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Entries in Miami Marlins (16)

Friday
Jun012012

Giancarlo Connecting More With Two Strikes

Giancarlo Stanton's power has been the stuff of scouting lore since his scoreboard-clearing days in the minors. But there has also been concern that one of the trade-offs for those thunderous shots -- lots of swings and misses -- would hold him back in his quest to become an all-around terror at the plate. Unfortunately for pitchers, Stanton has solved his one offensive weakness by connecting more in two-strike counts.

Giancarlo's K rate has decreased from 31.1 percent as a rookie in 2010 to 27.6 percent last year and 22.3 percent in 2012, not far off the 19-20 percent MLB average this season. His OPS+, on the other hand, has skyrocketed from 118 to 141 to 155. For that, he can thank better plate coverage in the upper third of the zone when he doesn't have a strike to spare.

First, here's the average contact rate by pitch location for right-handed hitters in two-strike counts since 2010:

Average contact rate by pitch location for RHB in two-strike counts, 2010-12

Righty batters have whiffed 19 percent of the time they have swung at two-strike pitches thrown high in the zone since 2010. Now, look at Stanton's contact rate with two strikes as a rookie. There was a big cold spot on high-and-away offerings:

Stanton's contact rate by pitch location with two strikes, 2010

Stanton swung through 39 percent of two-strike pitches thrown high, the sixth-highest rate among MLB hitters that season. Last year, he adjusted and started to get his bat on those high-and-away pitches:

Stanton's contact rate by pitch location with two strikes, 2011

His miss rate on high two-strike pitches improved to 32 percent. Giancarlo has connected with even more high two-strike offerings in 2012, save for a small sliver of the zone. His miss rate is down to 27 percent:

Stanton's contact rate by pitch location with two strikes, 2012

For all the deserved praise that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout receive, Stanton has rather quietly cobbled together one of the greatest offensive starts to a career. Ever. Per Baseball-Reference, Stanton has the ninth-best slugging percentage (.537) and the 18th-highest OPS+ (136) among hitters getting at least 1,000 plate appearances through their age-22 season. Now that Stanton has cut the Ks, there's no telling how much pain he'll inflict on pitchers in the coming years.

Monday
Apr092012

Umpire Review: Opening Weekend (Part One)

Throughout the 2012 season we will take a look at the accuracy of MLB umpires by comparing their ball/strike calls to PitchFX data. With every team now having completed at least one series, let's take a look at the numbers.

First up, let's see which umpires expanded their strike zones during Opening Weekend:

All MLB Games through April 8, 2012

Ed Rapuano manned home plate duties in the Wednseday night MLB opener between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins.  He seemed to be giving pitchers some help as 16 of the 94 pitches taken out of the strike zone by batters were called strikes. As a point of comparison, league average called strike rate on pitches out of the zone last season was 9.7%.

Again, Rapuano's expanded zone on Wednesday was a product of 16 erroneous strikes. Over the remainder of the season, he'll likely move closer to his average from last season (9.3%).

137 Taken Pitches / 49 Total Called Strikes / 16 Strikes Outside the ZoneFrom the above graphic, you can see that Rapuano was favoring the outside strike for both lefties and righties. Five of those strikes came against Marlins batters, while eleven came against Cardinals hitters. It didn't seem to affect the defending champions too much as they still managed to win the game 4-1.

Next up, we'll take a look at missed strike calls within the PitchFX strike zone....

Wednesday
Apr042012

Healthy Hanley Key for Marlins

As the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins kick off the 2012 regular season tonight at 7:00 pm EST on ESPN, much of the focus is on what's new for the fish -- the name, stadium, manager, unis and roster among them. But a holdover moving to a new position, Hanley Ramirez, may be the most important Marlin of all.

The shortstop-turned third baseman had a down year in 2011, slowed by a bad back and a left shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in September. Ramirez's OPS+ plummeted from 139 from 2008-10 to just 95. Those ailments put a big dent in Hanley's power numbers, as his slugging percentage declined from .497 from '08 to '10 to .379 in 2011.

The reason for Ramirez's power outage was two-fold: He hit fewer fly balls, and when he did loft a pitch, it didn't travel near as far.

From 2008-10, Ramirez's 46% ground ball rate was just slightly above the 44% big league average. Take a look at his ground ball percentage by pitch location over that time frame, and then the MLB average:

Ramirez's ground ball rate by pitch location, 2008-10

Average ground ball rate by pitch location, 2008-10Ramirez grounded out more often on low-and-away pitches (68%) than the average hitter (61%), but otherwise he hit a normal number of choppers. Now, look at his ground ball rate by pitch location in 2011:

Ramirez's ground ball rate by pitch location, 2011

Hanley's ground ball rate on low-and-away stuff climbed to a startling 82%, highest among all MLB hitters. Plus, his grounder rate on middle and high pitches increased from 41% to 47%. Overall, Ramirez hit a ground ball 52% of the time he put a ball in play. That's Jason Bartlett/Jamey Carroll territory.

When Ramirez did manage to get the ball in the air, he rarely ripped it. He lost nearly 20 feet on his fly balls hit, with his average fly ball distance dropping from 277 feet to 259 feet (the MLB average is about 270 feet). Most of that decline came on pitches thrown up and away:

Ramirez's fly ball distance by pitch location, 2008-10

Ramirez's fly ball distance by pitch location, 2011

Tonight, you'll hear plenty about psychedelic center field sculptures, tape-delay diatribes to come from Ozzie and new duds apparently inspired by the cinematic classic BASEketball. Keep an eye on Hanley's swing, though -- it could be the difference between a run at a playoff spot and a fourth-place finish in the NL East.