Some hitters in the professional ranks struggle to find their identity at home plate. Miguel Sano does not have that problem. Sano has made it abundantly clear that he is up at the plate with the intention of knocking a hole in the ozone layer with a batted ball. He does this while also swinging and missing more than a guy with his height listed at 5’5” on Tinder, as his strikeout numbers have been prolific. All in all, Sano has taken the crown as the undisputed king of the “Three True Outcomes,” which are plate appearances that end in walks, strikeouts, or homeruns. The phrase was coined to describe the exploits of barrel-chested outfielder Rob Deer, whose slowpitch-like approach led to a large number of the Three True Outcomes. Other experts of the Three True Outcomes include sluggers such as Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, and Mark Reynolds, but all of them must now bow to the master, Miguel Sano. Let’s take a look at how he’s gotten there.
Sano has always struck out, and struck out A LOT, which will not be changing any time soon. Pitchers have a pretty good idea of how to get Sano out, which mostly involves throwing slower pitches on the outer half of the plate. This is with good reason, as Sano’s slugging percentage against fastballs is .630, while only .391 against breaking balls, and .263 on offspeed pitches. As you can see below, pitchers have been hammering the same part of the hitting zone, with a significant amount of success.
With this approach, pitchers have been able to strike out Sano in a staggering 44.0% of his plate appearances, which is highest rate among qualified hitters in the MLB. On top of leading the current league, Sano’s 44% would be the single highest strikeout rate among qualified hitters since 1900. While his strikeouts are ugly to watch, in order for Sano to hit missiles into the Minnesota sky, that seems to be the trade-off that Rocco Baldelli and company will have to deal with.
One facet of the Three True Outcomes that hasn’t contributed to the grand total for Sano has been his walk rate. Sano’s walk rate in 2020 is 8.8%, a noticeable decline from his career rate of 11.8%. While it is lower than his normal output, his walk rate is still better than the MLB average of 8.3%. Sano’s batting profile shows a hitter that not only has been chasing a higher percentage pitches outside of the strike zone, but also a hitter that is just swinging more in general.
- Career: 25.4%
- 2020: 27.3%
- Career: 44.1%
- 2020: 47.2%
Percentage of Pitches in Zone:
- Career: 46.3 %
- 2020: 45.9%
- MLB Average: 48.4%
First Pitch Swing Percentage
- Career: 29.4%
- 2020: 32.1%
The profile above shows a hitter that is likely swinging himself out of more walks with a more aggressive approach. This may also to the explanation of the large strikeout rate, but it remains to be seen if Sano will be willing to throttle down his swing rate in order to take more walks.
When Miguel Sano hits a baseball, he generally hits it extremely hard. This may be the understatement of 2020. Sano has tried to break Statcast with a few of his batted balls this year, and the numbers back it up.
Sano’s MLB Rankings:
- Average Exit Velocity: 1st (96.0 MPH)
- Hard-Hit Percentage: 2nd (58.9%)
- Barrels per Batted Ball Event: 1st (24.4%)
The combination of Sano’s batting profile has led to a homerun rate of 6.7%, higher than his career rate of 5.8%. While Sano has had a difficult time making contact, when he has, he has done a significant amount of damage. He will certainly keep swinging for the fences, like Joaquin Phoenix in Signs.
THE SUM OF ALL PARTS
Sano’s approach at the plate will always be a point of much contention among Twins Territory, but one thing is for certain: it is awfully entertaining. He has conquered the ranks of the truest Three True Outcomes batters, as the ranks below will show.
Highest TTO%, single season (qualified hitters, since 1900):
- Miguel Sano (2020): 59.6%
- Joey Gallo (2017): 58.6%
- Jack Cust (2007): 58.2%
- Aaron Judge (2017): 57.1%
- Jack Cust (2008): 57.0%
Highest TTO%, career (min. 1000 PA, since 1900):
- Joey Gallo: 58.9%
- Miguel Sano: 54.5%
- Aaron Judge: 53.5%
- Jack Cust: 53.0%
- Keon Broxton: 52.8%
Sano has a lot of work to do to catch the career marks of Joey Gallo, but for 2020, all hail Miguel Sano, king of the Three True Outcomes.
(NOTE: stats used were totaled before games starting 09/23/2020)