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Reynolds Pulling

Mark Reynolds of the Baltimore Orioles shows a huge difference between his batting average and slugging percentage.  He hits .220, but slugs .482.  If you think of this in terms of bases per hit, his average hit is better than a double at 2.2 Bases/Hit.

Mark achieves this dubious distinction by trying to pull everything.  On inside pitches, that's expected:

Mark Reynolds, in play averge on inside pitches, 2011.Even on pitches in the middle, it's not such a bad strategy:

Mark Reynolds, in play average on middle pitches, 2011.On the outside part of the plate, it doesn't help much at all:

Mark Reynolds, in play average on outside pitches, 2011.Note that very few of his hits go the other way.  Four of those hits came on weak ground balls that he pulled down the third base line and beat out.  The following table summarizes his batting on various sections of the plate:


Mark Reynolds, 2011InsideMiddleOutside
Batting Average 0.218 0.253 0.194
OBP 0.336 0.302 0.328
Slugging Pct 0.571 0.589 0.315
Strikeout % 26.4 25.2 35.8
Ground Ball % 30.5 40.7 45.3


Note that Mark hits his best on balls over the middle of the plate.  He slugs extremely well middle in, but his only strength on the outside part of the plate comes from drawing walks.  The ground ball line tells a big part of the story.  Trying to pull those outside pitches results in weak contact and tons of ground balls.  Reynolds probably won't change his swing at this point, but he might be better off laying off those pitches as much as possible.



Braun Laying off the Hard Stuff

As the Milwaukee Brewers breeze into the playoffs, Ryan Braun is competing with the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Joey Votto, Justin Upton and Matt Kemp for the NL MVP Award. The 28-year-old slugger is batting better than .330, getting on base more than 40 percent of the time and is flirting with a .600 slugging percentage. He swiped his 30th base last night, too, giving him a good chance of joining Kemp in the 30/30 club.

Braun's best offensive season yet has been fueled by better plate patience. In fact, Braun's walk rate has increased every year of his career, from 5.9 percent as a rookie to his current 10.3 percent mark. That's not simply the result of intentional walks, either: Braun is chasing fewer pitches, particularly high-velocity ones.

His chase rate against "hard" pitches -- fastballs, sinkers, cutters and splitters -- has dropped from about 34 percent in 2008 (the first year for which we have data) to 32 percent in 2009, 30 percent in 2010 and 24 percent in 2011. For comparison, the big league average for non-pitchers is slightly above 26 percent.

In past years, Braun offered at lots of hard pitches in on the hands and above the letters. That's not the case this season:

Braun's swing rate by pitch location vs. "hard" stuff, 2008-2010

Braun's swing rate by pitch location vs. "hard" stuff, 2011

With a better eye against higher-velocity offerings, Braun has improved his performance against hard pitches from an already-impressive .323/.388/.553 line from '08 to '10 to .364/.446/.663 in 2011 (.285/.358/.449 average for non-pitchers).

As if he weren't already terrifying at the plate, Braun has now learned the power of patience. Good luck getting him out.


A.J. Burnett's Pitch Location vs. the Baltimore Orioles

Earlier in the week, we broke down A.J. Burnett's success, or lack thereof, into three zones.  We saw that he has been very bad over the middle and upper parts of the zone, and close to the best in the league when keeping the ball down.

Well last night Burnett had another awful game yielding 9 runs to the Baltimore Orioles over five innings.  Was he keeping the ball out of the middle and upper portions of the zone?

No, he certainly did not.  Of the 116 pitches that A.J. Burnett threw last night, just 15 were located in the lower part of the zone.  Not surprisingly, three of his five strikeouts came on pitches down in the zone, and he gave up just one hit in seven plate appearances decided on a low pitch.

(Click image to enlarge)

If A.J. is going to regain anything of his old form, he should probably start by doing what my parents always yelled at me to do: keep it down.