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Nick Swisher's Contact Rates

As noted earlier in the season, Nick Swisher (NYY) was struggling from the left side of the plate before going on a small run.  He currently holds a .414 wOBA from the right side compared to .320 from the left, but his HR rate is nearly identical at this point in the season.

One of the big disparities for Swisher is his contact rate.  Since 2010, Swisher has had a tougher time making contact against right-handed pitching.

(Click image to enlarge)

This season, Swisher is making contact on 87.0% of his swings versus righties, compared to just 75.8% versus lefties.  This isn't a change from his rates in the two previous seasons (84.0%/74.8%).  However, his power from the left side has dropped.  He's slugging just .370 from the left side this season, compared to .453 between 2009 and 2010.

In the last month, Swisher has been doing much better from the left side, slugging .525 with 3 HR.  So perhaps the first few months of the season were just a blip, rather than a sign of decline.


The Price is Almost Right

David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays has improved both his walk and strikeout rates in 2011 posting the best K/9 IP and BB/9 IP marks of his career.  The result however, is an ERA one run higher than last season.  While David keeps men off base very well, with men on base, batters hit him better making the most of their limited opportunities.

The spot to hit Price the best is near the catcher's glove hand:

David Price, in play average, 2011.David, however, avoids that area of the plate:

David Price, pitch frequency, 2011.Note that Price works the outside part of the strike zone near the catcher's hand.  He experience great success getting both swinging and called strikes there:

David Price, strike rate, 2011.So working inside to left-handers, outside to right-handers, works well for Price, while putting the ball on the inside part of the plate (from a right-handed batter's perspective) works poorly.  So with no one on:

David Price, pitch frequency, bases empty, 2011.This pattern produces a .213/.249/.368 slash line by his opposing batters.  With men on base, however, Price abandons this winning pattern:

David Price, pitch frequency, runners on, 2011.He often puts the ball right where batter like to hit it against him.  The above pattern results in a .276/.338/.414 slash line.  Those hits come at a bad time, and help drive runners home.

I wonder if this pattern is part of a desire to drive down his walks.  Walks with men on base are frustrating for a pitcher.  By throwing the ball over the plate more with men on base, he avoids the walks, but he's also providing good pitches to hit.  It's not clear the trade-off is working this season.


Alex Rios -- Dead Last Pull Hitter

Alex Rios of the Chicago White Sox sports the lowest OBP in the major leagues among players with at least 300 plate appearances, .256.  Interestingly, Alex does chase more pitches than usual outside the strike zone, but in general, he swings at strikes more often than he swings at balls.  His problem lies in his approach at the plate, and approach that pitchers easily exploit.

In 2011, pitchers work Alex away:

Alex Rios, pitch frequency, 2011.They are pitching to Alex's weak zones.

Alex Rios, in play average, 2011.Alex can hit the inside pitch, but that's about it. Why is that?  Look at where his hits wind up:

Alex Rios, hit locations, 2011.Alex likes to pull the ball.  If you divide the field into third, you see there are almost no hits to the rightfield slice of the pie.  When pitchers work batters away, they batters that pull the ball often hit weak grounders.  Rios's ground outs look like this:

Alex Rios Groundouts, 2011.Pitchers are giving Alex rightfield.  Unless he takes the ball the other way, he'll keep making outs at a prodigious rate, and cost the White Sox runs in the process.