Detroit Tigers: Nick Maton performing much better than the stats show
By Tyler Kotila
Detroit Tigers infielder Nick Maton has been sneaky-good.
The Detroit Tigers 2023 season started off on the wrong foot. But it seems they took another step with the right foot and have been stringing together some better performances. There's a lot to improve, but this team looks completely different, having won their last three games after sweeping a doubleheader against the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday.
It's great to see the Detroit Tigers go out and win a few; they looked like a much different team in the doubleheader on Tuesday. Now, they were facing Hunter Gaddis and Peyton Battenfield, who are not exactly the top starters out there, but still good to see the fellas execute nonetheless.
One of the players who has been executing quite well at the dish is Nick Maton. His numbers may not be totally indicative of this, though. The stats are a bit deceiving in his case. He's been able to do a good job working at-bats deep and extending them as well, something that does truly play a role.
Through the first 15 games that Maton has played with the Tigers, he has 49 at-bats to his credit. He's slashing .163/.281/.388, which is not good, not good at all. He's drawn eight walks and been punched out 14 times.
He's only got eight hits on the year, three of them are home runs, and five are extra-base hits which is quite impressive that when he does get the barrel on the ball, he's doing damage. But, the thing to really key in on here is Maton's ability to control the strike zone.
It's the Scott Harris way, and it's true. Maton has really done an excellent job working counts deep. Sure, his on-base percentage is probably not as high as many would like it to see, but he sees a lot of pitches. If he does bat near the top of the lineup, that will lead to getting a better look at pitchers and running up pitch counts.
Running up pitch counts means getting into a team's bullpen, which likely means more runs, depending on who we're talking about here. But Maton has done an excellent job establishing his feel strike zone and his eye for pitches early in this season.
According to Baseball Savant, Maton has just a 24.3% chase rate; when he does chase, he makes contact 57.1% of the time. Again, not that it's always working out, but if he does make a "mistake" and chase a pitch, he's been able to get the barrel on it at least half of the time.
What Maton is doing is solid; it will help him try to establish a spot with the Tigers and hopefully get his stats moving in the right direction. The issue with what Maton is doing is the uptick in punchouts and called strikes. He will take some strikes in the zone, as evident by his 59% in-zone swing percentage, which is way down from where he has been in previous years.
The point being he's swinging the bat less, and while he's not going 4-for-4 with four home runs, he's working at-bats deep, forcing pitchers to throw strikes, and doing an excellent job at controlling the strike zone, which they want to see from the Tigers hitters in 2023.
It's not to say Maton should hit lead-off every game or that he's the future great third baseman and is going to bounce back and hit .350 with 25 bombs, but there's reason to believe he can continue dominating the strike zone and try to bounce back on the stat sheet in 2023.