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« Deadspin on Baseball Analytics | Main | Carl Crawford Returns to the Trop »

Adrian's Approach

Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox talked to the Boston Globe's Peter Abraham about how he changes his approach to hitting with men on base:

Gonzalez explained how having runners on base helps make him a better hitter.

“They’re going to pitch the way they’re going to pitch. But when you have people on base, the pitcher doesn’t want to walk you and put you on base,’’ he said.

“They’re still going to pitch to you. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to throw fastballs down the middle. You just know that if you get to a situation where it’s 2-0 or 3-1, he might throw an offspeed pitch and it’ll be a strike.’’

You can see that in the pitch frequency against Gonzalez with the bases empty and men on:
Adrian Gonzalez, pitch frequency with the bases empty, 2011.Pitchers work him away.  They continue to do so with men on base, but they work more in the strike zone.
Adrian Gonzalez, pitch frequency with men on base, 2011.Mostly pitchers avoid going low out of the strike zone more.  Gonzalez, however, makes another adjustment that he doesn't talk about in the article.  Look where he takes pitches with the bases empty, or more accurately, where he doesn't take pitches:
Adrian Gonzalez, take percentage with the bases empty, 2011.With the bases empty, Adrian looks dead red.  If there's a ball in the middle of the plate he swings, and he usually clobbers it.
Adrian Gonzalez, in play average with the bases empty, 2011.
In fact nine of his thirteen home runs came with the bases empty.  With men on base, his non-take zone moves inside:
Adrian Gonzalez, take pecentage with men on base, 2011.Now he's taking the pitch down the middle quite often, but he's going after the inside strike.  Again, he hits those hard:
Adrian Gonzalez, in play average with men on base, 2011.With men on base, the right side of the infield opens up.  Going after inside pitches allows Gonzalez to pull the ball more, taking advantage of the bigger hole between second and first.  With the bases empty, he swings for the fences.  With men on, he goes for the hit to try to bring them home.  So far, this approach is working as his 60 RBI lead the majors.

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