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Corey Dickerson is allergic to runners in scoring position

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Could this Professional Hitter™️ be on the verge of a turnaround?

Corey Dickerson #23 of the Miami Marlins hits two-RBI triple during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at loanDepot park Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Relative to his contract terms—two years, $17.5 million guaranteed—Corey Dickerson’s Marlins tenure has been underwhelming. The biggest free agent signing since the franchise’s ownership change, Dickerson doesn’t make as much quality contact as he did earlier in his career and defensively, he’s confined to left field. The lefty-swinging veteran quietly entered Sunday tied with Jesús Aguilar for the team lead in total games played since 2020 (113). However, Dickerson’s impact has paled in comparison to Aguilar’s despite his superior pre-Marlins track record.

Intangibles aside, Aguilar has endeared himself to Fish fans with awesome situational hitting. He tops the National League in runs batted this season. Dickerson, on the other hand, has been so dreadful in classic RBI opportunities, he often looks like a saboteur.

Since joining the Marlins, in his 100 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Dickerson owns a .169/.250/.225 slash line with zero home runs. There are 99 other players with at least as many RISP reps over that same span and nobody has a lower on-base plus slugging percentage than Dickerson (.475 OPS). The only ones even below a .600 OPS are Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonathan Villar and Francisco Lindor—that’s a pair of elite fielders and an old friend who at least provides some defensive versatility.

10 MLB batters who have the lowest OPS with runners in scoring position since 2020 (min. 100 PA)
10 MLB batters who have the lowest OPS with runners in scoring position since 2020 (min. 100 PA)
Baseball Savant

Just going by the raw numbers, both FanGraphs (0.6 fWAR) and Baseball-Reference (0.7 rWAR) say that Dickerson has been not-terrible for Miami, producing approximately one win above replacement level if extrapolated over a full-length season. But when accounting for context, his bat has been worth -1.05 Win Probability Added. Among all MLB qualifiers since 2020—a slightly larger sample than used above for the RISP splits—he’s tied for 11th-worst.

When runners are not in scoring position for him, Dickerson does fine. Still below his 2017-2019 standards, but a .288 batting average and .441 slugging percentage in those 331 plate appearances makes him part of the solution, not the problem.

Dickerson famously “chokes up” in two-strike counts. It’s a conscious trade-off, sacrificing some of his power in order to maximize bat control.

Here’s a textbook case of this from last season:

On Tuesday, Dickerson actually delivered with runners in scoring position! Per Baseball Savant, this is the only time that he has barreled the ball with RISP as a Marlin (his heroic NL Wild Card Series homer just barely missed the barrel classification due to its low launch angle).

Down 1-2 in the count, Dickerson adjusts to a low-and-in pitch from Antonio Senzatela and blasts it to the wall for a two-run triple:

LOOK AT HIS GRIP:

Fish Stripes original GIF

There is a tiny bit of daylight between his bottom hand and the knob, but it’s not nearly as extreme as what he’s done in other similar situations. So far in 2021, Dickerson has seemingly cut back on his choking up tendencies, reserving it for some select left-handers.

If Dickerson can put himself in a better power-hitting position without compromising his above-average contact ability, it’d be a boon to a Marlins lineup that’s temporarily without Garrett Cooper (lumbar strain). I fully expect his RISP success rate to climb from what we’ve seen these last two years.

Looking further down the road, this is the kind of development that could help the front office find more trade suitors for Dickerson as the July 30 deadline nears.