By Jason Shetler
Jordy Mercer has been the Pirates regular shortstop since late 2013, this after replacing Clint Barmes. Mercer became an upgrade at the position offensively that year, as he put up a .772 OPS and a 117 OPS+. Defensively however, he struggled to make routine plays. Because of this, the Pirates re-signed Barmes as an insurance policy to be the backup at short.
Mercer made significant strides with his defense in 2014. Not only did he show improvement, but most sabermetricians considered him one of the better defensive shortstops in all of MLB.
The offense for Mercer became Jekyll and Hyde, posting poor numbers versus right handed pitching, but being very superb against lefty pitchers. This season, those splits have been opposite, with an .854 OPS versus RHP and just a .492 OPS versus LHP.
Mercer got off to a slow start in April, but has really been performing extremely well at the plate since then, posting an .824 OPS, along with a 116 wRC+ in May and a .900 OPS, with a wRC+ of 137. The success Mercer has been having now can be contributed to a better approach at the plate. One of the biggest things is the plate discipline. Here are his O-swing percentages, or chase rates, from 2014 to this season.
The ability to lay off pitches out of the strikezone has been a vast improvement for Mercer, as those percentages have gone down each year. With the better plate discipline, he has also been able to draw more free passes, putting up a solid walk rate of 11%, which is on pace to be a career best for him. Since the Pirates don’t have much power sources in their lineup, it’s vital that they get on base consistently to score runs, and what Mercer is starting to provide is very much welcomed.