STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Perhaps it's no accident that the Pirates' recent uptick in run production coincides with Corey Dickerson's return.
Dickerson represented a great unknown as he was set to come back, giving us just 13 plate appearances to go by before his trip to the IL. Since returning, Dickerson has slashed .323/.348/.532 with 15 of his 20 hits going for extra bases.
Pitchers are coming at him a bit differently since the return, offering him fastballs at a 58.1 percent rate. This seems to be just fine with Dickerson, who is tagging them with a .342 wOBA.
They've been good fastballs too:
The thing is, Dickerson has always been a fantastic low-ball hitter, with a .376 xwOBA for his career against fastball in the bottom third of the zone and below. He has no problem going down and getting it, especially if its a fastball.
Dickerson sees the majority of those fastballs while ahead in the count, so perhaps we should be spending more time talking about what he does against other pitches. Though he is only seeing 21.8 percent of his pitches as breaking balls, he refuses to get into a cat and mouse game with pitchers. He's chasing out of zone breakers at a 33.1 percent clip since returning, well below the MLB-wide rate of 40.2 percent. He takes a ball at 57.1 percent of these pitches, doing everything he can to set himself up for success by seeing more fastballs.
There is some bit of luck involved. Dickerson's xBA (expected batting average) on fastballs is just .172, showing that he is benefiting from the right balls finding the right bit of field. But if he maintains his swing rate -- right now, Dickerson is swinging at 79.7 percent of fastballs in the zone -- this has more than a good chance of inching toward a more true representation.
The Pirates' outfield timeshare is still a murky one, but Dickerson is aiming to provide a greater degree of clarity by hunting fastballs.