Alejandro Kirk is not your average catcher

© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Among hunters this season, Wilson Contreras It was the talk of baseball town. It’s easy to understand why: one of their fan favorites suddenly has the best season of a year’s career. This catches everyone’s attention. Suddenly, fans of other teams find themselves hoping that their favorite club will land him on the deadline or perhaps this season. In terms of measurement, there is Growing evidence Contreras has already taken a step forward. A catch with such an offensive upside is rare, and with a strong 161 wRC+, the veteran has turned himself into a precious gem.

But enough for Cubs or Contreras. do you know who secondly In the catcher WRC+ this season? That’s right, it’s Alejandro Kirkwho has been the main supporter of Blue Jays ever since Danny Janssen Head to IL with a broken finger. His number 146 wRC+ isn’t far from Contreras, and the corresponding triple slash is a beauty: the .311/.392/.469 line is somewhat rare in today’s game.

Kirk’s output might not be too surprising if you pay attention to his minor league numbers. Starting with the Rookie ball in 2017, he succeeded at every level he was assigned, racking up more walks than attacking hits, earning a well-deserved Big League promotion in 2020. The Blue Jays gave him a decent shot the following year, and while he was Serviceable, the 106 wRC+ at 189 board backs didn’t quite make a strong impression. This year, however, Kirk appears to be the unstoppable force his streak in the league has suggested he might be.

If I were asked to select one trait that defines Alejandro Kirk’s trait, I would nod toward all of his areas, doubling the gap between strength. And there’s no better way to illustrate this than with some good GIFs. First, here’s Kirk staying on a plane with a high speedball and putting it in the center for a single:

For something a bit more challenging, here’s how he fights a well-positioned cutter and sends him off to the opposite field:

Want an example of brute force? When Kirk sees a pitch he likes, show he can take it out in an instant, as shown here with this 110-mph gingerbread:

What stands out in particular is Kirk’s swing – it’s efficient and fast with very few moving parts, enabling it to cover all four quadrants of the area. Based on these three clips, and without any additional context, you might be tempted to believe that Kirk is one of the best hitters, if not one of the most balanced hitters. The numbers illustrate his approach across the board: He splits roughly a third of his hit balls left, center and right, respectively. And as a bonus, that means teams basically never turn against him. Well, they’ve tried five times this season, but maybe that’s a mental result why you don’t bother me. I don’t blame them. Kirk has been on the cusp of success lately.

Besides hitting ball predispositions, Kirk is also defined by a complete lack of swing and flop in his game. His call rate of 87.8% ranks him seventh among hitters with a minimum of 200 board appearances as of this writing; Meanwhile, its swing rate of 4.8% ranks sixth. Amazingly, none of this came at the expense of its call quality. Additionally, his swing rate against stadiums outside the region ranks at 75 percent. Kirk is no expert in this regard – with an emphasis on contact, he can go astray at times – but his discipline is good enough to give him his fair share of walks and reduce the number of weak balls he puts into play.

We’ve identified the player Kirk type, but without a point of comparison, all of these numbers can be somewhat ambiguous. He’s a double hitter and rarely sniffs at strong swing decisions, but what does skill fusion look like in the long run? To find out, I had a little fun with two guys. Kirk easily hit the 200-board appearance threshold on Saturday, so that’s what I used as a cut. From there, I looked at hitters’ barrel rates (per plate appearance), euphoria rates, and chase rates (per swing), and determined how similar they were to Kirk. This allowed me to generate an overall score, with a lower score representing a higher degree of similarity.

It’s all a little complicated, but we’re here for the results anyway. Here are the five hitters most like Kirk this season, with their numbers in 2022 included:

Five Companies by Alejandro Kirk

Through the matches of June 18.

This is totally a name list, and there’s a reason why it’s a star-studded table! The combination of discipline and contact, along with modest barrel rates, is a proven formula for success. This doesn’t mean, of course, that Kirk is as good as some of these other players, but the resemblance is staggering. In addition to the listed metrics, achieving a consistent loft is also a big factor, which is how a hitter like Betts or Ramírez can run 30 houses in a season without massive exit speeds. Kirk may need to start pulling more of his flyballs if he desires a similar power boost, but for now, there’s no sense of urgency. It works very well on its own terms.

