Monday, May 19, 2014
Longoria and Wright not pulling with power
By Mark Simon
Every Monday, I tweet out a series of hard-hit ball leaderboards, ones that tell you how often players and teams are hitting a ball hard, and how often they’re getting hits when they hit the ball hard.
The decision of whether a ball is hard-hit or not is determined by a video-review team for one of our data providers.
They look for beneficial velocity and contact on the sweet spot of the bat in making their determination as to whether a ball is hit hard, medium or soft. It is admittedly an imperfect, subjective stat. But it has value, and based on the reaction on Twitter, there seems to be interest in learning more about it.
So with that in mind, here are a few things I gathered from this week’s look through the numbers.
Longoria and Wright’s power struggle
Evan Longoria and David Wright have ranked among the game’s top offensive third basemen for quite some time, but both are going through power outages in 2014. Six weeks into the season, Longoria has only four home runs, Wright two. Their slugging percentages are nearly the same, with Longoria at .386 and Wright at .376.
Longoria has not hit the ball with authority at all this season and there are a couple of stats that stand out.
Longoria registered hard-hit balls 21 percent of the time in 2013. That rate stands at 14 percent in 2014. The biggest issue has been a lack of pull power. His hard-hit rate on pulled balls has dipped from 27 percent to 12 percent.
Perhaps most unnerving: We have a tool that estimates batted-ball distances based on plotting balls on a grid (it’s not as accurate as Hit F/X but can serve as a reasonable guide). Longoria hit balls in the air an average of 305 feet when he pulled them in 2011, 279 feet in 2012, and 291 feet in 2013. This season, he’s at 237 feet.
We dissected Wright’s power issues at length today at ESPNNY.com. Like Longoria, he’s a hitter who can drive the ball to all fields, and he’s still hitting the ball hard the other way, but there’s been little carry when he pulls the ball. His average pulled ball in the air was 302 feet in 2013. It’s only 266 feet in 2014.
Wright is one of a few Mets who have gone unrewarded on their hard-hit balls. They are hitting .609 in at-bats ending with a hard-hit ball, second-lowest in the majors to the Indians’ .602.
That came into play in particular last weekend when Daniel Murphy’s hard-hit bid for a game-tying home run was robbed by Jayson Werth to end the game.
Inside the top 20
Who are the most interesting names in the top 20 among those who hit the ball hard most often?
Victor Martinez rates third behind Troy Tulowitzki and David Ortiz. Not only is Martinez not missing on his swings (his 9 percent miss rate is third-lowest in the majors), but he’s crushing pitches. As you’ll probably hear a few times on ESPN’s telecast Monday night, Martinez now has more homers (10) than strikeouts (9).
Lucas Duda ranks 10th, a number that matches the Mets' internal metrics, as noted in Newsday a couple weeks ago. But Duda hasn’t yet seen the fruits of this. He’s one of three players in the top 20 in hard-hit rate whose batting average is .250 or lower (Kyle Seager and Edwin Encarnacion are the others). Citi Field has been a hindrance. We count five fly balls deep into the left- and right-center gaps that may have done damage elsewhere.
Seth Smith ranks 18th and that may have been helped a little by visits to hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park and Coors Field, though he got hot even before that road swing. One thing we noticed on Smith: He’s taking the outside pitch and driving it with authority. He’s slugging .649 when an at-bat ends with a pitch to that spot. That ranks fourth in the majors. The other hitters in the top five: Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig.
A longer list can be found here.
Hard-luck hitter of the week: Mike Olt, Cubs
Cubs third baseman Mike Olt has a weird batted ball profile. He’s hitting .176 with nine home runs, one double and eight singles, giving him a .451 slugging percentage.
Strikeouts are one issue for Olt -- he has 36 in 102 at-bats. But perhaps he’s hitting in a little bit of tough luck.
Olt is 14-for-17 in at-bats in which he registered a hard-hit ball. But he’s 3-for-14 on medium-hit balls and an amazing 1-for-35 on softly hit ones (his last 25 have been outs).
Olt’s .029 batting average on soft-hit balls rates tied with Ryan Hanigan for third-worst in the majors. The average major leaguer gets hits on soft-hit balls about 17 percent of the time.