Dexter Fowler is off to a torrid start with nine hits in his first 15 at-bats (including four extra-base hits) and it might be because one of the most important aspects of his successful second half has started to carry over to 2016.
Fowler has always been a successful pull hitter, batting .389 with a .678 slugging percentage when he yanks the ball to the pull side. But never has he been able to hook the ball as often as he did starting in the second half of 2015.
The Cubs center fielder saw his pull rate jump to 44.1 percent in 2015, which ranked tied for 30th among 141 qualifying hitters at FanGraphs.
That is a significant increase for Fowler, whose pull rate hovered around 39 percent from 2008-14. But things didn’t really get going for the lead-off man until the second half where he seemed to really find his pull stroke.
Fowler pulled the ball 41.6 percent of the time in the first half of 2015, which was in line with his 40.6 percent pull rate in the first half of his career. There was a clear change in approach and results in the second half as Fowler posted a 47.2 percent pull rate in the second half – which was an increase of 7.9 percentage points.
Perhaps better luck is in order for Fowler moving forward. He posted a .295 BABIP when pulling the ball in 2015, but that number sits at .354 over the course of his career.
It’s ridiculously early to draw from a 2016 sample size, but Fowler has pulled the ball at a 61.5 percent clip. And while that isn’t sustainable, it is evident Fowler has been pulling the ball more frequently and will likely continue to do so if this success rate continues.