Let's Make Contact
The Indians have a 4.5-game lead over the Detroit Tigers, which is the largest lead between the top two teams in the entire MLB. The lead is good, but it won’t get them far if they are having trouble scoring runs, compared to the other teams in the MLB. The Tribe, as of June 14th, 2018, is 10th in Hits (with 585), 13th in OBP (on base percentage, with .320), and 6th in runs (with 319), according to ESPN.com. These numbers aren’t awful, but there is room for improvement. A way to improve this is to look at the data to see where the mess-ups in the offence could be occurring.
When looking at the criteria on StatCast, I took interest in the “Quality of Contact” area. If you are trying to score runs, you are trying to get good/solid contact on the ball. To increase runs, you need to know where the pitches are where you are getting poor contact on the ball, resulting in an out. Keep in mind, the graphs below are all from the catcher’s perspective.
Jose Ramirez is a strong Indians infielder who is a consistent man in the line-up. This heatmap shows where the pitches are thrown when he gets bad contact on the ball. Since he gets bad contact on the ball, he does not get a hit. As you can see, there is a wide area of the zone where Ramirez is getting poor contact in the ball. It seems to lie heavily near the bottom of the zone, but in the middle of the plate. The darker the color, the more instances poor contact resulting in an out occurred. There is a very dark block around (0, -0.5), which we can see is about knee height in the middle of the plate. From this graph, we can conclude that Ramirez needs to work on low, down the middle pitches to see that he is doing wrong. Working on this will likely lower the amount of poor contact hits that result in an out and will allow for more opportunities for runs.
Edwin Encarnacion is a different story. First things first, his key on the right has a lower range than Ramirez, meaning that the darkest color is only 8 occurrences compared to 12 on Ramirez’s graph. Another huge difference is that the darkest color is on the outside corner. Since he is a right-handed batter, he is either pulling off outside pitches, or he is not keeping his head on the ball. He needs to work on staying on those outside pitches and driving the hips toward right field. Again, the height seems to be around knee level, so the Tribe needs to work on hitting knee level pitches with strong contact.
Finally, my personal favorite player, Francisco Lindor, the Tribe’s everyday shortstop. His graph is the most interesting in the way that it is spread out with little pattern. The previous two have a strong pattern, either low or outside. Lindor is a switch hitter, which means he can bat from both sides depending on the pitcher. Lindor’s graph is very spread out, with two darker blotches, one higher and one lower, but at in the same location on the plate. This graph also shows that he likes to chance outside the zone, not resulting in hits on the most part. So, Frankie, needs it in the zone, and work in those middle of the plate pitches.
Overall, just like any ball club, the Tribe has a lot to work on with their offensive run generation. The players seem to have some trouble with pitches down the middle, which is odd because those should be the easiest to hit. This could be because of movement out of the zone, that were called down the middle. Another thing to work on is elevated pitches, which seemed to be a common theme in poor contact hits. To score runs, you need to get solid contact, and these graphs are a good indication of ways to improve that statistic.
ESPN.com. MLB Team Stats - 2018. n.d.
MLB Advanced Media, LP. StatCast Search. n.d. https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/statcast_search.