Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski currently has 11 walks. His 2.2 BB% is the lowest in the MLB. By comparison, pitchers have walked in 3.2% of their plate appearances in 2013. Pierzynski has never walked very frequently, but the 2.2% rate is the lowest of his career.
Less than 100 hitters since 1903 have a lower walk rate than Pierzynski’s career 4.0%. In the course of doing so he has set an MLB record that maybe nobody else has recognized.
With such a low walk rate, you would expect that Pierzynski swings at a lot of pitches out of the zone. Sure enough, the Pitch f/x data states that Pierzynski has an O-Swing% of 47.1, easily the highest rate in the league. His career rate is 42.9%.
Since Pitch f/x data has only been reliable since 2008, I wanted to see if anyone has had a higher rate. The table below lists the leaders in O-Swing% for each year from 2008-2013.
So Pierzynski owns the record for the highest O-Swing% in MLB history. Not surprisingly, Vladimir Guerrero topped the MLB in O-Swing% every year he played. However, not even Vlad could match Pierzynski’s 2013 rate.
Despite Pierzynski’s even freer-swinging 2013, the 36 year-old backstop has managed a level of production a shade above his career rate. While his OPS+ is down to 99 from the 120 he posted last year, it is still above his career mark of 96, and slightly better than the MLB average for catchers.
Though he walks less often than Jeff Francoeur and hits for less power than Nick Hundley, Pierzynski has managed to build a 16-year career with a reputation as a good-hitting catcher. He has done so by being an excellent contact hitter. His 11.5% career strikeout rate is six points lower than the league average in that time span.
His 96.1 Z-Contact rate was 6th best in the MLB in 2011. These skills have not diminished, and even after almost 1700 games behind the plate, his defensive ability is still above-average. Expect the free-agent-to-be to find a home as a full-time catcher this offseason. And maybe Pierzynski will break his own record.