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Entries in Jacoby Ellsbury (13)

Tuesday
Oct222013

A Tale of Two Lefty-Killers

When the World Series kicks off at Fenway Park on Wednesday, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz should expect to see plenty of Mike Matheny. The Cardinals manager figures to deploy his two lefty-killers, Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist, to neutralize Boston's lead-off and clean-up hitters. Ellsbury (.863 on-base-plus-slugging percentage versus right-handed pitching) and Ortiz (1.092 OPS) crush righties, but struggle to square up same-handed pitching (.641 OPS against lefties for Ellsbury, .733 for Ortiz).

Choate, a 38-year-old slopballer, and Siegrist, a 24-year-old rookie possessing Aroldis Chapman-esque heat, share little common ground. But style differences aside, they both give opposing lefties nightmares.

The Slopballer

If you use the bathroom mid-inning, or grab a sandwich, or blink, you might miss Choate's work for the night. He threw an average of 7.6 pitches per appearance during the regular season, by far the lowest among relievers tossing at least 450 total pitches. That's because Choate is the game's ultimate specialist, facing lefty batters 70.2 percent of the time. Few lefty pitchers in history have smothered same-handed hitters like Choate -- he has the third-lowest opponent OPS ever in southpaw versus southpaw matchups:

Lowest career OPS for lefty pitchers vs. lefty batters (minimum 750 at-bats vs. LHB)

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

Choate has been even better in 2013, holding lefties to a .492 OPS. The side-arm hurler gets such excellent results despite radar gun readings that wouldn't get him pulled over on interstate highways. Choate's sinker has the second-slowest average velocity (85.9 MPH) among relievers, topping only submarine pitcher Darren O'Day (85.6 MPH).

While the pitch lacks zip, Choate's sinker is a ground ball machine -- batters are chopping the offering into the grass 76.3 percent of the time. Fellow Cardinal Seth Maness (77.2 percent) is the only reliever to generate a higher percentage of ground balls with his sinker. Choate peppers the bottom of the strike zone with the pitch, throwing his sinker at lefty hitters' knees 59 percent of the time.

Choate's sinker location vs. lefty hitters, 2013

 

His slider also comes in soft, with the second-lowest average velocity (76.1 MPH) among 'pen arms (Darren Oliver averaged 75.2 MPH). Batters nonetheless whiff half of the time they swung at Choate's breaker, compared to the 35.9 percent major league average.

Chapman-in-Training

Siegrist was in elementary school when Choate started his lefty-killer act, but St. Louis' young southpaw has already made some history of his own. Siegrist posted a 0.45 ERA during the regular season, second-lowest ever for a rookie throwing at least 35 innings. Who bested him? Buck O'Brien (0.38 ERA), a 29-year-old spitballer for the 1911 Red Sox. Hitters quickly figured out O'Brien's spit pitch, and he was out of the game a few years later. Considering his stuff and ability to battle hitters on both sides of the plate (he faced a nearly even amount of lefties and righties), Siegrist won't be vanquished so easily.  

Siegrist has little use for breaking and off-speed pitches, firing his fastball 85.7 percent of the time. And with gas like his, who can blame him? Siegrist's fastball averages 95 MPH, a mark best only by Chapman (98.4 MPH), Jake McGee (96.2 MPH), Jake Diekman (95.6 MPH) and Justin Wilson (95.2 MPH) among lefty relievers.

He pounds the outside corner with the pitch -- no lefty has thrown a higher percentage of heaters to the outer third of the zone (69.6 percent) when they have the platoon advantage. Siegrist's combo of speed and command has helped him limit lefty batters to a .388 OPS, best among left-handed relievers save for Luis Avilan (.383 OPS).

Siegrist's fastball location vs. lefty hitters

Monday
Oct072013

Postseason Batting - It's Hanley and Everyone Else

I've been watching these games and seeing the success of the Red Sox and Dodgers (Pirates as well) bats and the futility of the Tigers, Rays, Cards, and A's and wanted to see how they were succeeding and struggling even beyond the averages.

