 3.5%.

There isn't a whole lot to take away from this that we didn't already cover earlier when it was broken down previously. I expect regression to the mean as he resets his approach entering 2020.


Statcast Data

The Statcast data for Andrew Benintendi does show he could be due for some positive regression in the power numbers of all things. His .461 xSLG which was 30 points higher than his actual SLG of .431 that he produced for the year. This xSLG lines up pretty closely to the slugging percentage we started seeing after the swing change, so it may be a true indication of things to come.

Benintendi posted career-high marks in barrel rate (8.1%) and hard hit percentage (37.7%). Essentially the quality of contact is also at it's best. Pair that with the expected slugging percentage and maybe the power will play up. This is actually the third straight season we have seen an improvement in the barrel rate for Benintendi.

One of the biggest statistics that stand out is the launch angle. It took a huge jump from 12.6 degrees in 2018 to 17.3 degrees in 2019. That was 2.9 degrees higher than any launch angle of any previous season. As you can see, the launch angle slowly came back down as the season went on. Right around the time of the batting stance change.

So although the average launch angle may tell one story, and likely explains the early season fly ball rates, it appears he got back to his usual launch angle.


2020 Outlook

I don't think this struggling version of the now 25 year-old Andrew Benintendi is what we should expect. I doubt he has suddenly fallen off a cliff. Prior to the injury in the second half, we saw him attempting to correct the issues he was having for the first half of the season. If the swing change and production that followed can continue into 2020, we can see a good bounce back campaign for Benintendi.

He may just be who he is though. People often hold onto hope of him taking a step forward but maybe there is just a happy medium of production. I could easily see a player who annually puts up 20 to 25 home runs, with 15 or so stolen bases and hit .270-plus. That is a solid player and fantasy contributor.

In spring training, prior to things getting shut down, he posted a triple-slash of .286/ .348/ .824 with one home run and one stolen base. Albeit in just 23 plate appearances, it appeared he was on the right track and getting back into good habits. Production in spring training is not necessarily an indication of things to come but in this case, it is definitely something you want to see from a player who is coming off the year Andrew Benintendi just did.

At the end of the day, the 104 ADP is about the right price for the time being. Although I‘d say you're getting him at his floor value with a chance to profit a bit. You should grab a few shares and see if he can get back to the production he posted just 2 seasons ago.

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