The Future is Now: A Look at Matt Joyce, Reid Brignac, & Sean Rodriguez

So far we have looked at Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, James Shields, B. J. Upton, and Nolan Reimold.  Now let’s take a look at a few guys that could be the next wave of core guys for the Rays.  Each of these players have questions about whether they can hit same-handers and thusly have a smaller sample of pitches to look at over the last year.  It can’t be said enough, but these charts don’t pretend to show true talent level, only what actually happened last year.  Let’s start with everyone’s favorite soon to be prime time player, Reid Brignac:

Reid is a lefty with a reputation as being a hacker, which we can see in his swing rates by zone in the summary below.  As far as driving the ball, Reid’s greatest weakness is low-and-away, low-and-middle, and up-and-in.  These three zones had 12 total bases on 37 balls in play for a .324 SLGCON.  His three strongest areas within the zone are middle-and-up, middle-and-in, and middle-and-down where he had 27 TB on 29 BIP or a SLGCON of .931.  Adding in up-and-out of the wide zone we get a SLGCON of .867, so we can tell that he likes the ball up OR in, but not both, and he doesn’t fare well on balls low and away.  You can see a glimpse of his hacker tendencies when looking at his extremely high swing strike rates on balls up and down out of the zone.  He’ll need to find a way to lay off these pitches if he wants to take a step forward, but I’m not sure how much gain is really going to be there as his SS% is generally above-average throughout the zone.  Here’s a look at his summary:

We can see that for every pitch within the wide zone (9-17) he’s more likely to swing than to take it.  Reid actually does a pretty good job on pitches outside of the zone with a .548 SLGCON and it’s something he’ll need to do going forward as pitchers must feel that he’s susceptible out there (17% of all pitches in zone 2).  If he can leave more pitches outside of the zone as a ball, though, he may see more pitches within the zone (42% of all pitches were in zones 2, 4, & 5).  You can see that, overall, he only takes 15% of all pitches for a called strike (team average is 17%) while 24% of all pitches end up in a foul ball (17% team average).  This is one area where if he could turn a good chunk of those foul balls into balls in play, he may see a nice step forward.  Currently, he sees 6% less called balls and 7% more foul balls than team average.  Seeing those regress to team norms would allow him to reach base more, but it will take a concerted effort on the part of the Rays and Reid to make him a more selective hitter.  That takes time so let’s show a bit of patience with Briggy as he should be an every-day hitter next year, which can only help.

Before moving on to the other guys I wanted to show the in/out of wide zone summary for each of the players as I think this gives a pretty good snapshot of which guys have plate discipline and which don’t:




There’s quite a bit here, but it’s fascinating how often Briggy swings.  He’s more likely to swing in and out of the zone more than both of the other guys.  He actually seems to fare better than Rodriguez when it comes to SLGCON, though it’s offset a bit by the higher SS%.  Joyce appears to be a great example of a guy that doesn’t go out of the zone very often, despite seeing more than half his pitches out there.  When he does swing the bat, good things generally happen as shown by his low F/SS% and high SLGCON, this means that he’s swinging at the right kind of pitches out of the zone, those that he can drive.  There’s a lot more to digest there, but I just love the approach that Joyce shows and I think this does a nice job of showcasing it.

We can see another relationship at work here between Sean’s CS% and overall % of pitches in the zone.  He takes a lot of strikes so pitchers are more likely to pound the zone on him.  It seems counter-intuitive, because he doesn’t walk all that much, but he should probably pull the trigger a bit more on pitches in the zone so that pitchers are less likely to go there, and if he can lay off the new assortment of pitches out of the zone, then he’ll see his walks increase.  It looks like Sean is a bit of a guesser up there as he’s not driving bad pitches, but he’s also not swinging at a ton of balls, overall (30% doesn’t look too bad compared to Briggy’s 42%).

