April 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
Early in the season we sort of marveled at how many pitchers were going right after Gattis with fastballs middle-in. It seems after the Strasburg neck high homer made national highlight reels, pitchers have taken note and began pitching him low and away.
Here is Gattis’ pitch distribution map (ie where pitchers pitched him) from the beginning of the season until April 13:
And here are the numbers he put up over that time-span:
Here is his pitch distribution map from April 14th to the present:
And here are the numbers he put over that time-span:
A pretty marked difference. And we now see the first major question Gattis has to face, can he adjust to these adjustments? In the minors Gattis likely never consistently faced any pitchers who could routinely put the ball on the outer 1/3 of the plate. Now that the early scouting report is apparently out on him, how will he adjust?
Like we’ve been saying all along, this isn’t really a negative for Gattis, it’s simply a question. We just don’t know yet how good he is, or will become. How well he adjusts to adjustments will really be the primary determinant of that. Over the next month, we will find out if Gattis can hold his own, or if he’s just a modern day Phil Plantier who has the misfortune of living in a more advanced informational time, such that scouting reports get around much faster.
April 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
3 parts tequilla (sauza gold or jose cuervo gold)
1 part triple sec
2 parts sour mix
Rocks only. Frozen is terrible.
Garnish with a salt rim and a lime.
Or directly download the MP3
April 19, 2013 at 12:24 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
Jason Heyward has put up a triple slash line of .115/.258/.269 (AVG/OBP/SLUG), good for a .249 wOBA and a 52 wRC+. That’s pretty terrible, there’s no way to spin those numbers to justify a position that Heyward’s start to the young season has been anything but bad. But those are results. Results, by definition, are there to tell us the outcome of events, more-so than how those events came to transpire.
Most animals simply follow a model of correlation and causation being the exact same thing. That is, when Pavlov rang the dinner bell, his dogs acted indistinguishably different from someone who believed that the bell actually caused food. This animalistic tendency has also carried over to humans to a large extent, hence superstition, and the fact that confusing causation and correlation is something that we as humans are very prone to doing. However, as humans, we have a unique ability to create a model for how things happen. That is, we can understand not only that the sun has risen, but we can also understand that it happens because the Earth spins on its axis. We can look at an event, or series of events, and attempt to break down the various causes and factors that led to the outcome. Unlike Pavlov’s dogs, we can see an event or series of events as more than just things that happened, but outcomes that were probabilistic results of causes.
Now, let’s apply this idea to being a productive offensive player in the game of baseball.
What is it that makes a player productive? We’re not talking about results, because obviously good results are productive, that’s why they’re called good results in the first place. To state that a player with a high wOBA (or triple slash) is a productive player is begging the question. Well, let’s start with hitting the ball hard when you do swing. It’s been repeatedly shown that players can’t precisely control exactly where they hit the ball, and since fielders are fairly uniformly distributed throughout the playing field, about all a player can do in order to turn his in play contact into a hit is to hit the ball hard. This will lead to homeruns, which tend to be difficult for fielders to catch, and a lot of line drives to the outfield, which are sometimes caught, but usually at a low rate. Let’s look at how Jason Heyward performs in these measures:
Short of something like hitf/x becoming public, about all we can do is examine hit charts (which are falliable to human error, as Colin Wyers has noted previously) and line drive rates (again, which are falliable). It’s not perfect, or even great, but it’s the best we can do. If a player was consistently making very weak contact (which is what is normally the case for guys hitting .115), it’d probably show up with some squibbers to the mound and a lot of ground balls shallow in the infield.
Here is Heyward’s hit chart, with outs included:
We see lots of balls to the deep outfield that were turned into outs, and notably not even one groundball fielded in the infield grass. Not a single out recorded as a pop-up either. Certainly nothing there to indicate weak contact.
Next, let’s observe Heyward’s contact type rates, courtesy of fangraphs:
Here we see Heyward has the best GB/FB ratio of his career, the best line drive rate of his career, the best (ie lowest) groundball rate of his career and an infield fly rate that is right in line with his normal, non-2011 rates (his IFFB% is what plagued him more than anything else in 2011). Again, absolutely NOTHING to indicate he’s making weak contact. While his HR/FB rate is a bit lower than his career, that’s mostly a function of him hitting more flyballs (contact that gets caught is much more likely to be classified as a flyball than a similar contact that finds grass, which is likely to be called a line drive). Heyward is in the top 33% in home run rate, he’s at 3.9%, where the league average is 3.3%. Sure, I would like Heyward’s home run rate to be a bit higher, but it’s certainly not bad, and is definitely not indicative of weak contact.
Alright, well what about the Heyward bugaboo his detractors have made so much of? That he strikes out a LOT? Sure, Heyward does have a bit of swing and miss in his bat over his career, it’s a bit of a valid concern. Is that what the issue is here?
