The Ten Least Feared Hitters Of The 2011 Season To Date

DETROIT - JUNE 01: Drew Butera #41 of the Minnesota Twins hits a two-run home run in the seventh inning and celebrates with teammate Delmon Young #21 during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on June 1, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

If a batter sees a lot of pitches out of the strike zone, it generally means at least one of two things: the pitcher is either afraid of throwing that batter a hittable pitch, or the pitcher knows that batter doesn't have tremendous discipline and is trying to get him to swing his way into an out. When the batter is Vladimir Guerrero, it can be both.

If a batter sees a lot of pitches within the strike zone, though, there's less mistaking it. In that event, there can only be one cause: the pitcher simply isn't intimidated. The pitcher isn't afraid of throwing that batter a hittable pitch, because the pitcher isn't too worried that the batter will do much with it.

Given that, we can use available strike zone information to try to assemble a list of the least feared hitters in baseball. If you navigate over to Fangraphs' plate discipline section, you'll find that you can sort by Zone% - the percentage of pitches a batter sees in the strike zone. The Zone% isn't absolutely perfect because the strike zone is hard to define, but the data is both pretty good and the best we can do, so without anything else, here are the ten batters with the highest zone rates so far this season.

minimum 100 PA

Name Zone%  OPS HR
Drew Butera 57.5% 0.371 1
J.J. Hardy 54.7% 0.730 3
Darwin Barney 53.7% 0.709 1
Kurt Suzuki 53.4% 0.660 4
Ryan Theriot 53.0% 0.693 0
Edgar Renteria 53.0% 0.592 0
Orlando Cabrera 52.9% 0.614 2
Sam Fuld 52.5% 0.632 3
Brett Gardner 52.2% 0.709 3
Brent Morel 52.0% 0.567 1

Some names and some omissions might come as minor surprises, but there's nobody on that list that makes you think "what?! no way!" Because all of these guys are pretty light hitters. Hardy used to hit for power, and that power might be on the way back, but pitchers are clearly willing to challenge him these days. Suzuki's the biggest surprise to me since he's hit 15 and 13 home runs the last two years, but then he has a career SLG of .386 and is by no means a masher. Darwin Barney's Zone% is remarkable given that Darwin Barney is a little person and his strike zone is four inches tall.

So there you are. Just missing the cut: Yorvit Torrealba, Mike Aviles, Paul Janish, Jeff Mathis, and Omar Infante. We'll see how the leaderboard changes as the rest of the season plays out. As a final fun fact, note that Jose Bautista has more home runs than all ten of the players listed above combined. Jose Bautista's Zone% is the second-lowest in baseball.

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