The Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Joyce followed up a solid April with the best May of any hitter in baseball. Joyce entered this season a career .243 hitter, but so far has posted a slash line of .361/.421/.621 in 2011.
JoyceJoyce found success in May despite facing a very different pitch distribution than he did in April. Pitchers threw him fewer fastballs and increased the number of off-speed pitches, particularly changeups, in an attempt to throw the ball further away from Joyce.
Joyce adjusted to this by becoming more selective at the plate. In April, he swung at 49 percent of all pitches he saw and hit .321. The downside was he also had twice as many strikeouts as walks (18-9).
Matt Joyce By Pitch Distribution
In May, Joyce swung at just 43 percent of all pitches he saw, but increased his batting average to .414, and walks (11) and decreased his strikeouts (14). His .414 average was 30 points higher than any other player in May. His slugging percentage in May (.759) was second only to Jose Bautista, the majors’ leading home run hitter.
The most remarkable thing about Joyce’s May could be his success against lefties, going 5-for-15. That doesn’t sound like much, but before this season Joyce had only once in his career had five hits against left-handed pitching in an entire season (2008).