Sunday afternoon, Eddie Rosario had the best game of his major-league career. Rosario slugged three home runs, including his second career walk-off, to lift the Twins to a 7-5 win over Cleveland as his family watched from Section 113.
Sunday was a monumental day for Rosario and the Twins, as most of us following along on TV and Twitter grasped in real time.
6/13/17: @EddieRosario09's family goes to Target Field, Eddie hits 3 homers.— Cut4 (@Cut4) June 3, 2018
6/3/18: Eddie's family goes to Target Field, Eddie hits 3 homers.@Twins, you should probably keep Eddie's family around. https://t.co/eOODhj31nc pic.twitter.com/qhP5RXaN6h
Rosario’s walk-off bomb was his fourth of the weekend. All four were notable not just for where they ended up but for where they started: outside of the strike zone.
Let’s take a tour of Rosario’s homers, starting where he ended the weekend: a two-run walk-off bomb against Cleveland closer Cody Allen, whose 94-mph fastball to Rosario was the closest to the zone of the quartet.
Though most captivating contextually, Rosario’s walk-off was the least impressive on the “How in Tarnation Did He Hit That?!” Index™.
Counting down in reverse order, we’ve got #3, Rosario’s 7th-inning solo dinger off a Tyler Olson curveball that started at Eddie’s hip and sheepishly curled within range of Eddie’s barrel:
Eddie’s swing on #2, his full-count oppo job off Mike Clevinger on Sunday, delights me to no end.
It did not delight Mike Clevinger, who seemed to peer deep into the void to ask some pretty wooly questions about life’s fickle nature and the futility of effort.
Rosario’s insouciant little flip to left off Clevinger ranks only second, however, because I find his home run Saturday against Trevor Bauer to reach “Straight-up Gobsmacking” on the aforementioned “How in Tarnation Did He Hit That?!” Index™.
Here it is, #1, a first-pitch, 89-mph cut fastball that probably should have kneecapped Rosario but instead ended up in the bleachers.
Rosario’s bomb on Saturday also induced this deliciously Peak Trevor Bauer quote from Bauer: “It was in his own batter’s box, so whatever.”
(In that same article, by The Athletic’s Dan Hayes, Joe Mauer also gave this delightfully incongruous quote: “He’s a great bad-ball hitter. When he usually swings he’s going to put it in play. ... I wouldn’t be trying to give him anything around the plate right now the way he’s going.” He’s a bad-ball hitter, so you wouldn’t pitch him around the plate? Got it.)
Rosario has managed to cut down on swings out of the zone enough to maintain the lower strikeout rate he first busted out last season*
while being more selectively aggressive on the pitches out of the zone he can wallop, as Aaron Gleeman highlighted on Twitter:
Eddie Rosario's swing rate on pitches outside of the strike zone:— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) June 4, 2018
2015/2016 - 46.3% (#1 out of 264 hitters with 600+ PA)
2017/2018 - 39.9% (#13 out of 280 hitters with 400+ PA)
Going from the #1 hacker in MLB to #13 equals laying off about 80 non-strikes per season. Big impact.
Eddie’s more selectively aggressive approach on pitches out of the zone has borne fruit this season: Rosario’s average exit velocity on pitches out of the zone is nearly 87 mph, or roughly Brian Dozier’s average exit velocity on all pitches. Rosario’s overall average exit velocity is 89.4 miles per hour, 95th in MLB; his average exit velocity on pitches out of the zone is 2nd in baseball.
Rosario’s Weighted On-Base Average when he swings at pitches out of the zone is third in baseball (interestingly, Dozier leads baseball with not nearly the exit velocity of Rosario), giving Eddie the best combination of exit velocity and wOBA in baseball when he takes a hack off the plate.
Eddie Rosario is baseball’s best bad-ball hitter, continuing the legacy of Kirby Puckett, who once said, “I don’t have a strike zone, so the pitcher doesn’t know where to throw it.”
*All stats through Monday, June 4