(Far from that, it’s curious to see Verdugo’s name pop up, though we should probably give him more credit – despite his functional low strike rate and no apparent drop in his ball hit metrics, he scored a low 254 BABIP. (D) Bet on him to start work in the next month or so.)

It amazes me how cool Kirk’s offensive style and field results are like those of a normal hunting. As for intelligence, the catcher closest to him by points of similarity is Dodgers’ will Smith, which ranks…31. Catchers have not historically been known for their scorching bats, but I think it’s important to keep in mind how much Kirk stands above his peers. Here’s another table, this time with three new columns: this season’s average catcher in metres, the league as a whole, and how catches rank among the nine (including the DH but not the bowlers). Your exemplary backing does not strike fear into the hearts of opposing shooters, but why?

Catchers are not the greatest hitters

Measure Average catcher. League average position rank
K% 24.0% 22.1% ninth
swing % 29.5% 28.8% VIII
ISO .139 .150 seventh

Through the matches of June 18.

The answer is fairly straightforward. The catchers don’t show much pop, don’t play as many balls, and don’t chase fewer pitches out of the area to compensate. This first point applies in part to Kirk as well, but in terms of strike rate or contact rate, he’s on the absolute left of the distribution, on his own island. When you consider that the various responsibilities of hunters take away from the time spent practicing batting, Kirk’s rise to prominence is even more amazing. The catcher isn’t supposed to have his own kind, but then again, Kirk has spent most of his career challenging what was expected of him.

Oh, and I didn’t even talk about his pitch framing skills. On the way to the show, Kirk learned how to catch one knee position, which has been shown to help fishermen bring in strike calls at the border. But since he’s accumulated experience catching up last season, the Baseball Savant has credited him with a strike rate of 47.2% on the frontier courts, putting Kirk in the final third of eligible bowlers. This season is another step forward: he attacks strikes by 50%, and leads him into the top ten.

There is a great article by Nick Ashburn from sports net This indicates that Kirk has been cleaned How to receive stadiums, flashing subtle strikes towards the strike area rather than stabbing the ball violently. It’s certainly a reasonable explanation, and when a player shows up at better rates, we’re less skeptical if it’s related to an obvious change. But there are also aspects that are beyond Kirk’s control. Framing numbers fluctuate depending on the show crew the catcher is working with, as well as the tendencies of the home board referee in a particular game. I think 2021 wasn’t Kirk’s 2021 big enough for a sample. If that’s the case, it’s best to split the teams up and associate him as just a mid-range player moving forward – unless he continues to cheat the referees, that is.

Will Kirk continue this impressive attacking pace? There are a couple of areas where a dreaded to mean regression is inevitable – it has been the beneficiary of a high streak engine rate, and it’s good to remember that just because singles bloop xBA are allocated high doesn’t mean they are repeatable. Plus, his slow pace will always put a strict lid on what BABIP can achieve. Otherwise, though, it’s safe to be optimistic about Kirk moving forward. He clearly has a knack for driving the ball, and his clean touch rate is around the safest floor a hitter can rely on. Expectations are also rosy, seeing him as a 125-ish wRC+ owner who will have two more wins over a replacement by the end of the season.

However, the thing about falling back to average is assuming we know the player’s true talent level. In Kirk’s case, I’m not sure to specify. He’s not the best catcher in baseball yet – that throne currently belongs to Wilson Contreras, who has an advantage in terms of offensive production and playing time. For the past few years, it has belonged to Will Smith. But Kirk is the most likely heir. It’s hard to believe, but he’s still only 23 years old and has plenty of time to improve his already powerful racket and prove that his new court-framing abilities are real. True, there is not much precedent for the Kirk teapot frame in professional sports, which raises questions about that How will he get old?. But does that mean I’m going to ignore how much he’s been flirting this season? no! So for now, let’s admire how unique Kirk is in the catcher scene, and appreciate how he realizes the all-star ceiling, once along the line.

The statistics in this article are from the June 18 games unless specified.