What's going on with Emilio Bonifacio?

USA TODAY Sports

His numbers are down so far this year--what could be causing this?

It's safe to say that Emilio Bonifacio is not having a good 2013 season. After a nice game Monday, which included a single and a walk, Bonifacio's slash line now sits at .200/.234/.324, with a .243 wOBA and a 46 wRC+. As of Monday night, that 46 wRC+ would put him 13th-last in the league (100 PA minimum), right behind Chris Nelson, who has been designated for assignment twice this year, first by the Rockies then by the Yankees.

Last year, Bonifacio hit .258/.330/.316, with a .290 wOBA and a 79 wRC+. Again, not great, but not putrid like this year so far.

So what's going on with Bonifacio? His BABIP currently sits at .260, quite a bit lower than his career mark of .333. But there's got to be more. The BABIP may help to explain some of the batting average portion of things, but Bonifacio is really not walking at all this year either. Over the course of his career, he has walked in 8% of his plate appearances, and last year he walked in 9.1% of them. This year, his BB% sits at 3.6%.

Swing Data

I've been messing around a bit lately with FanGraphs' Plate Discipline data, and, well, have a look for yourself at Bonifacio's numbers from this year and last.

Screen_shot_2013-05-20_at_11

Click to embiggen

What does it mean?

You'll notice that he is swinging at a lot more pitches overall--pitches outside the zone as well as inside the zone. This would most definitely lead to fewer walks drawn--you can see the opposite taking place with Adam Lind. Bonifacio is swinging at more bad pitches outside of the zone: you can see a 11% jump in his O-Swing%.

What could cause this jump? Bonifacio's isolated power this year is way up from last year as well as from his career ISO. His .129 ISO this year, as compared to his career mark of .079, would perhaps indicate that Bonifacio is trying to crush the ball this year, as opposed to merely making contact.

Again, looking at Bonifacio's plate discipline numbers, his overall contact rate has dropped by 5.3%, and his swinging strike percentage has increased by 4.4%. This would indicate that he is in fact taking worse swings.

PitchFX

Have a look at his PitchFX data (courtesy of Baseball Prospectus), notably on swings at "hard" pitches (fastballs and fastball variations). Here are the fastball pitches that Bonifacio swings at, first in 2012, then in 2013 (all from the catcher's perspective):

2012

2013

In 2012, he was not chasing many pitches out of the zone--this can be seen by the general cold colour of the first graph.

Looking at the same data from 2013, you can see that Bonifacio is chasing quite a few more pitches outside the zone. This would correspond with the FanGraphs data; Bonifacio is swinging at more pitches, hence more bad pitches. This is causing a lower contact rate and a higher swinging strike percentage.

Bonifacio needs to take it easy with the bat and become patient again--poor decision-making at the plate won't help his overall results. Perhaps by swinging at better pitches, Bonifacio can get back to being a serviceable bat.

What do you think? Is it too early to come to a decision on Emilio Bonifacio, or might his struggles be attributed to another issue?

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