Continuing in my look at our bats in 2013 we now come to the important left-handed bats of James Loney and Matt Joyce. You can find past reviews for Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria by clicking those links. There is a primer, of sorts, in the Ben Zobrist review so if you have any questions check there first otherwise let me know in the comments. Let’s start off with James Loney’s summary:
Like most lefties, Loney struggles with same-siders a bit, though not nearly as egregiously as Joyce. He saw almost no change ups from southpaws in 2013 and performed pretty similarly on the breaking ball and the fastball. More of his fastballs are in the zone and he’s swinging at more of those, but he’s not ignoring the breaking ball either. Against righties, he’ll swing as often on the change as he will the breaking ball with the latter being in the zone more often and the former seeing slightly better results. He sees a lot of fastballs in the zone and swings around half the time with very good results. Let’s break it down pitch-by-pitch:
Loney saw some success against the breaking ball during the middle of the season as pitchers were throwing him strikes less and less, but we see that when they come into the zone more often he struggled, particularly to close out the season. Since he didn’t see many same-side change ups let’s move on to the fastball from lefties:
Loney is a fastball hunter so when he sees one he likes he’s probably going to give it a rip. While he showed some success at a couple different periods during the season he was mostly below average and well below during that stretch mid-way through the season. He was probably at his best when he was being a little bit more selective, but if you’re going to have him out there against a lefty then you want him swinging at fastballs. Let’s check out where his bread is buttered:
Loney is a pretty good hitter against righties as shown in the summary and the breaking ball is no different. There were two sustained periods where he seemed to struggle with this pitch, but for the most part he’s an above-average hitter against anything with a wrinkle. We see more selectivity early on with a gradual increase in his swing rate throughout the season. Every hitter goes through a slump here and there, but if he can continue to see this pitch well and have success then it makes him a very tough out. Here’s the change:
Before that blistering finish Loney was pretty average against the change up. He saw a little success early in the season, but this turned into small failures as pitchers threw the pitch out of the zone more often over the back half. That strong finish bodes well, though you can’t help but feel it’s partly driven by pitchers refusing to throw the pitch in the zone. Good adjustment on his part to tone down the aggressiveness. Here’s the fastball:
At the start of the year he was crushing the fastball, but then mixed up and downturns throughout the rest of the season. It’s a pitch he can handle and seems to alter aggressiveness to match the pitcher, for the most part. We see another strong finish here. It would be nice to see more consistency throughout the year, but this is hitting. If it were easy then you’d see a lot more people able to do it professionally.
Loney seems like he’s able to alter his approach based on what he’s seeing from a pitcher. This probably helps him to stay out of prolonged slumps, but there’s always that adjustment period between things going well and then having to make the next adjustment. Surrounding him with good hitters is a good way for him to see a ton of fastballs, but it’s not necessary as he’s pretty good against everything a righty throws at him.
When I started this whole thing Matt Joyce was a guy that I was eager to dig into because of his reputation as a one-month performer and the fact that he just can’t hit lefties. I hope to shed a bit of light on both of these things. Here’s his summary:
Note that he is utterly useless against lefties. Even on the fastball they can just fill up the zone without having to worry about him making them pay and he rarely (relatively) swings at the breaking ball. We kind of expected that, but we also think he’s pretty good against righties so he still has some value. While he sees a ton of secondary stuff it comes with good reason. He’s not particularly good against the breaking ball or change, either. We’re looking at a patient hitter that’s up there hunting fastballs which probably buries him in counts when he lets hittable curves, sliders, and changes go by in the zone, but man does he crush the fastball. It makes sense why he’s up there keyholing just the heater when you see that RV100 associated with the pitch. When he gets the one he’s looking for he’s probably going to do some damage. We’ll get to that more, but first here’s the (small amount of) breaking ball from lefties:
He didn’t see a ton of this pitch, but when he did get one he was below average throughout the entire year. He saw more strikes earlier in the year than later, but didn’t really alter his swing rate all that much. Much like Loney he almost never saw the change so let’s zoom right on to the fastball:
We can see that he did have some success against the fastball, and while it was sustained over a good number of pitches, it didn’t last. The beginning and end of the year have him putting up simply terrible numbers against the pitch. He gradually increased his swing rate against the pitch, possibly a product of swinging at any old fastball that he could handle after wearing out the path back to the dugout, but the increased swing rate only brought more misfortune. Lefties gave him a fastball in the zone over 70% of the time, and why wouldn’t they if he can’t hit the pitch. How about the righty breaking ball:
We see a varied approach in his swing rate here with the beginning and end of the year seeing a ton of patience and less of that in the middle of the season. He was able to hit the pitch well enough early on, but this didn’t last throughout the year, though he did have blips above the average. He was at his best when pitchers were less likely to throw the pitch for a strike, but spitting on breaking balls isn’t enough to keep pitchers from using it to set up other stuff. Here’s a look at the change:
Again, we see that early stretch where he was really on the pitch doing a ton of damage, but that early success was his peak with a gradual fall off throughout the rest of the season, especially the close of the year where he was just brutal. He was less aggressive on the offspeed pitch as the year evolved and he’s good enough against it so that it’s not a complete liability. I was a little surprised by this as I thought the change would be a great weapon against him, but he does well enough that you can’t simply kill him with the change. Lastly, here’s the fastball:
We’ve seen that Joyce was plenty hot early in the season, but here we see that he had an even better peak later in the year, before falling back off the cliff. Joyce is such a streaky hitter and we’d all love to see him sustain those peaks as long as he can, but it’s just such a difficult thing to do. Even a good fastball-hitter like Joyce has prolonged periods where he’s not just below average, but well below and this should give an idea that you can’t tell when he’s going to figure it out or fall in the well. He changes his swing patterns well enough to keep pitchers honest, but the nature of the beast is that when you have a small amount of powerful events then you’re going to see peaks and valleys like this.
Turns out Matt Joyce is less of a one-month guy and just an uber-streaky hitter that loves him some fastballs of the northpaw persuasion. He’s more of a one-pitch guy than I would have thought before looking into this. While he’s not very reliable we do see that if there’s a fastball-heavy righty on the mound then Joyce is the guy that you want to turn to as he can really make them play. Unfortunately, this decreases his utility because he just simply has too many holes waiting to be exploited.