Picking up from where I left off earlier in the week I’m continuing to offer a review of production, swing, and zone rates for our Rays batters in 2013. You’ll want to peruse that because I plan on flying through this one with so much to cover. Let’s start off with the summary review for Desmond Jennings:
Jennings saw around a third of his total pitches from lefties and they were pretty fastball-heavy with even usage of secondary stuff. Surprisingly, pitchers threw their most pitches in the zone on the bendy stuff and slightly fewer per pitch on the fastball. That’s pitching backwards, folks. Part of the reason for this is that Jennings will take the breaking ball the most and is pretty bad against this pitch. While not swinging all that much more against the fastball he has shown a real ability to handle the pitch. The change isn’t a strong suit despite high swing rates. It’s likely this shows him being fooled a little bit by the offspeed.
Righties prefer to go mostly fastball/breaking ball with only around 6% change ups, and with good reason as he handles the offspeed pretty well.. Northpaws are filling up the zone on the heater and seeing a pretty high swing rate, as well, with the pitch eating him up to some extent. He doesn’t offer much at the breaking ball, which probably explains why his RVs are so low. Everybody wants to get a fastball they can hit, but to get there he might need to start offering more at hittable breaking balls. Speaking of which let’s look at how he fared against the lefty breaking ball:
There’s a nice gap between zone and swing rates throughout the year showing his propensity to spit on the breaking ball. His worst prolonged stretch was to start the year, but he showed gradual improvement before giving it back. This is likely to continue to be a weaker part of his game, though it doesn’t appear to be a huge hole. On to the change:
Here we see the gap between swings and strikes to be much smaller meaning he’s a more aggressive hitter against the change. The valleys were at the start and the end of the year, but he did show sustained production over the middle of the season. How about the cheddah:
Most of his success against the fastball came in the first half of the season where he was outstanding. He was able to mix his aggressiveness to mirror the pitcher, for the most part, early on, but later in the season with pitchers staying out of the zone a bit more his aggressiveness started to lead to poorer results. It should be mentioned that the hamstring injury probably plays some part in the fall off in his RVs. Let’s switch gears and look at right-handed breaking balls:
Despite finishing the year strong against this pitch he was mostly below average throughout the season. Even a last-third spike was not long-lived, but nice to see him put it together to close out the year. Correlation does not equal causation, but he seemed to have more success once he started showing even more patience, though it takes two to tango. How about the seldom-seen change:
Recall that he had a ton of success on this pitch, but it was also rarely thrown. We see similar aggressiveness that he showed on the lefty change, but he just got better and better throughout the year. Lastly, let’s flip over to the fastball:
There’s a couple of peaks where he had some success against the same-side heater, but it was short-lived. You’ll notice that for the most part he’s below average against the pitch. There is no panacea, but it looks like when he did have some success when he mirrored aggressiveness in the zone and likewise when pitchers weren’t giving him a ton of strikes. It’s the gray area that will need to see gains if he wants to take another step in transitioning from an ok hitter into a good one.
Moving on from one of our averageish right-handed hitters we now come to the Big Daddy. Evan Longoria isn’t only the best hitter in this lineup he’s one of the best hitters in baseball. We all have our thoughts on strengths and weaknesses so let’s check out the summary to get an objective view:
Dude is an absolute monster against lefties and he laughs at their normal go-to weapon against righties, the change up. His worst pitch is the breaking ball, where he shows some passiveness, but they’re only throwing it in the zone around half the time so that’s probably forgivable as he’s working to get himself a fat fastball. Southpaws lean pretty heavily on the fastball and he handles it exceptionally well.
Against righties he’s seeing mostly fastball/breaking ball with the occasional offspeed pitch. He has strong success against the fastball. While we all have memories of Longo struggling with the breaking ball from same-siders he’s actually pretty much league average against the pitch, while rarely swinging despite relatively high zone rates. Let’s break this down pitch-by-pitch starting with the lefty breaking ball:
Evan started strong against this pitch, but as he saw more strikes he actually offered less and less leading to a decline in his run values over the back half of the season. To contrast let’s check out the change which he mashed:
Evan was absolutely mashing the change to start the year showing a solid approach, but as his aggressiveness caught up and even exceeded zone rates he began to see less success. To see more of Evan Almighty he’ll need to stay within his zone on this pitch more in 2013. Easier said than done. Here’s the fastball:
Longo had a pretty solid first half with an incredible peak to close it out, but there was a pretty severe drop in production from that zenith as his second half was much closer to average. For the most part, he maintained his aggressiveness throughout with one trough early on and an expansion of his zone to close out the year. You’ll note that this mostly approximates his zone rates. Here’s what he did against the righty breaking ball:
This is the pitch that could be described as Evan’s achilles heel. We see a couple of positive spikes in production, but he was mostly below average against the pitch throughout the year. His swing rates are mostly between 30 and 40%, though he’s more likely to get overly patient than he is to get aggressive. How about the change:
He stated strong against the change, but much like against the lefty version his aggressiveness got the better of him over the back half of the season leaving him mostly below the average against this uncommon offering. Let’s finish up by looking at the fastball:
As you can expect with such a large sample we see wide oscillation of our trendlines here. He alternated between extreme success and periods of failure. It’s interesting to track his swing rates as he doesn’t settle into much of a pattern for long and shows success whether he’s swinging often or picking his battles more wisely.
Evan is a phenomenal talent with solid pitch and zone recognition and the ability to make pitchers pay for mistakes. On secondary stuff we see him having better results over the first half compared to the second half which makes some sense as nagging injuries added up throughout the year. We’ve been saying this for a while now, but it would be an incredible pleasure to watch Evan do his thing over the course of an entire season without waning production offsetting when he’s on fiyaaaaaaaaaaaaa.