What To Make of John Buck

New York Mets
‘ starting catcher John Buck has been an incredibly productive hitter through his first 98 at-bats. You might think twice about that–his batting average is parked at .255–but thanks to 10 home runs, his ISO is an other-worldly .337. The Mets have terrific value at the catcher position right now, which allows them to let prospect Travis d’Arnaud work a little more in the minors without rushing him to big league service.

Right now Buck is seeing his contact rate jump higher than anyone in baseball–from 73.3% in 2012 to 78.1%–and his aforementioned ISO has gone through the roof, past his 2012 mark of .155. Buck hasn’t been considered much of a power hitter, which makes it strange that he’s already halfway to his career high of 20 home runs that he hit with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010. Currently, Buck is hitting a home run once for every fly ball he hits and almost half of his contact have resulted in fly balls.

Another factor working for Buck is his strikeout rate is down nearly 5% to just over 21%. His plate discipline has gotten much better as he’s not offering a pitches out of the zone as much, while swinging at pitches landing in the zone over 70% of the time. Looking at what Buck is swinging at, its clear he gets a little eager when being offered a changeup. He takes a cut 54.4% of the time-the highest rate of all his swings–while whiffing on the change just over 20% of the time. It would seem that Buck wants to swing for the fences a little bit more than he should.

Regardless, below is a look at Buck’s swing tendencies (courtesy of texasleaguers.com):

Despite his improved plate discipline, he’s walking in just under 5% of his at-bats–which weights down his OBP from reaching the league average of .320. Though when you have his ISO, his .292 OBP is forgivable.

Upon looking at Buck’s spray chart, I noticed he has a parallel between his outfield hits and his home runs (again, courtesy of texasleaguers.com):

He’s either putting them over the fence or placing them perfectly in the outfield. And the fact that he’s able to go so deeply in the opposite field lends itself to his newfound power surge and strong bat speed.

I think right now the Mets need to enjoy this productivity while it lasts. I can’t see Buck continuing at this level for much longer–though his BABIP is a very low .221. Either way, once his hits stop carrying then you will see the average player that Buck really is.