Jazz Chisholm breakout season with the Marlins

This offseason, the Marlins improved their slow offense by signing Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia and trading for receiver Jacob Stallings and infielder Joey Wendle. After finishing second-to-last in runs in 2021, Miami dreamed of pairing an above-average roster with its already dominant starting rotation. But so far this year, it’s not Miami’s new signings driving the team’s strong offense (104 wRC+). Jazz Chisholm Jr., electrifying second baseman and leading hitter for the Marlins, is having a breakout season and powering a much-improved Miami roster.

In 124 games as a rookie last year, Chisholm cut .248/.303/.425, with a decent barrel rate of 42% and 9%. But this year, the eccentric 24-year-old has established himself as one of baseball’s best young players. Until Wednesday, when Chisholm hit a triple and homered in the fifth inning against the Nationals, he was hitting .304 on .346 and .617 on-base percentage in 128 plate appearances this season.

He leads the Marlins with seven home runs, six stolen bases, 27 RBIs and a .963 OPS. He also already has seven doubles and four trebles, putting him on track to top his totals from last year. Chisholm, already one of baseball’s most charismatic personalities, is becoming a star before our eyes. Let’s find out how and why.

Chisholm’s rookie year was marked by an excessive amount of ground balls. He put the ball on the ground in almost half of his balls in play (49.4%). With his sprint speed at the 94th percentile, Chisholm’s 2021 batting profile led to 24 hits in the field, but that didn’t help his power numbers. He finished the season with just 42 extra hits in 507 plate appearances.

This year, Chisholm hits the ball on the ground just 37.2% of the time, adding more fly balls (31.4%) and lines (26.7%). Its average launch angle has increased from 9 degrees last year to 15.7 this year, which is among the biggest jumps in baseball.

And he crushes the ball when he does. Chisholm is averaging .525 with seven doubles, three triples and three home runs so far this year.

While three of his home runs this year have gone to the opposite field, pulling-side power is important for Chisholm to advance. At 5-foot-11 and 184 pounds, Chisholm may not be able to hit the ball consistently on all courts a la Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge. A home run profile similar to Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez on the left side, taking advantage of short right-field porches, is how Chisholm can hit the 30-40 home run threshold at his waist.

Although the second baseman’s average outing speed increased by half a tick (90.7 mph from 90.2 mph), it was his hard hit and barrel rate that revealed his breakout.

Its barrel rate jumped 6.9 percentage points to 14%, or among the greatest jumps in baseball. He hits the ball hard nearly half the time (46.5%), which is a significant improvement from his 2021 season when he had a hard hit rate of 42%. In other words, he hits the ball harder and more consistently and in the right direction.

How is it ? Try less.

“I didn’t swing as hard as I did last year,” Chisholm told MLB.com. The Marlins beat reporter Christina DeNicola. “I’m trying to be more controlled at home plate instead of trying to throw everything, although that’s still happening. But I’m trying to be more controlled and consistent.

For the first time in his young career, Chisholm crushes the slow stuff.

After hitting .202/.240/.349 in 139 appearances against breaking balls and off-speed pitches last year with similar expected stats, Chisholm is batting .350/.354/.707 in 62 plate appearances ending on breaking throws and off speed this year.

He’s already matched his total home runs against busts from last year (four). Chisholm’s 15 hits against breaking balls rank seventh in baseball this year. He’s only had four hits against off-speed pitches this year, but he sees them much less than he sees broken balls (28.8 percent of pitches vs. 19.2 percent).

“I know a lot of guys can’t beat me with their fastballs,” Chisholm said. “The hardest pitches to hit in baseball are sliders, curveballs and off-speed. I’d rather be on [breaking and offspeed pitches] than a fastball because I can always react to a fastball. I’m going to be ready to hit everyone’s off-speed pitches because I know I can hit their fastball.

It seems like Chisholm’s raw power and speed tools come together. In Chisholm, the Marlins have a star to build their roster as they look to make the playoffs for only the second time since 2003. They already have a playoff-worthy pitching staff, but now they have a featured center field to drive their offense.

Ada J. Kenney