Norichika Aoki is one of the more interesting players I have ever taken the time to take a closer look at. This is partly due to the fact that he is from Japan, and finding in depth statistics from his time there is not all that easy. Basically, all I could gather is that he was the fastest player in their league to amass 500 hits, doing so in 373 games, he hit for a lofty career .329 average (leading the league several times, and was the second player in history to get 200 hits in a season over there. The first was a guy you may have heard of called Ichiro Suzuki, and he handled the transfer to the west pretty well. Basically, it's pretty easy to see why the brewers went out and grabbed him.
His first major league year saw him gather 10 home runs, 30 stolen bases en route to an impressive, but not extraordinary slash line of .288/.355/.433. The 10 home runs were a nice surprise since only 6.5% of his hits in Japan had this result, and that figure has stayed constant despite the switch which one would expect to cause a dip. Anyway, the most interesting, unbelievable, extraordinary, *insert more adjectives here*, aspect of Aoki's game has been made visible in the small sample of this year so far.
Aoki has a batting average on balls in play of .303. Last year it was .304, this year it is .301, so, so far it has been pretty consistent. This is a pretty low number for a major league hitter. Comparable ‘BABIP's can be seen by players such as Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Jay (.301 and .296, respectively) who are solid players, no doubt. However, their batting averages are .260 and .256, a step below Aoki's .296 mark. More relevant statistics show that Aoki swings at 39.4% of pitches. He swings 22% of pitches he faces that are out of the zone, and 61.1% of those that are on target. He takes a swinging strike under 3% of the time, and only strikes out 5% of the time compared to an 8% walk rate. Incredibly, he makes contact on 93.1% of his swings, 94% when the pitch is in the zone, 90.8% when not. So what should we conclude from all this? Norichika Aoki is really good at getting hits, but only when he swings, (obviously). When he does swing, regardless of where the pitch is, he makes contact a large amount of the time. When he makes contact, that ball goes often goes in play, and when the ball goes in play, Aoki almost always gets a hit. Basically, this guy should swing a bit more!