I’m going to start this by saying something fairly obvious — Edwin Encarnacion has colossal power. He tied an American League record with 16 home runs in May and started June off with a long ball as well. But while Encarnacion is second in Major League Baseball with 19 home runs this season, he only recently started to really figure out how to maintain his power.
Encarnacion came into the league with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005. In parts of five seasons with the Reds and a half a season with the Toronto Blue Jays, from 2005 to midway through the 2009 season, he hit 79 home runs and only reached 20+ home runs once during that span. In 2010 he blasted 21 home runs in 96 games, but then regressed to just 17 the following year.
And then the calendar flipped to 2012 as did Encarnacion’s power source. The chart below shows his drastic improvement over the last five seasons.
Encarnacion’s career took off in 2012 when he hit 25 more home runs than he did the previous year. Some people thought it was a fluke, myself included, but Encarnacion came right back in ’13 and crushed 36 more home runs. And he’s right back at it again this year.
Since 2012, Encarnacion has hit 97 home runs, trailing only Miguel Cabrera (98) on the MLB leader board. His rise in power numbers has positively raised his wOBA (weighted on-base average) to the seventh-best in baseball. He’s learned to hit for massive power on a consistent basis because he is taking full advantage of pitches on the inner half of the plate.
Encarnacion has always been a pull hitter, especially when it comes to knocking the ball out of the park. In fact, according to the spray chart below, Encarnacion has hit only 10 home runs to right field in his career.
Being a pull hitter usually means the batter has the most success when the ball is in the inner half of the zone, and that holds true for Encarnacion. With his top-notch bat speed, he has always been a fantastic hitter when it comes to the inner half. But he has been a different beast since the beginning of 2012.
When Encarnacion came up in the big leagues, pitchers could get away with throwing a fastball on the inside edge and weren’t afraid to challenge him there. Take a look at his home runs per balls in play from 2005-2009.
Now take a look at his home runs per balls in play since the beginning of 2010.
Encarancion has completely mastered the inner half of the plate, but for some reason, pitchers are still testing him there, although not as much as he probably would like.
I think the true reason for Encarnacion’s discovery of power was he was sick of teammate Jose Bautista getting all the attention for his home runs. He wanted in on the action, and is now an arguably better power hitter. Those two mashers make the Blue Jays lineup terrifying and are why the Jays own the best isolated power and second-best weighted on-base average this season.