There were many good things about the 2020 Marlins team. Chief among them: Jon Berti. He was an on-base machine and he combined that skill with his impressive speed on the base paths.
While a .258 batting average may read as a cause for concern to baseball purists, Berti made up for it thanks to posting a .388 on-base percentage. Berti’s walk rate, which sat at a modest 7.9% entering 2020—albeit across just 302 plate appearances—nearly doubled. He finished the abbreviated 2020 season walking 15.4% of the time.
This was made possible by Berti’s great plate discipline.
Among Marlins players with at least 50 PA in 2020, no one was better than Berti in terms of plate discipline, swinging at a mere 20.8 percent of the pitches out of the strike zone. Favorable to Berti is the gradual improvements he’s seen in spitting on pitches off the plate:
A number I really pay attention to about Berti is how infrequently he swings. He went from swinging 54.2% of the time in 2018 (15 PA), to 41.6% in 2019, to 34.9% this season.
Had Berti amassed enough plate appearances, he’d have finished third in the Majors with the lowest swing%, trailing only Yasmani Grandal of the White Sox (33.8) and former Marlin Christian Yelich (34.6).
But the good thing is Berti rarely failed to make contact. His contact percentage went from an already good 77.2% in 2019 to an elite 82.8%, the second-highest among Marlin hitters with at least 100 plate appearances—shortstop Miguel Rojas made contact in 84.1% of his trips to the plate.
That combination of contact, plate discipline, and speed makes Berti a valuable piece despite being far away from the exit velocity, barrel, or hard hit% leaderboards.
In an era when home runs have become more commonplace than ever before, Berti is a throwback. You could easily envision him succeeding in the same ways during, say, the 1960s when long ball frequency was depressed by the likes of Koufax, Marichal and Drysdale. But Berti definitely sticks out next to his contemporaries, which only makes it that much more exciting to watch him on a daily basis.