Rojas said after the game that two things are paying off for him right now. One is an increase in playing time since Hanley Ramirez suffered his latest injury, a strained right oblique muscle.
Another is some recent work in the batting cage that led Rojas to make some adjustments at the plate.
“Trying to swing at strikes,” he said. “It’s not mechanical. It’s all mental.”
Rojas has been a pretty good contact hitter since he was summoned from Triple-A in June. In 106 plate appearances, his contact rate of 87.5 percent is smack-dab between that of Dee Gordon (88.1 percent) and Carl Crawford (85.8), the two best contact hitters on the team.
But there was a hole in Rojas’ swing that pitchers seemed to be exploiting. Via BrooksBaseball.net, here’s a graph of the strike zone showing where Rojas was and wasn’t able to make contact (lower contact = red; higher contact = blue):
That chart only accounts for Rojas’ first two months in big leagues, ending July 31.
Here’s the same chart, for the first 11 days of August — an admittedly small sample size of just 16 plate appearances:
We can see that Rojas has swung and missed exactly three times this month, which speaks to the small sample size of data we’re working with. But notice the trend on low and away pitches: Opposing pitchers are still trying to get him to chase that pitch. He’s seen 65 pitches and 17 of them were off the low/outside corner of the strike zone. Rojas isn’t missing those pitches anymore. The small hole in his swing is shrinking.
This improvement is not entirely a product of cage work, Rojas said, because “it’s tough because you’re not facing real pitchers. It’s all about timing and rhythm.”
That’s where the additional playing time pays off.
Rojas knows his role. He’s on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster for his defense. He’s easily got the best hands of any shortstop on the roster (though we haven’t seen Darwin Barney yet). But as long as he’s here, a few more games like Sunday’s won’t hurt.