I Said Hey, What’s Going On (with Evan Longoria)

Get your mind right.

Face of the Franchise Evan Longoria seems to be in one of his here today, gone tomorrow slumps, so we better agonize over how bad he has been lately before the window closes and he gets back to smashing the ball all over the diamond. Let’s kick this off by taking a look at his wOBA and xwOBA over a 20 game moving average:

He has basically sunk bank into the depths of his earlier slump this year, though he’s spending more time down in the dumps this go around. So we’ve acknowledged that, yeah, he hasn’t been right for his last 30-40 PAs depending on where you draw the line of demarcation. Can we try to figure out what’s going on? You bet your sweet ass we can try.

Let’s start with our old friend:

This gives us a static snapshot of what each type of pitcher has been throwing him and how he has fared over the course of the year. He’s showing very good results on breaking balls from lefties and righties, alike, but the change and the fastball have been tough on Senor Ducky, thus far. Righties are pretty much two-pitch against him and he has only been slightly below average, but lefties are having their way with Longo right now as he’s costing the team about a run every 100 pitches.

One lead to follow is what he’s doing with pitches in and out of the zone. It stands to reason that if you’re taking strikes and swinging at balls then things are rarely going to go well for you no matter how good of a hitter you are. Here’s his decision process on pitches inside the zone:

It looks like he’s getting a ton of pitches on the outer half and when he does get something inside he’s swinging often. He’s done well to leave a lot of those low and away pitches alone, and there’s soooo many swings on pitches in the middle third of the zone that you have to think he’s showing pretty good process here. Let’s flip over to pitches that are out of the zone:

I wouldn’t worry about that little guy in the zone, otherwise we’re looking at pitches that are out of the commonly called zone. My eyes are first drawn to the mass of green blobs off the plate and down. He has mixed some swings in on some of the closer pitches and my guess is that he found ill results as that’s a pitch you’re just not going to do anything with. We continue to see Evan’s aggressiveness on pitches inside, as his eyes light up when he does get the rare chance to punish an offering, but many of those are too far inside to do anything with. He’s also chasing down in the zone with regularity, though he has shown pretty good discipline on pitches above the zone. Guess what? We can break this down further:

We can start by looking at the likelihood of each of these pitches being in or out of the zone based on pitcher handedness and pitch type. Lefty breaking balls and righty change ups have mostly been used as chase or set up pitches so far, while lefty change ups and righty fastballs have been poured into the zone with aplomb. I was a bit surprised by that figure for lefty change ups since it’s generally used as a chase pitch, but it’s possible that Evan is seeing a heavy dose of those in hitter counts when the pitcher needs a strike, but doesn’t dare groove a heater. Overall, righties are coming into the zone quite a bit more often, while lefties have learned to stay away from the dog on the leash. Let’s now focus on what he’s doing against those lefties by pitch type:

Starting with the out of zone (OOZ) pitches we see that he has swung on the breaking ball around a quarter of the time of the time, and has been even more prone to chasing the change. Longo is showing a pretty good eye on fastballs that aren’t in the zone. When they bring the fastball into the zone he’s swinging almost 2/3 of the time. As a fastball hunter he carries a big gun and when he’s able to flush one out of the brush he’s taking a big shot. He’s showing some passivity on the breaking ball, which shouldn’t be a shock, even when it’s in the zone and he’s swinging at a ton of change ups in the zone. This is probably one of the areas he’s going to need to refine. Change ups in the zone are a real pain in the neck because when they’re down you’re not going to do a whole lot with it between the speed differential and the trajectory. When they’re up they can get punished, but if you’re sitting fastball there’s still a good chance of not doing a whole lot. Lefties should continue to stymie Evan until he starts routinely punishing the change.

Moving over to righties:

We see fairly similar results for the breaking ball and change, though he doesn’t chase either quite as much. He does, however, increase his swing rate on fastballs out of the zone from righties. Fairly similar stuff for the in zone pitches, though you need to bear in mind that he doesn’t see many change ups as previously shown. He swings at the breaking ball a bit less coming from righties, and instead, ups his swing rate against the fastball. Without the platoon advantage it’s generally a good idea to see fastball, hit fastball, and that seems to be the case for Longoria.

So far we’ve seen a bunch of stuff that looks at the season, as a whole, which is slightly tangential to our original goal of figuring out what’s going on recently. To that end, we can bring back the rolling average stuff and take a look at his swing rates and results:

Starting with only the pitches that were out of zone and running in chronological order. We see that his Run Values have slowly come down over the year on these pitches as the year has worn on. Conversely, he has steadily increased his swing rate on these out of zone pitches to the point where his most recent stretch is amongst his highest level of the year. When a pitch is out of the zone there are only two ways that you can provide positive run values. Either you take it for the ball it is, or you swing and get a base hit. While the former is almost always going to be a small positive, the latter involves not only making contact, but having the ball land between fielders. There are times when you have to swing at borderline pitches, but rarely does a swing on a pitch out of the zone bode well.

How about pitches in the zone:

Here we see much more oscillation with his run values. Taking a strike will always be a negative run value, while you run into the similar problem of not only making contact, but making solid contact when you swing. Luckily, solid contact is much more likely when a pitch is within the strike zone. We can see, again, that over the course of the season Evan has steadily increased his swing rate. Occasionally this brings success, but over his most recent period he’s swinging as often as he has all year and seeing, by far, his worst results. While swinging at strikes is generally a good philosophy you should be swinging at the pitches you can do the most damage upon when you’re afforded the chance.

The most likely, and probably obvious, observation is that Evan is just going through a bad stretch. When he’s sitting on a pitch he gets everything but, until he’s buried in the count and has to expand. These things happen and every player goes through it, but some things that stand out are that he’s going to need to improve change up recognition from lefties and may benefit from exhibiting a bit more patience against righties both in and out of the zone. Even if that means staring down the occasional strike within the zone, there’s a chance he might see an even better one later in the at bat . Finally, it needs to be pointed out that he’s displaying some pretty sound process so the results will inevitably come. Changing nothing is probably the ultimate best solution, because it’s easy, and it’s not like Evan is some miserable hitter that can’t make this very sound process work. Here’s hoping the results change for the better no matter if there’s a tweak or not.

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About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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