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« Wily Mo Pena Powerful, Impatient as Ever | Main | Phil Hughes Returns, Sort Of »

Zorilla Feasting On High Pitches

Tampa's switch-hitting Swiss Army Knife, Ben Zobrist, could end up on the American League All-Star squad if the fans deem him worthy of Major League Baseball's Final Vote contest. It's hard to argue against Zorilla: His 4.1 Wins Above Replacement this season tie him with Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Dustin Pedroia for tenth among position players.

Zobrist is playing like a darkhorse MVP candidate due to a resurgence at the plate. He batted a mild .238/.346/.353 in 2011, with a .115 Isolated Power. But this year, he's hitting .265/.349/.461 and has a .196 ISO. Zobrist might not be going yard like he did in 2009, when he hit 27 home runs, but his total of 41 extra-base hits ties him with Carlos Quentin for fourth in the AL behind Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson.

Zobrist is splitting the gaps and occasionally clearing the fence by feasting on high pitches. Take a look at his in-play slugging percentage on pitches thrown high in the zone in 2010 and 2011:

 Zobrist's in-play slugging percentage on high pitches, 2010

Zobrist's in-play slugging percentage on high pitches, 2011Zobrist's .358 slugging percentage versus high pitches in 2010 was well below the .382 league average. In 2011, however, Zorilla has crushed high pitches for a .655 slugging percentage (.375 league average). Seven of his nine homers have come on pitches thrown in the upper third of the zone.

A cerebral player who once worked with "Swing Mechanic" Jamie Cevallos to add power to his game, Zobrist has a near-.200 ISO from both sides of the plate. Whether he nabs that final All-Star spot or not, Zobrist's rangy D and rediscovered power stroke make him on of the most valuable players in the game.  

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