Let's take a deep dive into the batting prowess of each team

Who's Fooling Who? (Batters as of October 7, 2013)
P PA Swng% Miss% Strk% InPl% Foul% Zone% Chas% ClStk% AVG BABIP
Los Angeles Dodgers (LAD) 446 120 51.3% 24.0% 65.7% 34.9% 41.0% 46.0% 31.5% 29.5% .333 .419
Tampa Bay Rays (TB) 405 109 48.6% 30.5% 64.9% 35.0% 34.5% 47.7% 31.6% 31.7% .208 .258
Oakland Athletics (OAK) 309 68 48.5% 36.7% 63.1% 22.0% 41.3% 43.4% 32.0% 28.3% .177 .313
Pittsburgh Pirates (PIT) 551 149 47.7% 23.6% 62.6% 41.8% 34.6% 44.3% 29.3% 28.5% .277 .294
Atlanta Braves (ATL) 468 109 47.2% 24.4% 62.4% 30.3% 45.2% 46.6% 31.2% 28.7% .221 .313
Detroit Tigers (DET) 266 68 46.6% 19.4% 62.4% 39.5% 41.1% 44.7% 31.3% 29.6% .219 .292
Boston Red Sox (BOS) 294 80 46.6% 19.7% 63.3% 42.3% 38.0% 49.7% 23.0% 31.2% .352 .411
St. Louis Cardinals (STL) 421 109 43.7% 17.9% 62.2% 44.0% 38.0% 47.7% 23.6% 32.9% .219 .234
What stands out:
  • The Dodgers are not afraid to swing against the Braves pitching.
  • The Dodgers and Red Sox have an unsustainable batting average for balls in play.
  • Look how few pitches the Braves are putting play and then you see the A's are putting way fewer in play. Both teams have a .313 BABIP.
  • The A's have been missing a lot of Tigers pitches and really have to be thrilled with a 1-1 tie in the series.
  • The Tigers are really struggling against the A's pitching and really have to be thrilled with a 1-1 tie in the series.
  • The Red Sox are showing great discipline at the plate not doing a lot of swing and missing and not chasing a lot of pitches out of the zone. They are confident enough to take called strikes and work the count. They are not being fooled by Tampa Bay pitching.
  • In contrast, the Cardinals are not swinging at a lot of pitches, they missing very few, they're not chasing a lot of pitches, and they are not hitting in good luck, in part because we've seen they are not taking good swings at pitches.

Prince Fielder needs to take a called strike

Here's some thoughts:
Prince Fielder needs to chill. Josh Donaldson is creating new wind currents with his swings-and-misses. Delmon Young is swinging at almost everything. Hanley Ramirez is a beast. Marlon Byrd loves being a Buc. Yasiel Puig of his own, rakes. If Jacoby Ellsbury continues the way he's been playing, Scott Boras will go deaf from all the ka-chings he keeps hearing for the soon-to-be free agent.
Here's why:
Top 20 Swingers as of October 7, 2013
P PA Swng% Miss% Strk% InPl% Foul% Zone% Chas% ClStk% AVG BABIP
Delmon Young (TB) 34 11 70.6% 41.7% 76.5% 37.5% 20.8% 41.2% 60.0% 20.0% .333 .250
Juan Uribe (LAD) 46 13 65.2% 30.0% 71.7% 33.3% 36.7% 50.0% 43.5% 18.8% .333 .375
Stephen Vogt (OAK) 36 7 63.9% 21.7% 77.8% 17.4% 60.9% 38.9% 54.5% 38.5% .143 .250
Prince Fielder (DET) 26 8 61.5% 6.3% 61.5% 50.0% 43.8% 46.2% 28.6% 0.0% .125 .125
Jose Iglesias (DET) 31 7 61.3% 15.8% 74.2% 31.6% 52.6% 41.9% 55.6% 33.3% .167 .200
Hanley Ramirez (LAD) 57 14 59.6% 11.8% 66.7% 35.3% 52.9% 42.1% 42.4% 17.4% .538 .545
Evan Gattis (ATL) 57 12 59.6% 20.6% 68.4% 23.5% 55.9% 40.4% 44.1% 21.7% .500 .625
Yoenis Cespedes (OAK) 34 8 58.8% 20.0% 67.6% 30.0% 50.0% 47.1% 38.9% 21.4% .500 .600
Torii Hunter (DET) 24 8 58.3% 28.6% 66.7% 28.6% 42.9% 41.7% 50.0% 20.0% .143 .250
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) 28 9 57.1% 18.8% 82.1% 43.8% 37.5% 67.9% 33.3% 58.3% .556 .714
Justin Morneau (PIT) 60 18 56.7% 23.5% 73.3% 44.1% 32.4% 53.3% 32.1% 38.5% .294 .333
Freddie Freeman (ATL) 55 13 56.4% 25.8% 67.3% 29.0% 45.2% 54.5% 28.0% 25.0% .333 .444
Marlon Byrd (PIT) 51 16 54.9% 32.1% 62.7% 42.9% 25.0% 31.4% 40.0% 17.4% .333 .364
Chris Johnson (ATL) 44 12 54.5% 37.5% 75.0% 29.2% 33.3% 54.5% 40.0% 45.0% .333 .571
Starling Marte (PIT) 76 18 53.9% 24.4% 63.2% 31.7% 43.9% 51.3% 32.4% 20.0% .188 .167
Carl Crawford (LAD) 52 15 53.8% 25.0% 73.1% 32.1% 42.9% 51.9% 36.0% 41.7% .286 .375
Josh Reddick (OAK) 41 8 53.7% 27.3% 58.5% 18.2% 54.5% 41.5% 25.0% 10.5% .143 .250
Yasiel Puig (LAD) 43 14 53.5% 39.1% 67.4% 39.1% 21.7% 34.9% 32.1% 30.0% .462 .667
Josh Donaldson (OAK) 30 8 53.3% 56.3% 70.0% 25.0% 18.8% 50.0% 40.0% 35.7% .125 .250
Stephen Drew (BOS) 32 9 53.1% 23.5% 65.6% 41.2% 35.3% 46.9% 29.4% 26.7% .222 .286

