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This site utilizes the MLB analytics platform powered by TruMedia Networks


Things Looking up for Gomes

Jonny Gomes is off to a great start in 2011.  He's showing selectivity and power at the plate, ranking among the league leaders in walks and home runs.  His home run rate should cause him to eclipse his previous season high of 21.

Gomes's selectivity isn't so much strike zone judgement as it is pitch judgement.  Great hitters talk about getting one good pitch per plate appearance, and that's the one they want to attack.  In the past, Gomes swung at most pitches in the strike zone:

Jonny Gomes, swings, 2008-2010.Although he swung at strikes, his power zones were limited:

Jonny Gomes slugging, 2008-2010.This season, Gomes seems to be looking for pitches up in the zone:

Jonny Gomes swings, 2011.That turns out to be a great place to power the ball:

Jonny Gomes, slugging 2011.By selecting pitches he can hit hard, Gomes increases his slugging percentage.  That also helps his walks in two ways.  Pitchers are more careful throwing to him, and umpires see that Gomes defines his own strike zone well.  If he can keep this up, Gomes could have a monster year.


Alexei Ramirez Adjustments

The heat maps Baseball Analytics produces give a nice view of how pitchers and batters adjust to each other.  Alexei Ramirez provides a good example of this in 2011.  During his first three years in the majors, pitchers tended to avoid the inside part of the plate against him, but used most of the strike zone:

Alexei Ramirez, pitch frequency, 2008-2010.

His power tended to be down and middle in.

Alexei Ramirez, slugging, 2008-2010.

In 2010, pitchers worked him away much more:

Alexei Ramirez, pitch frequency, 2010 only.As the pitches moved away from Alexi, he moved his power with them:

Alexei Ramirez, slugging, 2010.So far in 2011, pitchers have worked him even further away:

Alexei Ramirez, pitch frequency, 2011.Once again, Alexei moved his power with them:

Alexei Ramirez, slugging, 2011.Of course, this early in the season, those might just be a couple of lucky hits.  So far in his career, however, Ramirez showed he can adjust to changes in the way pitchers work the strike zone, and turn a perceived weakness into a strength.


Surviving Strikeouts

Josh Willingham and Pedro Alvarez own two of the top three strikeout rates in the major leagues so far in 2011.


BatterStrikeout Pct.
Josh Willingham 35.3
Jay Bruce 33.3
Pedro Alvarez 32.7
Curtis Granderson 32.5


There is a bit of a paradox when it comes to high strikeout rates.  For pitchers, they are a sign that the player is a quality hurler.  Yet batters with high strikeout rates are often among the best in the game.  Sluggers from Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle to Reggie Jackson to Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard came under criticism for their propensity to K.  All of these player share the traits, however, of sending the ball out of the park and drawing a good number of walks.


Willingham is better at both of those than Alvarez.  Josh draws walks in 7.8% of his plate appearances, versus 6.3% for Pedro.  That might not seem like much, but Willingham is 50th percentile in walks, while Alvarez comes in at about the 38th percentile.   Among the top ten in strikeout percentage, Pedro owns the third lowest walk rate. 

The big difference can be seen in how they light up the strike zone with power:

Josh Willingham slugging, 2011.Pedro Alvarez slugging, 2011.The difference in walks and power means that Josh sports a .316 wOBA, poor but not terrible, while Alarvez comes in with a .216 mark.  This is the key to the paradox.  Hitters  who strike out a great deal can be successful if they contribute in other ways.  Batters like Alvarez, without power or the ability to get on base, do not last in the majors.  Over time, we only see the successful strike out kings. The ones who can't do anything else go back to the minors.