As soon as Franchy Cordero took his spot in left field in front of the Green Monster, he already had big shoes to fill when he replaced the player he was traded for, Andrew Benintendi. Even though he was very inconsistent, Benny was beloved by a lot of Red Sox fans, especially for his legendary catch in Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS.
But Cordero has failed to live up to expectations so far, and this article will detail his struggles in greater depth.
We don’t really need advanced stats to see that Cordero isn’t having a good season so far. He has a horrendous slash line of .200/.265/.244, and a .510 OPS. The power that he was supposed to show hasn’t come to form yet; Cordero has hit no home runs in 42 at-bats, and he has just 2 extra-base hits.
But the advanced stats paint an even worse picture. While Cordero has an impressive .409 batting average when he puts the ball into play, his xBA (expected batting average) is .143, and his xSLG (expected slugging percentage) is .193.
Out of 296 qualified hitters, only lifetime .216 hitter Martin Maldonado has a worse xBA and xSLG. While Cordero hasn’t put too many balls in play, it’s still a very bad mark.
A big reason why people were high on Cordero was his very high average exit velocities, but Cordero’s 87.8 mph average exit velocity is only in the 29th percentile compared to other hitters.
But the big problem is his complete lack of plate discipline. Cordero has struck out in a whopping 46.9% of his at-bats. Once again, it’s just Martin Maldonado who has a worse K% (minimum 40 PA). He’s also whiffed on 44.4% of his swings, with only Javier Baez and Akil Baddoo faring worse.
There is not one game this season where Cordero has made more than 1 PA and not struck out.
“He’s trying too much to make contact instead of staying on his swing,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said when he was asked about Cordero and his struggles.
Cordero has also chased a lot more pitches this season. Although 2021 is a larger sample size, Cordero went from chasing 23% of pitches in 2020 to chasing 32.7% of pitches in 2021, putting him in the 16th percentile among qualified hitters. These zone charts that show Cordero’s swings and misses show that Cordero is particularly chasing pitches down in the zone.
Not only is Cordero chasing a lot of pitches down in the zone, but he’s not making contact with them either, as he’s only made contact with 31.4% of chased pitches, a rate that is much lower than other seasons of his career. A lot of Cordero’s struggles at the plate have come at the hands of breaking balls.
This season, Cordero has been thrown 41 total breaking balls (curveballs, sliders, and knuckleballs). In 14 at-bats against breaking balls, Cordero has struck out 10 times, while putting 4 pitches into play, and getting on base just once.
To show this further, here’s a chart from Baseball Savant’s ‘Illustrator’ that shows the times Cordero has swung and missed at breaking balls.
The majority of the breaking balls Cordero swung and missed at were pitches below the strike zone. If Cordero can work on staying disciplined and not chasing the breaking ball, it could do wonders for his game.
Cordero is also not hitting fastballs as well as he was last season. He had a .364 BA in 14 PA against fastballs last season, but he is batting just .167 in 15 PA against fastballs this season, while failing to make contact 43% of the time on swings against a fastball. You obviously can’t quantify Cordero’s season into one at-bat, but the one below sums up his season so far.
To paraphrase what Alex Cora has said about Cordero so far this season, Cordero is out in front of off speed pitches, and late on the fastball. In that clip he struck out in 3 pitches while swinging at all 3, getting out in front of a changeup, while being very late on the last two fastballs from Chris Flexen.
It looks like Cordero making a turnaround this season is all going to come around to him making solid contact on the ball. Like Alex Cora said, he needs to stop trying so hard to make contact, and instead just try to focus on putting a good swing on every pitch.
Chasing low breaking balls might be a habit Cordero never quits, but he at least has to start recognizing pitches better, and have better swing timing against fastballs.
Photo Credit: The Athletic