I wish I had a positive post this morning after last night’s debacle, but instead you’ll have to settle for one that’s mainly negative with a hint of optimism. I’ve done some pitch f/x analysis on 3 of the top hitters for the Cards (Holliday, Pujols, Rasmus), but have yet to really dive in on any of the “lesser” hitters. I’ll start today with Yadier Molina, who despite his All-Star status is sporting a meager 0.279 wOBA.
First, looking at horizontal pitch location slices
The glaring difference is on pitches middle away where he was successful last season and has been abysmal this year. The hidden positive to that is at first glance it appears he has been unlucky on this set of pitches. (As a good companion point here read Erik’s xBABIP post). If I compare batted ball types across the two seasons he has actually hit more LDs and FBs and less GBs on the pitches middle away this year. They just haven’t found holes. Just looking at LDs on these pitches: in 2009 he lined out on 6 of 26 (23%) and in 2010 he has lined out on 8 of 15 (53%). These numbers don’t reflect whether or not the ball was smoked or is a flare, but I do find 2010 to be a little fluky either way. Hopefully Yadi will have a little better luck in the 2nd half.
Something a little more disturbing, although likely fixable, comes to light when looking at his performance in vertical pitch location sliced. The 2009 to 2010 difference is minimal, so I aggregated into the following chart to get a larger overall sample size
The chart pretty clearly shows that Yadi is much better when he stays in the zone (as are most hitters) and he falls off of a cliff when he goes below the zone. So far that’s nothing out of the ordinary; however when we look at swing rate from this year to last year we see a potential problem.
Yadi has been swinging at many more pitches below the strike zone this year; pitches that he has proven unable to handle over the past two years. Eliminating those additional swings could go a long way towards improving his production in the second half.