22 July 2024

SARASOTA, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles poses for a photo during the Baltimore Orioles Photo Day at Ed Smith Stadium on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Adley Rutschman’s was sadly suspended,so bad to announce…..

SARASOTA, FL – FEBRUARY 21: Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles poses for a photo during the Baltimore Orioles Photo Day at Ed Smith Stadium on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Everyone who’s watched the Orioles’ rise from baseball’s basement to the penthouse of MLB knows that Adley Rutschman has been the heart and soul of this team’s reimagining. After all, the Orioles have won 60% of their games since Adley’s arrival in late May of 2022. The hot starts from Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser this year have largely shifted the spotlight away from the best catcher in baseball. However, a new aggressive approach from Adley is producing results that demand our attention.

The fact that the Orioles backstop is once again leading all MLB catchers in hits is not altogether surprising. We’ve come to know Adley as a player who has excellent command of the strike zone and can drive the ball to all fields. Since Adley stepped into the big leagues, he’s also been one of the most patient and disciplined hitters in baseball. Last year he ranked 8th in all the majors with 4.26 pitches per plate appearance, while his walk rate, strikeout and swing-and-miss rate were all in the 90th percentile or above.

Through 150 plate appearances this season, we’re seeing the best Adley Rutschman we’ve ever seen. He’s on pace to set career highs in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, RBIs and runs scored. And yet, the AL’s reigning Silver Slugger at catcher is putting up all these numbers with a decidedly un-Adley-like approach.

The normally patient Rutschman has taken on the alter ego of Aggressive Adley so far in the 2024 season. After seeing more pitches than almost anyone last year, Adley is down to 3.80 pitches per plate appearance in 2024—below the major league average of 3.91 from 2023. The more glaring difference, though, comes in Adley’s walk rates and chase rates. After putting up a 13.4% walk rate (91st percentile) and 23.4% chase rate (81st percentile) last season, those numbers are both below the 25th percentile in 2024.

This season’s Adley is certainly less selective in the pitches he attacks, and it’s that aggressiveness that has him fourth in the AL in batting average and consistently hitting the stuffing out of the ball. The uptick in exit velocity is perhaps the encouraging sign of development for the 26-year-old face of the franchise. Perhaps the biggest concern with Rutschman’s performance last year was the amount of weak contact he generated. His average exit velocity was a measly 88mph—almost 4mph lower than team exit velocity king Gunnar Henderson. Adley’s hard hit rate of 38.6% was good enough for 167th in all of baseball.

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