Continuing our look at how the Rays fared I wanted to take a look at one of the more enigmatic batters on our team and a surprise look at someone that isn’t a batter at all. You can find the introduction and Longoria/Crawford looks at the links over their names. Let’s start off with the young, talented, right-handed blur B. J. Upton (Click to enlarge):
I’ve added a couple of things to this chart, but the principle is essentially the same. I have now listed the % of total pitches thrown in that zone next to the raw number of pitches and I’ve added a color font to each of the categories to show how the player stacks up against the average of the entire team for each statistic in each zone. For example, Beej saw the highest percentage of pitches missing low across the entirety of the wide zone (section 5), but this number is still lower than the team average of that zone (16% of all pitches fell in zone 5). The background color for each zone is still based on the SLGCON-range in the legend. I will most likely come back to Longo and Craw at the end of this series to show the applied changes, but for now we’ll move on through the rest of the team.
Areas where Beej’s SLGCON were higher than team average were in Zones 4 (over the plate, but above the zone, real small sample there), 5 (over the middle, but down), 7 (outside to Beej, but within the vertical limits, team average was .328), 9 (down & in), 12 (down & over the middle), 13 (dead center), 15 (down and away), and 16 (middle-away). I wanted to over-explain this off the bat as I realize there is a lot going on here. I won’t go into as much detail as I think most can pick up the pattern of which zone is where. Pretty interesting to see Bossman have such success on balls down and middle-middle/away. With that comes the realization that he isn’t really all that good on pitches up in the zone. His SLGCON is below team-average across the board, while having swing strike rates higher than team average. We also see that all three zones have a better than average Ball-rate, but below average In Play%. This tells us that compared to the average Ray batter, he takes more pitches, but when he does swing he makes less contact and whiffs more. I find it interesting that within the wide zone, he has a lower CS% in just about every zone, except down and away (38% vs. team average of 31%). Many people voice frustration that Beej takes too many 3rd strikes, but this shows that the only zone where he’s taking more strikes than normal is low-and-away, aka one of the more difficult pitches for most batters, which we can see by his relatively lower SLGCON out there If Beej could start making more contact all throughout the wide zone (no easy task), while doing anything with the upper part of the zone, we could really see him take a nice step forward next year.
I think this gives a nice idea of what areas the Boss excelled at and where he didn’t do so well, so please feel free to go through and make your own observations. Before moving on to our next player I wanted to show a source table as well as a summary based on zone:
You may notice that I’ve added totals to the Pitch Result columns as well as the aforementioned zone percentages. Here’s Beej’s zone summary:
And here’s a look at the team average since I don’t believe I used it before:
Because I think it fits nicely and makes it easy to apply your own opinions after I go over the B. J. comparison, here is the second player that we will profile:
We can see that Beej saw more pitches in the zone than your normal Ray and he hit them harder no matter whether they were in or out of the zone. I like that his Ball% in zone higher than the average. He’s either stealing calls or having a great eye on pitches that are in the wide zone, but not in the traditional strike zone, a measure of inches betwixt them. The biggest difference comes back to the 4% difference between balls in play that almost collectively turn into swing strikes. We can also see that he swings slightly more in the wide zone compared to his teammates, but he also sees about 8% more pitches in that zone. Basic game theory would suggest that the more that pitchers attack the zone, the more aggressive a batter should be. Perhaps Beejer could benefit from a touch more aggressiveness on pitches that are in the zone (again, I realize this makes it sound like you can just turn a dial or flick a switch, it is not that easy and why very good hitters are extremely valuable, but B. J. has shown that he has a higher ceiling than where he is playing at over long stretches, and I’d love to see him approach it.) Taking a quick look at how he fared out of the zone, we can see that, as indirectly mentioned above, Beej saw less pitches out of the zone than the average Ray, but we can see that he took almost 3/4 of them for a ball, once again showing what a great eye he has, and possibly explaining why he gets so aggravated when he is called out on strikes on a borderline pitch. We can see that he’s only putting about 5% of these pitches in play, though his SLGCON shows he was getting over half a bag every time he did manage to square one up.
Our mystery player seems pretty close to the team average in the wide zone having about 4% more pitches in the wide zone, albeit, with the same likelihood of a ball and only 2% less called strikes with the same drop in swing strikes from the average. If we do some quick math we can get that 2% of Jamie’s (oops, cat’s out of the bag) pitches in the zone is around 36 pitches. So that swing is basically 36 less called strikes and another 36 swing strikes makes 72 less strikes in the wide zone than if he was performing at the average with 54ish of those turning into balls in play. It may help explain some of his hyper-inflated BABIP. Not only were all these extra pitches getting put into play, but they were getting spanked as shown by the .689 SLGCON, compared to team average of .571 in the wide zone or .639 for Beej. Basically Shields turned every batter that he faced into a better version of Upton when they were able to put a ball in play. I find this pretty disconcerting, as a bit of a Shields homer, as it looks like he was pretty mediocre in 2010 when he had to pitch in the zone. Perhaps he was attacking it too much as he did throw 4% more pitches in the zone than our team faced, collectively. I know walks are frowned upon, but it should still be realized that they’re less valuable to an offense than a double on a pitch that catches too much of the plate.
Looking at his numbers out of the zone, we can see that James was inducing a swing almost a third of the time with roughly 13% swing strike rate. That’s roughly 200 whiffs out of the zone and I bet you can conjure the image of a batter salivating at a fastball only to whiff on a change as well as I can. The SLGCON is above the team average out of zone, but it is less than Beej’s at least, but it does show that even outside of the zone, Jamie can give up a solid hit at times. Let’s move on to his summary:
You can see that, overall, he’s getting a ball about 35% of the time (39%) for the entire team, 17% called strike (same as team), fouls were 2% higher for James, while in play was 3% higher against Shields. That’s a lot of extra balls in play (around 100!) that isn’t fully offset by being a point better at inducing a swing strike. Those that feel that Jamie has a problem with balls in play may have a nice tool at their disposal here, at least for 2010. Compared to the team average, James had an overall swing rate that was 5% higher and an overall SLGCON nearly 111 points higher than the team average. That’s a problem. Perhaps it’s one that could be eased by throwing less pitches in the zone or by throwing better pitches in the zone. If neither of those things happen next year, then it could be more of the same story. We can break it down further by looking at his chart:
We can see that Jamie gets hit all throughout the zone. I mean hit hard. His saving grace is below the zone where he throws almost a fifth of his pitches, overall. His 23% swing strike is 7 points above the team average for that zone while his SLGCON is over 100 points lower than the team average. Clearly he needs to keep the ball down, as it’s a great pitch when they chase out of the zone and only rake instead of rape when it’s in the zone. Anything that gets up in the zone might as well be wearing a DTF shirt in rural Georgia, because it never had a chance. There’s a lot more to take from this, but I think everyone should have a decent feel on how to read these by this point. Get a hold of me if you have any questions in either the comments or on twitter: @sandykazmir. As for these two enigmatic forces, let’s hope they make a couple of adjustments next year that can help them perform along the lines of their capability.