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Tuesday
Jun282011

Popping Teixeira

In the last two seasons, Mark Teixeira of the Yankees saw his batting average drop while still hitting for power.  During the the 2008-2009 seasons he posted a .300 BA with a .259 isolated power (Extra bases per at bat).  Since the start of the 2010 season, Mark hit .253 with a .245 isolated power.  He's still producing extra base hits, but his singles have fallen.

It appears that Mark changed his approach at the plate in order to hit more home runs.  In the 2008-2009 period, Teixiera popped up 8.4% of balls in play about compared to 11.6% in 2010-2011.  That doesn't seem like much, but in that last season and a half, he popped up as much as in 2008-2009, 83 times.  He has two hits on those 166 pops, all in the early two seasons.

The worrisome fact, however, is that Mark is popping up a different set of pitches.

Mark Teixeira, pop ups, 2008-2009. Pitch location on the left, pitch movement on the right.Note the pitch movement.  Mark was swinging at pitches that didn't drop as much as expected (pitches above the X axis.  On top of that, these were fairly high in the strike zone.  In other words, a player with a level swing might be fooled by a "rising" pitch high in the zone and get under it a bit, popping it up.

Mark Teixeira, pop ups, 2010-2011. Pitch location on the left, pitch movement on the right.In the last season, Teixeira continues to pop up pitches with the same movement, dropping less than expected.  What's changed in the location of most of those pitches, now low in the strike zone.  This looks like someone trying to uppercut the ball in order to drive it out of the park.  In this case, Mark is popping up pitches, because he's swinging lower.  A level swing hit those square, resulting in a line drive.

It seems that Teixeira tries to square up the ball less and hit it out of the park more.  With him tied for the AL lead in home runs and third in RBI, it seems to be a good trade off for the Yankees.  The change did drop his OBP over 30 points, so all those home runs and runs are coming at a higher price in outs.  If pitchers can exploit his tendency to pop up, that trade off could look a lot worse.

Tuesday
Jun282011

Ian Kinsler's troubles

In this morning's Dallas News, the Texas Rangers' Ian Kinsler really summed it up to writer Gerry Fraley, “I’m hitting .235,” said Kinsler. “You can look at anything. Right now, I stink.”

That may a little harsh, Ian, but only a little.

Kinsler is slugging .393, 65 points below his lifetime average. He hit three homers in his first 10 at-bats this season, but only five homers in his last 275 at-bats.

As bad as all that is, what is worse is Kinsler with runners in scoring position. Fraley points out, "For the season, he is hitting only .185 with runners in scoring position. That is the ninth-lowest average among AL qualifiers."

Comparing 2008 and 2011

The 2008 season was a good one for Kinsler hitting .319, slugging .517 and an OPS of .892. With runners in scoring position, he hit .413.

I compared the 2008 Kinsler w/RISP against fastballs and the 2011 model and saw a significant difference.

2008 RISP vs the Fastball

Ian hit .400 and slugged .618

2011 RISP vs the Fastball

Ian is hitting .179 and slugging .286This is just against the fastball and you can see that he is handling very little on the outer part of the plate.

Here is an isolated view of the outer portion of the plate:

2011 Fastball w/RISP outer part of the plateIt gets even more shocking when you see this:

2011 RISP vs all pitches on the outer part of the plate

This is what an .032 average looks likeKinsler has just one hit in 27 at bats, a double off of a change-up, on pitches on the outer portion of the plate.

The fact that Kinsler has drown 42 walks when batting leadoff, the most in the AL is no surprise. Pitchers are pumping Kinsler on the outer half of the plate, which has produced 27 walks:

27 walks have come from outside pitches, 15 on fastballsKinsler's ability to adjust and address this issue will go a long way in determining his, and the Rangers', success in 2011.

Tuesday
Jun282011

Pitchers Challenging Ben Revere

Twins outfielder Ben Revere is a polarizing prospect. His backers see a high-contact hitter with blazing speed. His critics point out that the 5-foot-9, 175 pounder rarely gets the ball out of the infield and may be bullied by pitchers at the highest level. It's far too early to make a definitive judgment about the 23-year-old, but those shouting warnings about Revere's hitting ability have been right so far.

Revere's triple slash in 2011 (.264/.291/.295) is devoid of walks or power. And pitchers, knowing that the worst Revere can do to them is slap a single the other way, are challenging him to hit pitches over the plate.

Opponents have thrown Revere a fastball or a sinker about 68 percent of the time, which is the highest rate among MLB hitters and well above the 57-58 percent league average. And 53 percent of those fastballs/sinkers have been thrown within the strike zone (51 percent average). Revere's in-play slugging percentage versus fastballs and sinkers is chock full of blue:

Revere's in-play slugging percentage against fastballs

Revere has a .300 slugging percentage versus fastballs/sinkers, while the league average is .439. The lefty batter has one extra-base hit against a fastball in 2011: a double against Chicago's Gavin Floyd on June 15.

Similarly, pitchers are pounding the zone when they do decide to throw Revere breaking stuff. Over 57 percent of the curveballs and sliders that Revere has seen have been within the strike zone, compared to the 45 percent league average.

Revere's in-play slugging percentage against breaking balls

Revere's .231 slugging percentage against breaking balls is well short of the .351 league average.

One might look at Ben Revere's three percent walk rate and assume that he's hacking, but that's not the case. Rather, pitchers see a hitter who can't do much extra-base damage against them, and in response, they're throwing strikes and forcing Revere to prove that he can hit in the majors. After all, why tiptoe around the strike zone when the worst the batter can do is poke a single through the infield?