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Entries in Boston Red Sox (105)


Adrian's Approach

Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox talked to the Boston Globe's Peter Abraham about how he changes his approach to hitting with men on base:

Gonzalez explained how having runners on base helps make him a better hitter.

“They’re going to pitch the way they’re going to pitch. But when you have people on base, the pitcher doesn’t want to walk you and put you on base,’’ he said.

“They’re still going to pitch to you. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to throw fastballs down the middle. You just know that if you get to a situation where it’s 2-0 or 3-1, he might throw an offspeed pitch and it’ll be a strike.’’

You can see that in the pitch frequency against Gonzalez with the bases empty and men on:
Adrian Gonzalez, pitch frequency with the bases empty, 2011.Pitchers work him away.  They continue to do so with men on base, but they work more in the strike zone.
Adrian Gonzalez, pitch frequency with men on base, 2011.Mostly pitchers avoid going low out of the strike zone more.  Gonzalez, however, makes another adjustment that he doesn't talk about in the article.  Look where he takes pitches with the bases empty, or more accurately, where he doesn't take pitches:
Adrian Gonzalez, take percentage with the bases empty, 2011.With the bases empty, Adrian looks dead red.  If there's a ball in the middle of the plate he swings, and he usually clobbers it.
Adrian Gonzalez, in play average with the bases empty, 2011.
In fact nine of his thirteen home runs came with the bases empty.  With men on base, his non-take zone moves inside:
Adrian Gonzalez, take pecentage with men on base, 2011.Now he's taking the pitch down the middle quite often, but he's going after the inside strike.  Again, he hits those hard:
Adrian Gonzalez, in play average with men on base, 2011.With men on base, the right side of the infield opens up.  Going after inside pitches allows Gonzalez to pull the ball more, taking advantage of the bigger hole between second and first.  With the bases empty, he swings for the fences.  With men on, he goes for the hit to try to bring them home.  So far, this approach is working as his 60 RBI lead the majors.

Carl Crawford Returns to the Trop

Tonight, Boston's Carl Crawford returns to where he started his career.  Crawford played nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before signing with the Red Sox this offseason.

The start to his Red Sox career has been anything but easy.  Through his first 40 games, he had hit .205/.243/.280 with just one home run and 31 strike outs.  However, he's managed to slowly climb out of that hole and has raised his line to .246/.279/.393.  At this point in the 2010 season, Crawford was sporting a .296/.346/.465 line.

Here's a look at his SLG% heat maps through June 13 for both this season and last:

Data through June 13 (Click to enlarge image)

Crawford has simply not been as dangerous on pitches in the strike zone this season.  Oddly enough, he's hit the same number of HRs (6) and triples (4) that he did at this point last season.  However, he's striking out at a slightly greater rate (14.2% to 16.9% K-Rate), and walking much less (7.1% to 3.4% BB%).  As a result, his wOBA is down over 50 points from where it was at this point last season.

Crawford has never hit lefties well, but this season he's struggled greatly against them.  He's hitting .159/.216/.280 vs. LHP for a .222 wOBA, compared to a .324 wOBA vs. RHP this season.  In his career, he's put up a .264/.310/.376 line against lefties. 

Tonight, Crawford and the Red Sox face James Shields (TB) who is off to a 5-4 start with a 2.85 ERA with the Rays.  Shields has held lefties to a .232/.279/.379 line this season.  Meanwhile, Crawford has been bashing RHP over the last month, with a .419 wOBA including 3 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs in that span.


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.