Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

While there was some time between games, GW thought he'd take a visit to one of his favorite sites, Fangraphs, and see if the stats help explain the performances of Ronny Cedeno, Garrett Jones, and Aki Iwamura at the plate.

In Aki Iwamura's case, two lines stick out. First, his balls in play (BIP) average is .200; that shows he's been hitting into some massive tough luck; he's never had a BIP lower than .337 prior to this season.

But that's explained in large part by his lack of squaring up on pitches. His line drive rate has dropped from 21% to 13% this year from last, while his ground ball rate has jumped from 44% to 58%.

Everyone works him outside, but this year, instead of taking the pitch and spanking it the opposite way, he's rolling over on it and pulling the ball to second. Whether that's due to his ungodly swing, Clemente Wall's lure, or a gimpy knee can be debated; we'll let Donnie Long figure that out.

The pitches he sees are part of it; he gets fewer heaters than he did in the AL, replaced by sliders, although that should help an opposite-field hitter. At least it's not his eye; his 19% whiff rate is about at his lifetime average of 18%, and his walks have picked up some, up to 12%, a career high mark.

And he'll have lots of time to work on regaining his stroke; Iwamura's lost his job for the time being to Neil Walker. Maybe the break will give him a chance to heal up and get some extra cage work.

Garrett Jones was expected to put the beef in the Bucco attack, but his home runs are not coming fast and furious this season. It's easy to see why; his fly ball rate has dropped from 41% to 34% in a year, and his fly ball/homer rate has fallen from 21% to 10%. He's replaced them with grounders, going from 40% in 2009 to 48% this season.

His BIP is .292 this year; it was .323 last year, and both are generally within league norms.

Jones is seeing a few less heaters, and a few more sliders/cutters, so that explains part of the grounder increase. The problem's not plate discipline; his walk rate is steady at 11% and his K rate has actually dropped, from 24% to 20%.

From watching a few games, it appears that Jones' swing has become a little longer; short is sweet in baseball. Perhaps it's mechanical; perhaps he's just feeling the weight of the Pirates' puny attack on his back. But we'd like to see someone behind him to protect him a bit and see if that wouldn't improve his fastball diet and production.

You can see his frustration just in his body language; his biggest problem may be playing within himself instead of trying to carry a team on his back.

Ronny Cedeno has been the rare pickup that's improved his performance at the plate. And oddly, nothing jumps out that explains why. All his results come within a couple of points of his lifetime averages.

His BIP of .314 is not unsustainably high, nor out of line with his career numbers. Cedeno's walk rate is 5% and strikeout rate 23%, again near his MLB norm, as is his fly ball/home run rate of 9%; it was 10% last year and 7% through his career.

And the pitches he faces from the eight spot are kinda counter-intuitive; he's seeing fewer fastballs and more slow stuff than he ever has in his career. It may be that given steady playing time and a little maturity, Cedeno's bat will play out OK for his position.

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