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Let’s check in on this Wilmer Flores hot streak

This is the best hot streak of his career.

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Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Suzanna Mitchell/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images

Numbers don’t lie but they can be misinterpreted. I hope that’s not the case here, because the San Francisco Giants really have something in this Wilmer Flores hot streak. As you may or may not know, since June 2nd, he’s been the Giants’ best hitter:

A fun thing to do from there is set the minimum to 100 plate appearances (since Flores doesn’t yet qualify for the batting title) and then expand the results out to the rest of the sport. There, Wilmer Flores pops up again... as the best hitter in the National League....

That’s really something. Not the kind of thing you’d expect to see at any point in Wilmer Flores’s career (.264/.318/.441), as much as we like the guy and as helpful as his utility has been. He’s crushing the ball and isn’t missing.

He ended May with a 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, lowering his season OPS to .699 through his first 42 games of the season. Since then, he’s hit .385/.444/.684 (1.127 OPS in 37 games). to raise his season OPS to .905. That’s a long time to get hot and stay hot, and thanks to Baseball Reference, I can confirm that this is the best stretch of his career.

Sorted for 37 game spans of 100+ PA and a 1.000+ OPS, B-R’s Span Finder, Wilmer Flores has done this just one other time: in his lone season with the Diamondbacks (2019). In that run, he topped out at .381/.423/.649 (1.073 OPS) in 104 plate appearances spread out across nearly four months due to a right foot contusion with knocked him out from May 20 to July 18.

In that season, an 0-for-4 against the Pirates dropped his season OPS to .690 (through 39 games). Torey Lovullo sat him down the next day, then the Dbacks had an off day, and their next game began a three-game weekend series against... Bruce Bochy, Madison Bumgarner, and the San Francisco Giants. In the first game of the series, he got two hits after coming in late as a double switch, back when the National League still believed in pitchers hitting. And really, from that game on, he was off to the races.

It ended after a 1-for-3 with a home run in his return to New York to play against the Mets. The next game, he went 0-for-5. BUT! It picked right back up, because over his final 12 games of the season (45 PA) he still managed a home run and 3 doubles slashing .342/.400/.888.

His 2023 season feels a lot more like, “Eh, I can play better.” He hasn’t turned the page since the start of June so much as changed up the reading. His .469 wOBA over this stretched has raised his season average to .382, which is in the top 5% of the league.

If you’re wondering what’s going on here, I’m going to say it’s the collision of a few things:

  1. Wilmer Flores is a veteran hitter — he has enough experience now to simply be able to identify certain pitches and how to keep his body in swing shape. A sub-component of this is that he’s healthy right now, too.
  2. The Giants have great scouting. This connects to point one as well. The lines of communication must be very clear and he’s picking up what the Giants are putting down in terms of what to look for from the opposing pitcher and he’s working on his swing in a way that has him prepared to battle all comers.
  3. He’s seeing the ball well.

That gets said a lot, but maybe he just has really good eyesight. He’s a carrot monger. He doesn’t spend a lot of his day or night staring at screens. He gets plenty of rest. He takes his AREDS 2 vitamins every day. Whatever it is, it’s true: he’s seeing the ball really well.

For his career, he has a 6.7% walk rate against a 13.9% strikeout rate. That’s a difference of 7.2%. This season, he’s at 8.1% against 15.8%, a 7.7% difference. He’s swinging at pitches at a 44.8% clip, which is the lowest of his career. That includes swinging at pitches in the strike zone (63.2%) while a pretty big jump in swings against pitches outside of the zone (32.1%) compared to the past two seasons (30.7% in 22, 30.7% in 21).

Flores has always been pretty good at making contact with pitches out of the zone (career 78.8% O-Contact %; 80.8% in 2023), and while his swinging and contact percentages inside the zone are down year over year and against his career, I have a simple theory: he’s hunting specific pitches in the sequence.

One big number that jumps out is that he’s seeing the most first pitch strikes in his career — 66.5%. Two-thirds of the time, pitchers are trying to get ahead on Wilmer Flores. Most of the time, pitchers use a fastball to do that. Flores’s success against all pitches (he has positive weighted Pitch Values, per FanGraphs) suggests that he’s paid close attention to the Giants’ sequence scouting of given pitchers and he has the vision and physicality to put good swings on the pitches and sequences he recognizes. We see how successful J.D. Davis has been employing the same strategy. It’s no surprise that Flores, a craftier hitter, would have better overall results following the same gamplan.

There’s no question this is a streak. Wilmer Flores hasn’t suddenly turned into peak Miguel Cabrera. That .385 batting average on balls in play is a hint of things to come, but paired with his batted ball data it’s clear. There’s no surprise that hits have better actual and expected values in Statcast, but his 51% Hard Hit rate on base hits compared to 13% on outs certainly suggests the guess right + have stamina parts of being a major league hitter are working at peak efficiency. He’s not making many hard outs, which is another sign of a healthy hitter.

But this isn’t a post complaining about the player the Giants don’t have, this is all about the hitter who is a Giant. Wilmer Flores is Peak Wilmer Flores right now. Enjoy the ride.