The Hanley Ramirez Report

Jacoby Ellsbury has had a great couple of games, but this is Hanley's world, we just live on it.
.300 Hitters (10/7/2013)
GPAABHXBHBBAVGOBPSLUGOPSBABIPK
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)299510.556.556.6671.222.7142
Hanley Ramirez (LAD)31413761.538.5711.2311.802.5451
Andrew McCutchen (PIT)41813715.538.667.6151.282.5831
Yoenis Cespedes (OAK)288420.500.5001.1251.625.6002
Shane Victorino (BOS)298400.500.556.5001.056.5711
Evan Gattis (ATL)31210502.500.583.5001.083.6252
A. J. Ellis (LAD)3128422.500.636.7501.386.6672
Yasiel Puig (LAD)31413600.462.500.462.962.6674
Desmond Jennings (TB)31110411.400.455.500.955.5002
Russell Martin (PIT)41613521.385.375.8461.221.3334
Dustin Pedroia (BOS)298310.375.333.500.833.4292
David Ortiz (BOS)298331.375.4441.2501.694.2001
Yadier Molina (STL)31211421.364.417.7271.144.3331
Matt Adams (STL)31311411.364.462.455.916.4001
Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)31414510.357.357.571.929.4444
Omar Infante (DET)276201.333.429.333.762.5002
Marlon Byrd (PIT)41615531.333.375.6671.042.3643
Juan Uribe (LAD)31312410.333.333.583.917.3753
James Loney (TB)3119311.333.455.444.899.4292
Freddie Freeman (ATL)31312411.333.385.417.801.4443
Delmon Young (TB)3119311.333.364.6671.030.2501
Chris Johnson (ATL)31212400.333.333.333.667.5715
Carlos Beltran (STL)31312431.333.385.9171.301.2221
Alex Avila (DET)276201.333.429.333.762.5002
Pedro Alvarez (PIT)41613432.308.375.8461.221.2504
Sunday
May262013

Peter Gammons: On the shoulders of Ellsbury, Kemp and Gonzalez

Don Mattingly this weekend came out and stated what teammates, opposing players and managers understood—that Matt Kemp has not yet fully recovered from off-season reconstructive surgery. Two home runs and 17 on the morning of May 25 says it all about the 2011. 

Kemp hasn't whined or complained, but Mattingly told Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times. “He’s frustrated. The biggest thing we want to do with Matt is to try to keep the bat in the strike zone longer…when he’s going good he’s driving the ball to center, to right-center…I notice he’s cutting his swing off…if he’s top-spinning in left and left-center field, it tells me he’s getting extension to a certain point and he’s coming off just a little bit.”

Mattingly is not an orthopedic surgeon, but he is a PhD when it comes to hitting. Kemp has the finest in orthopedic care from Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Center. While Dr. ElAttrache cannot discuss the specifics of Kemp’s recovery, he fully understands the complex significance of the shoulder in hitters.

“The importance of the shoulder in hitting is underestimated,” says Dr. ElAttrache. “What is particularly important is the lead shoulder.” Kemp missed nearly two months of the 2012 season with hamstring pulls and other issues, but on August 28 he suffered his most significant injury when he crashed into a fence in Colorado, He continued to play the rest of the season, but after the Dodgers were eliminated he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum and some minor damage to the rotator cuff.

