But Rea was dealing with a shoulder problem all season long that appeared to get worse as the year progressed. While he hit .249 overall, he only hit .188 in SEC play and struck out 35 times in 101 at-bats.
Part of the reason the strikeouts were so high is due to Rea not laying off the off-speed pitches, especially ones in the dirt. Some of that may have been due to his shoulder problem, but more likely it was simply due to a young hitter facing college pitching for the first time.
Really, it's not surprising he struggled during the season. I saw him have similar struggles during MSU's 2011 fall scrimmages. Although strikeouts weren't a problem in those games (he had 4 Ks), Rea hit just .233 in 42 at-bats against MSU pitching. He also hit just 1 double and 1 home run while knocking in 4 RBI.
As the stats show, those struggles continued into the spring of 2012.
Fast-forward to the 2012 fall scrimmages and you saw a dramatic improvement in Rea's hitting.
In 41 scrimmage at-bats he hit .415, an improvement of 182 percentage points in his batting average, compared to the fall of 2011. He also hit 5 doubles and 3 home runs while knocking in 13 RBI. He was also the second leading hitter, batting average-wise, during fall scrimmages.
Another notable improvement during the fall was how he did when thrown off-speed pitches. During the scrimmages, I keep a record of each pitch thrown (including what type pitch and the velocity of each pitch) against each hitter.
Rea was thrown 74 off-speed pitches. He had a total of 6 swing and misses, which is about 8%. He fouled off 14 pitches and took 10 call strikes. 16 of the 74 pitches were called balls. He was hit by two of the pitches. He hit 6 of the pitches for routine outs and also hit 3 line drive outs. He also had 7 base hits, 2 of which were doubles and 2 that were home runs. He knocked in 8 runs with the 7 hits. He struck out just 2 times on off-speed pitches.
To take that a step farther, during the fall, when he was thrown an off-speed pitch with 2 strikes on him, he had 4 hits in 15 at-bats, an average of .267. He also put the ball in play 6 other times (2 that were line drive outs), while walking twice and being hit by a pitch once. When you add the hits, walks and being hit by a pitch, his on-base percentage was .467. He only struck out twice in those 15 at-bats.
Although this may not mean anything, it's still noteworthy to mention. In the fall of 2010 scrimmages, the second leading hitter on the team, batting average-wise, was Jarrod Parks, who hit .373. In the fall of 2011, the leading hitter was Adam Frazier, who hit .411. Parks followed that fall by hitting .363 during the 2011 season, the best on the team. And Frazier hit .371 last season, also the best on the team.
All of those stats and historic facts lead me to believe Wes Rea will be MSU's most improved hitter this season.