Did Injuries Last Season Change Aviles' and Gordon's Plate Approach?

For this up coming season, Will has agreed to take me on to do Pitch F/X analysis for the Royals. Pitch FX is the data used to create the nice Gameday visualizations at mlb.com and has all pitch aspects such as release point, start and ending speeds, curve and result of pitch. I have done some previous Pitch F/X, but I am wanting to dive into a team and see what deep information can be found. I will be putting general Pitch F/X analysis at BeyondTheBoxscore.com such as called umpire strike zones. Feel free to ask many any questions or requests. If I can't find the answer, I will try to find someone that can. Thanks to Will for putting up with me this season.  -Jeff

 

Last season the Royals had their fair share of injuries. Two batters that the Royals were expecting to produce, Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles, spent significant time on the DL. Mike went on the DL on May 23 with a forearm injury that led to him having Tommy John surgery and missing the entire season. Alex went on the DL on April 16 and came off on July 16. Alex got demoted to Omaha on August 18 and returned September 8 to finish off the season in Kansas City.

 

Using Pitch FX data, I have found a method to determine how well a batter acknowledges the strike zone compared to the rest of the players in the majors. The following is a look at Mike and Alex before, during and after their injuries.


Mike Aviles

 

Mike had a great 2008 campaign for the Royals earning him Royal's Player of the Year honors. Coming into the 2009 season, he was to finally help fill the black hole that is the Royal's shortstop position.

 

Mike struggled through the beginning of the season. It was found out that he had injured himself in the World Baseball Classic and went on the DL. Mike is generally known as a free swinger, but did his injury actually change his plate discipline. First let's look at the numbers and begin to dissect them (A value of 100 is league average, while a value of 90 is 10% below the league average):

 

Pitches in the Strike Zone 2008 2009
Take + 86.1 94.8
Contact + 103.7 96.5
Good Contact + 122.1 83.5



Pitches out of the Strike Zone 2008 2009
Take + 89.9 94.8
Contact + 109.6 114.3
Good Contact + 134.8 58.0

 

Analysis after the jump.

In both 2008 and 2009, Mike took less pitches than the league average for both strikes (86.1 and 94.8) and balls (89.9 and 94.8), but did show improvement in his 2009 numbers. For pitches in the zone, Mike was not able to make contact as often in 2009 (103.7 to 96.5) and when he did, the results weren't good (122.1 to 83.5). Mike's ability to hit the ball soundly, was even more evident for pitches out of the zone. His contact rate was relatively constant (109.6 and 114.3), but results were much worse with him being 35% better than the league average (134.8) in 2008, to being 42% less than the average (58) in 2009. It looks like he just didn't have the power (and possibly luck) he had in 2009 compared to 2008. Mike's plate approach was more sound in 2009, but the injury looks to have sapped him of his power

 

Alex Gordon

2009 was to be a make for break year for Alex to finally be the superstar he was projected to become. Instead his season ended early with the hip injury. Unlike Mike, Alex was able to come back later in the season. Here are Alex's numbers:

 

Pitches in the Strike Zone 2007 2008 2009 2009 – Pre DL 2009 – Pre-Demotion 2009 After-Demotion
Take + 90.3 90.5 85.2 95.3 83.4 82.4
Contact + 94.1 95.1 94.6 93.7 97.5 93.2
Good Contact + 95.5 92.9 79.6 62.7 72.5 90.1







Pitches out of the Strike Zone 2007 2008 2009 2009 – Pre DL 2009 – Pre-Demotion 2009 After-Demotion
Take + 95.2 108.1 115.4 104.0 108.7 124.2
Contact + 88.5 86.6 92.7 58.0 80.5 136.4
Good Contact + 77.0 69.3 104.3 0.0 58.0 245.5

 

Looking at pitches outside of the zone, Alex has taken more balls in each consecutive season (95.2, 108.1, 115.4). He maintains generally the same contact rate (88.5, 86.6, 92.7) but in 2009 his good contact went from significantly below league average in 2007 and 2008 (77.0 and 69.3) to above league average in 2009 (104.3). When looking at each time period for the 2009 season, Alex maintain a similar take rate (104.0, 108.7 and 124.2), but his contact (58.0 and 80.5 to 136.4) and good contact (0.0 and 58 to 245.5) numbers jumped significantly after being called up from Omaha. It looks like at the end of the season, Alex was able to lay off pitches out of the zone and when he did go chasing, he was able to make solid contact.

 

For pitches in the strike zone, Alex had consistent number in 2007 and 2008, all below league average, but stable. In 2009, his number fell off. First, he started swing at more pitches in the zone (90.3 and 90.5 to 85.2). When he did swing he made contact just as often (94.1, 95.1, 94.6), but his amount of good contact was down (95.5 and 92.9 to 79.6). The 3 parts of his 2009 show that he took more pitches than his career average while hurt (95.3 vice 83.4 and 82.4). He did maintain a constant contact rate (93.7, 97.5 and 93.2) over the season, but good contact values were all below (62.7, 72.5 and 90.1) his previous levels (95.5 and 92.9). Alex did seem to get some ability to get hits towards the end of the season, but he wasn't himself with pitches in zone. For pitches out of the zone, he was lights out.

 

Conclusions

Both Mike Aviles and Alex Gordon were able to maintain their knowledge of the strikezone when hurt, but their ability to drive the ball to generate hits and runs was sapped from them. Hopefully both will be in better physical shape when they start (Aviles looks to start on the DL) playing eventually.

 

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