Wednesday, June 2, 2010
The secret to Rolen's revitalized power
By Katie Sharp, ESPN Stats and Info
Scott Rolen is no stranger to circling the bases. He hit 253 homers in his first 11 seasons in the majors, a number that is surpassed by just seven third basemen in MLB history (using a criteria of 75 percent of games played at third base): Eddie Mathews, Mike Schmidt, Troy Glaus, Matt Williams, Ron Santo, Dean Palmer and Ken Boyer. But after averaging 25 longballs per year from 1996-2006, he hit just 30 combined in 355 games from 2007-09.
It’s been a different story in 2010, as the 34 year-old is raking once again. He’s already surpassed his homer total from last year and his slugging percentage of .592 would be the second-highest mark of his career. Let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers to see if we can find the source of this power surge by the slugger in the Queen City.
First, Rolen is pulling the ball slightly more this year, with 51.5 percent of his balls in play going to the left side compared to 44 percent last year. But it appears to be the sharp increase in his ability to hit the ball with authority to the opposite field that has really fueled his power surge. In 2009, he slugged just .350 to the right - and that number has nearly doubled to .632 in 2010. Last year, he put 120 balls in play to the right but only 30 of them fell for hits and none went over the fence. This year, he’s put 38 balls in play to the right, and while only 10 have been hits, four of those 10 have left the ballpark!
Rolen is hitting the same amount of flyballs this year compared to last year (63 percent of balls in play), but the results have been dramatically different in 2010. The majority of his pop in 2009 was of the doubles variety. Of his 100 hits on flyballs, 43 were for extra bases, but 31 of those were two-baggers, while 11 were homers and one was a triple. This year, his flyballs are literally flying out of the park. He has launched 89 balls to the outfield, 36 of them have fallen for hits and 13 of those have cleared the fences, while 10 have gone for doubles.
Finally, Rolen is also really taking advantage of pitchers’ mistakes this year, after barely making a mark on those balls thrown in the heart of the strike zone last season. In 2009, he saw 94 pitches in the exact center of the zone: he put 43 of them in play but managed only 12 hits, including just a one solitary longball. This year he has seen 33 pitches down the middle: he has put 17 in play, with 10 falling for hits and five of those 10 have been home runs.
Rolen smacked two dingers last night as the Reds beat the Cardinals 9-8 and took over sole possession of first place in the NL Central. Chris Carpenter is on the hill for the Cardinals tonight in the rubber game, and has struggled with the longball this season. He’s allowed 10 homers in his first 11 starts – including at least one in each of his last four starts - after giving up just seven homers in 28 starts last year. Tune into ESPN at 8 Eastern tonight to see if Rolen and the Reds can extend their lead in the division over the Cardinals.