It’s pretty clear that Joyce is the better hitter out of these guys (no duh, he also doesn’t play middle infield) and he’s a guy that I have a lot of hope in for next year as we’ll be counting on his power/patience combo to be a middle-of-the-order bat.  On that note, let’s take a look at the man I call Gonzo:

Like Brignac, Joyce is a lefty, though we’ve already covered that he’s got a pretty good eye at the dish.  Pitchers like to work him away to varying degrees of success.  They do pretty well when they can keep it off the plate (19% of all pitches are out there with 7 TB on 24 BiP), but he’s swinging north of 70% with mild success when the ball is on the outer part of the wide zone and middle to up.  When they keep it down on the outer 1/3 Joyce is even worse with a lot of whiffs and virtually no power.  I have to say that I’m a bit surpised at the high SS% for Joyce nearly across the board.  I think there would be more continuity from zone-to-zone with larger samples which would make this look less like a quilt and yield more information.  With that in mind I want to move onto the summary as you should be adept enough to draw your own conclusions by now:

You can see that two of his highest amounts of BiP come on pitches middle-middle and middle-away where he has pretty good success, albeit with higher whiff rates than you would like, particularly away.  Comparing the bottom line to team average, we can see that Joyce takes about 4% more balls, 2% less called strikes, 1% more foul balls, while putting 2% less pitches in play and whiffing on 1% more.  He swings about 1% less than average, which seems to be working well as he has roughly .075 more points of SLGCON, overall.

Lastly, let’s take a look at the righthander in this bunch, Sean Rodriguez:

Sean has the largest sample of the bunch but it’s only by a hundred or so pitches, so we still won’t see the nice breakouts like we saw with Longo, Crawford, and Beejer.  Still, I think this shows that Roddy should probably be swinging more as he saw a full 10% of pitches right down the pipe with a 1/3 of those being taken for strikes.  When he does swing he does a good job of driving the ball with 32 TB on 48 BiP.  As good as he is on those pitches, he’s even better if the pitcher gets it inside a bit more.  Middle-in sees him whiffing less and hitting with even more power (20 TB on 18 BiP).  I find it incredible that middle-down sees him whiffing 26% of the time and down-away has him whiffing 25% of the time.  Clearly, he has trouble making contact when the ball is down in the zone, but the power is certainly there when he does manage to put a ball in play.  Here’s his summary:

The biggest reason that I include these is so that it’s extremely easy for you to go in and add up different zones.  For instance, if you wanted to know his TB/BiP for just inside pitches you could add up zones 9, 10, and 11 to get 34/45 or a SLGCON of .756.  Or you could look at his bottom of the zone where he only has a .448 SLGCON and compare that to up in the zone where he has SLGCON of .481, only slightly better.  You can also do a bit of work to look at the pitch result breakouts for various zones.  Looking at his bottom line, we see a batter that takes 4% less balls than average, equal called strikes, fouls off 1% more, puts the same rate of balls in play, but whiffs about 4% higher than average.  He swings about 4% less than the team, but has an edge in SLGCON by roughly .026.

I hope you enjoyed these looks as we’re coming up on having covered most of the Rays batters from 2010.  In the next installment, let’s take a look at Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Bartlett.  That will leave only the catchers who may have sample sizes that aren’t even worth looking at.  Let me know if you have any questions @SandyKazmir or in the comments below.  Also, I think we’re looking for feedback on the new site so please let us know publicly or via e-mail what you think.  Cheers!


About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
This entry was posted in Pitch F/x and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Future is Now: A Look at Matt Joyce, Reid Brignac, & Sean Rodriguez

  1. niktigs says:

    You run a great blog,
    I got to see Joyce play when he was with the Tigers and I think he’s a decent player but nobody you should start everyday, he’s a good platoon guy with good power and tools and him hitting lefty is a bonus.

  2. I’m anxious to see how Joyce and Brignac handle lefties as Maddon has said everyone will get a chance to prove they do not need to be platooned this season. Joyce’s production numbers, in limited at bats last season were very intriguing.

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