Heyward has struck out 17.7% of the time this season, one of the lowest rates on the team (as I brought up on Twitter the other day, lower than The Man With No Holes In His Swing, Evan Gattis). His 17.7% K rate is actually below the league average of 18.6%. While the strikeouts as bad narrative is questionable in its own right, it’s simply not even applicable here, because Heyward hasn’t even struck out very much. Further, Heyward has chased out of the zone less (26.5%) than the league average (26.6) and has taken called strikes much less (25.7%) than the league average (32.3%). Those last numbers may make some sense, because Heyward seems to be getting frustrated that he’s simply seeing very little to hit. Heyward is in the bottom 3% in pitches seen in the strike zone at 41.4% compared to a league average of 49.3%. If anything you could make the argument that possibly Heyward hasn’t taken enough called strikes, though I’m overall pretty happy with his approach.
Another attribute of the productive offensive player is that he walks. As you can probably gather from the above numbers, Heyward has seen his early career walk rates return, as his 11.3% walk rate puts him in the 76th percentile for walk rates.
Finally, the number that’s driving it all. Batting average on balls in play. Heyward is currently sitting at 0.103. Literally the worst batting average on balls in play in the entire National League (and especially full of contrast to teammate Chris Johnson, who is leading MLB in BABIP at .514). Over Heyward’s career, he’s consistently been in the .280-.300 BABIP range, and there’s no reason to expect over a large sample he won’t return there.
Often times fans especially hate the ‘excuse’ of “he’s just been unlucky”, but sometimes that’s the honest truth. The difference between an outcome being incredibly unlikely and impossible is that sometimes incredibly unlikely things happen. Heyward is on an incredibly unlucky streak at the moment. This isn’t like 2011, where a hand injury led to an absurdly high IFFB% that drug his BABIP down. Heyward is still hitting the ball hard. He’s not striking out. He’s taking his walks. There really isn’t a single measure, outside of results, that point to his poor results being due to anything other than luck.
As long as somebody doesn’t try to fix something that isn’t broke, Heyward’s results will soon start to match what the usual causes of success say should be the outcome. Sure, it’s frustrating for now, but let’s at least be glad that the team has still won, and salivate at the prospect that soon enough he’s going to hit like he should.
April 17, 2013 at 11:11 am by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
Here is his in play ISO graph for this season:
pretty absurd, right? Especially considering this is the graph for the league as a whole:
He’s currently sporting a .259/.333/.473 triple slash, netting a robust .805 OPS. He strikes out a lot, at 22% of the time, however he walks at a very respectable 8.9% of the time. He hits a home run 5.7% of the time, or once every 17.1 ABs. Slightly above Ryan Braun, and good for 17th in the NL. He hasn’t been helped by BABIP, at .289, which is bottom 1/3 for the league. All this adds up to a very good .350 wOBA. Your prototypical slugging take and rake guy.
Overall, he’s seemed to have some bad luck with getting his homers with men on, despite a high OBP in front of him, and again likewise with the BABIP being a tad bit unlucky. But the raw power has more than made up for it, and this guy seems like an all-star level offensive player, right?
Who is it?
It’s the Braves team.
Yep, the whole team averaged out. Even including the pitchers. As has been noted, the Braves are pitching their tails off right now, but they’re also more than doing the job offensively, despite a little bit of bad luck with when they’re hitting their homers and BABIP. The team’s wOBA, .350, is higher than Martin Prado’s wOBA last year. Yeah, that’s right, the team, on average, including the pitchers, are outhitting the season that was traded for Justin Upton (Prado is .336 wOBA this season). On a ride like this, all we can do is sit back and enjoy it. I mean freaking Ramiro Peña has been worth 0.6 wins thus far.
Who knows what this season as a whole might hold, but let’s just enjoy this stretch for the time being, it could be something we all tell our grandkids about.
April 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
Franklin and Mark discuss the Braves hot start.
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April 16, 2013 at 11:23 am by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
That’s just absurd.
Really not a whole lot more you can say about that than “Thanks Kevin!”
Also, here’s #gattitude, since I know somebody would ask about it:
April 15, 2013 at 4:39 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
We had some things scheduled for today, we’re not going to post them.
We at Capitol Avenue Club want you to know that we love you, especially our readers in the Boston Area. Such proclamations may seem silly, but it’s genuinely the only feeling I can muster at this point. We sincerely hope that if you or anybody you know has been affected that you are able to contact them and that they are okay. Baseball just seems really inconsequential at the moment, and anything we’d do today would seem highly inappropriate. So, all we can do is spread our message of love and deep concern.
If you’re in Massachusetts, please consider donating blood, as this will likely place a major tax on stored blood banks in the area: Locations can be found here
Google has created a person finder for those in the marathon, here.