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Pence Learning Pitches

Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros currently holds the longest hitting streak in Major League Baseball.  He remains hot after a good start, and is finally living up to the promise of his rookie season of 2007.  He greatly improved his ability to make solid contact with the change up compared to his three down years.

From 2008-2010, Pence hit the pitch for power, but made many outs doing so.  His slash line of .249/.301/.464 on the pitch was good for a .327 wOBA.  Pence made contact with the pitch, but failed to square it up:

Hunter Pence, line drive rate on changeups, 2008-2010.In 2011, he makes solid contact:

Hunter Pence, live drive rate on change ups, 2011.With Hunter making better contact, his slash line on the change in 2011 stands at .360/.385/.600 a great .418 wOBA.

The whole point of the change up is to throw off a batter's timing.  It looks like a fastball, so he swings early, and makes poor contact with the ball.  Pence appears to have learned to recognize this pitch better, and his batting statistics improved with it.


A Quick Look at Matt Joyce

Matt Joyce (TB) has been one of the Rays best hitters this season.  He's 10th in the league in overall wOBA, and 7th among all lefties. 

Matt Joyce
(Click to enlarge)

Joyce's power zones haven't changed much from last season when he hit .241/.360/.477.  You can see that there are fewer dead zones within the strike zone so far in 2011, and he's hitting outside pitches a bit better.

Joyce also has the third bast batting average against fastballs (.402) this season.  In fact, Joyce is hitting most pitches better this season.

Matt Joyce Batting Averages vs. Pitch Type

Joyce recently had a cortisone shot after experiencing shoulder soreness. He sat out Sunday and manager Joe Maddon hinted that he could be benched against lefty Phil Coke (DET) tonight.


Stronger Ellsbury


Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox is off to a career year, increasing both his ability to get on base and his power over his career averages.  Some of his statistics indicate he is stronger.  The possibility exists that his year of rehabilitating his broken ribs turned him into a better hitter.  The first thing to notice is that he's smacking more balls for line drives:

Jacoby Ellsbury, line drive rate, 2008-2010.Jacoby Ellsbury, line drive rate, 2011.He's very good at lining the low outside pitch, but he's also doing better at smacking offerings in the strike zone as well.

The following table shows how his balls in play distribution changed this season.


Percent in play.
In Play Type2008-20102011
Ground ball 49.4 44.4
Fly ball 22.5 24.1
Line Drive 17.6 22.7
Pop up 7.1 6.5
Bunts 3.4 2.3


With Ellsbury's wOBA over .700 when he hits a line drive, increasing his LD% helps his averages a great deal.  Line drives are not the only place he's getting better, however:


Fly Balls2008-20102011
HR/FB 6.9 13.5
FB distance 297 286
wOBA 0.312 0.544


A higher proportion of his fly balls are falling for hits, not just home runs, despite him not hitting the ball as far on average.  One explanation may be that many of his flies are high line drives.  I thought that it might be Jacoby hitting the Green Monster more often, but his fly balls are producing a higher wOBA on the road.  He's hitting the ball solid and at a good angle, so he gets pure line drives that fall for hits, or long, low flies that hit the gaps.