The labrum tear was in the front of his left shoulder, the lead shoulder as a righthanded hitter. Mattingly adds that Kemp will return to his star level once he’s healthy; Kemp loves the limelight, but he is one of the rare players who accepts every thing that goes along with stardom. But “health” is far more complex than weeks of rehab and training following labrum surgery.

“Trying to re-establish ones mechanics after surgery is a complex process,” says Dr. ElAttrache, speaking generally. “It’s extremely delicate. It involves rebuilding strength, and all that goes into the swing from the front shoulder. It takes perfect mechanics to regain bat speed and the swing path. Sometimes it takes a year, sometimes more.

“A player may think he is fully recovered, especially after all the work that rehab entails, but regaining the mechanics doesn’t come easily,” says the doctor. “Sometimes we can see a hitter opening up too quickly. He may step out with his front foot to catch up to pitches, and also so he doesn’t have to finish off his swing, which puts a great deal of pressure on the shoulder, especially the front of the lead shoulder.

“Sometimes those mechanics can be just a tick off, and they are hard to re-establish. I’m certain there are cases where the should is never exactly the same as before an injury or the gradual wearing down process. It is mechanical. It can be mental. For the hitter, a shoulder injury isn’t really any different that a shoulder injury can be for a pitcher.”

Adrian Gonzalez

Kemp’s rehab is obvious, and well-explained by Mattingly. But there are other cases that at least are worth a look.

One is Adrian Gonzalez. He had three remarkable seasons his last three years at Petco Park, averaging 32 homers. In 2009, he hit 40 homers with a .958 OPS. His lead shoulder had bothered him in 2010, and he had labrum surgery prior to being traded to the Red Sox, and after continuing his rehab process in spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., his numbers leading up to the All Star Break (.354, 17 HR, 1.006 OPS, .591 slug) not only got him to the game, but into the Home Run Derby.

However, after the break, Gonzalez was not the same power hitter. He batted .317 with 10 homers, but more significant, his slugging fell to .489, his OPS to .893. Some suggested that he had worked so hard to be ready for the season—and, yes, get a new contract deal struck during spring training—that he wore down and the shoulder lost some of its strength. He denied it, continually saying that he simply got mechanically out of whack. Because of that, he sometimes tried to look for pitches and got himself out of sorts.

Look at AGon's numbers through May 25, before and after:

Gonzalez has never offered physical excuses, only opined that he gets mechanically unturned. However, is that related to the lead shoulder never being the same? We may never know, and playing 81 games in Dodger Stadium and another 18 in Petco and Pac Bell parks do not help any power numbers. And Dr. ElAtracche points out that the aging process historically impacts power, save for a ten-year window from the mid-nineties until the imposition of mandatory drug-testing in 2005. In addition, with the schedule as erratic as it is now with few getaway day games, the banning of amphetamines has led to a lot of grumbling about the maintence of energy levels that players in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties never had to worry about.

Jacoby Ellsbury

In Boston, there is the concern about the power numbers of Jacoby Ellsbury. Anyone who watched him take batting practice when he came up in 2007 saw some eye-opening power displays. Hitting coach Dave Magadan, when asked in 2007 if Ellsbury might someday turn into a (healthy) Grady Sizemore, always said that his timing took a lot of work and that there was just a tick’s difference between getting jammed by fastballs and hitting infield grounders and launching balls as he often did in BP.

It all came together for Ellsbury in 2011, when he arguably was the American League’s most valuable player:  32 homers; he’d never hit as many as 10 in a pro season. 83 extra base hits.

But on April 12, 2012, he suffered a separated right shoulder—the lead shoulder-- when Rays shortstop Reid Brignac landed atop of him as he slid into second base. Ellsbury played in only 74 games, he had 22 extra base hits, his slugging dropped from .552 to .370.

At no time since he reported for spring training has Ellsbury made excuses about any residual effects from the separated shoulder. He has handled his impending free agency with the ultimate professionalism and tried to stay away from any first person pronoun material.

The decline in on base percentage and slugging could well be mechanical, which has eroded confidence in his ability to hit deep in counts and stay back and drive pitches. On this past road trip, the Red Sox staff felt he was starting to once again launch in batting practice, a sign they felt was encouraging, especially since his best months historically have come after 

Still, one wonders about the mechanical, physical and psychological aspects of Ellsbury’s swing, based on these numbers:

Never underestimate the complexities of the mechanics of hitting,” says Dr. ElAttrache. “Especially when dealing with the lead shoulder.”