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Entries in playoffs (4)


Hanley Killing Soft Stuff, Chasing the Flying Dutchman

According to the man himself, 2013 has been the best year of Hanley Ramirez's career. And, while the Dodgers shortstop has played in just 81 games due to thumb, hamstring and back ailments, it's easy to see why. The Marlins refugee is going to the playoffs for the first time ever, as L.A. clinched the National League West last night behind Ramirez's 19th and 20th home runs of the season. His park-and-league adjusted on-base-plus slugging percentage is a career-best 94 percent above average (194 OPS+). That's tops among batters taking at least 300 trips to the plate this year and is the second-best OPS+ ever for a shortstop with at least 300 plate appearances in a season. Who's first? Some dude named Honus.

Highest single-season OPS+ for shortstops, min. 300 PA


How is Hanley, who rarely made an impact at the plate the previous two seasons (101 OPS+ in 2011-12), hitting like The Flying Dutchman? By taking to the air, of course. Ramirez is lofting far more "soft" pitches (curveballs, sliders and changeups) and depositing them deep into the left field at Chavez Ravine.

Last year, Ramirez hit a ground ball about half of the time that he put a curve, slider or changeup into play, above the 46% major league average. All of those weak choppers led to a .363 slugging percentage versus breaking and off-speed stuff, slightly below the .372 MLB average.

Ramirez's slugging percentage vs. soft pitches, 2012

This year, though? Ramirez is hitting grounders just 34% of the time against soft pitches. He's making those extra fly balls and line drives count, too.

Ramirez's slugging percentage vs. soft pitches, 2013

Ramirez is slugging .711 against soft stuff, trailing only home run king Chris Davis (.725) among big league hitters seeing at least 450 breaking and off-speed pitches in 2013. Compared to Hanley, even Rookie of the Year contender and break-dance enthusiast Yasiel Puig (.576) looks pedestrian. Enjoy the pool party, Hanley. When you're clubbing pitches like Honus Wagner, you've earned a few post-game cannonballs.


Ryan Braun Taking Advantage

Ryan Braun leads all 2011 Postseason participants with 13 hits. His .624 weighted on base average also leads the postseason along with his 25 total bases.  Braun has gone deep twice, one behind six players tied for first, and his two doubles put him in a tie for first with Albert Pujols.

Taking a look at how he's been pitched to so far, it's no surprise he's doing so well at the plate.

Click image to enlarge.

In the regular season, Braun did a lot of damage on balls over the middle of the plate, not surprisingly. But he also killed pitches down in the strike zone, as well as down and in at the knees.  So far in this postseason, pitchers have basically thrown to those locations.

The areas Braun had any difficulty with were pitches up and away and pitches inside.  However, as the heat map indicates, pitchers haven't thrown to those areas much.  In fact, they really haven't thrown Braun much of anything up in the zone at all.

If opposing pitchers continue to throw to Braun's strengths, don't expect his offensive output to slow any time soon.


Swisher's Postseason Struggles

Nick Swisher has been a valuable hitter for the Yankees since joining the team in 2009. He's averaged a 123 OPS+ in that time, hitting 81 home runs over his three seasons in pinstripes. However, he hasn't yet been able to carry that success into the postseason.

Nick Swisher, 2009-2011

His slugging percentage heat maps suggests that the switch-hitting right fielder has been unable to duplicate his success on pitches in the zone in the postseason.

Nick Swisher
(Click image to enlarge)

During the regular season, Swisher did quite well on pitches up in the zone (.491 SLG%). However, through 110 postseason plate appearances as a Yankee, his numbers have fallen short, as he's slugged just .296 on pitches in the upper portion of the zone.

One interesting note: since joining the Yankees in 2009, Swisher has a .302 batting average on balls in play during the regular season. In the playoffs, that number is down to .169. He's seen his fly ball percentage jump slightly from 34.3% in the regular season to 38.6% in the postseason, while his line drive rate has dropped from 19.5% to 14.3%. However, in the regular season, Swisher has produced a .798 batting average on his liners. Yet in the playoffs (SSS caveat), only six of his ten line drives have translated into hits. In addition, his ground ball batting average dropped from .238 in the regular season to .185 in the postseason.

It's possible Swisher has been somewhat unlucky as a Yankee so far in the postseason, while he's probably also not hitting the ball as well either. Although, it's also important to note that teams generally face better pitching come October. So combined with an overall small sample size of data, it's not uncommon for hitters to see a decline in their numbers this time of year.