Eddie Rosario called himself “Super Rosario” for the larcenous catch he made at the left-field fence against José Altuve of the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night. The play put an exclamation point on the Braves’ 3-2 victory, which put them in position to win the Series at home in Game 5 on Sunday night. Only six teams out of 46 in MLB history have come back from a 3-1 deficit.
Rosario’s defense was super, but he also added two more hits to his super postseason at the plate, which has been a recurring jackpot for the Braves as they’ve charged from middle of the pack in August to being one step from winning it all for the first time since 1995.
If it seems like Rosario has become a different hitter in the playoffs, there's evidence to back up such a suspicion. His results have been better than super, with Rosario putting up a .426/.475/.685 line with three homers, 11 RBIs and 37 total bases. He leads the postseason in hits with 23, reaching base in 13 of 14 games. He has the second-most extra bases. He has the second-best on-base percentage among those who have played at least six games.
While he's had his moments in years past, including two seasons in which, Rosario believes, he could have been named to the All-Star Game, his concentration and tenacity have never seemed as sharp as they do now. He's seeing more pitches per plate appearance than at any other point in his career. Anyone's results in a sample of 55 plate appearances could be ascribed to luck or timing, but Rosario definitely is putting in the work at the plate.
In the World Series, he has seen 4.12 pitches per plate appearance, compared to 3.59 in the regular season. He saw 2.93 pitchers per plate appearance in the National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers and seemed to pivot in the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, upping it to 3.71 pitches per plate appearance. Since Rosario debuted in 2015, the regular-season league average is 3.89 p/pa.
While not foolproof, it's generally true that the more pitches a batter sees, the better results for the offense — especially if it means not swinging at pitches they can handle. Looking for your pitch might be the best hitting advice there is, even if it's easier to preach than it is to practice.
Rosario said after Game 4 that productive at-bats have been generated throughout the Braves lineup during the playoffs.
“Throughout the entire series, throughout the entire postseason, going all the way back to Milwaukee, we've had these at-bats and these hits that have sort of electrified and surprised the entire dugout,” Rosario said, “and they've energized us and sort of motivated us to keep going.”
After winning the NLCS MVP, Rosario has gone 5-for-16 with a walk and three runs scored in the World Series, reflecting the team's collective performance. Hits have been harder to come by for everyone in this round. Much of Rosario's impact against the Astros has come from getting into deeper counts. He saw 21 pitches in Game 3 alone, the most for any batter on either team.
"With tonight's starter (Ian Anderson), he wasn't really in the zone for first-pitch strikes," Rosario said of Game 3. "I think for us in particular it was about us being patient for at-bats. I think with the Dodgers, (they) really were aggressive on those first pitches and always tried to be in the strike zone, so it allowed us to be more aggressive in turn."
Rosario should be described as an aggressive hitter in general. His below-average pitches-per-plate-appearance stats probably have a diminishing effect on his regular-season numbers. He's a .275/.309/.473 hitter who gets 27 homers, 32 walks and 120 strikeouts per 162 games — better than the average hitter by about 8-10 percent. Among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances since 2015, he's 51st out of 81 with a .329 wOBA — in the middle.
His approach is not generating walks at a significantly higher rate in the postseason, but that's OK. Playoff games sometimes have a tendency to exaggerate whatever typical habits a batter shows. Teammate Austin Riley, who had an RBI double in Game 3, wants to be a copy of how good he was during the regular season.
"You get into the postseason, and I feel like a lot of people want to change a little bit, trying to do a little extra, a little extra," Riley said. "And I just try to keep it as simple as possible, keep my approach through the middle. And I think that was the reason why I was able to stay on that slider right there."
Riley being Riley is exactly what the Braves should want. Rosario wanting to be more than "Everyday Eddie" is also what the Braves should want.
Rosario could just go up hacking, swinging for the downs on the first and every pitch. But his approach is more nuanced than that. His postseason approach does reflect some of the skills he's shown in the regular season — notably in his 14.5 percent strikeout rate, which is about what he did in the regular season (14.8 percent). Regardless, it's way below MLB's overall 22 percent K rate since Rosario broke in.
In some ways, Eddie is still being Eddie. Just a little more Super.