Vernon Wells vs. The First Pitch
Vernon Wells is an extrememly aggressive hitter, who loves to swing at the first pitch. And with good reason – last year he hit .343 when making contact with it. This season that average plummeted to .233 and he seemed to pop out to deep second base on the first offering every time he came up with the bases loaded. So what the heck was he swinging at? Here are the pitches he put in play this season on the first pitch:
A fair number of pop outs (this year Vernon was 2nd in the majors in infield fly percentage, also known as the “hidden strikeout” for their utter uselessness) and a lot of ground balls. But most of those are strikes, and pretty decent pitches, although on the outside half. He just didn’t do anything with them- one of the main criticisms was he was trying to pull that pitch too much (which would explain all the grounders as he rolls over on the ball to the shortstop). As for the pitches he didn’t put in play:
Now that’s strange. Wells is as pull-happy as they come, but he let a lot of pitches go by for strikes on the inner half. And look at all those foul balls on pitches right down the middle of the plate. From the first graph you would think he was being exclusively pitched away, but that’s not the case. It’s just that he made weak contact on pitches middle-away, and fouled off everything else. A foul ball happens when a player is either a little bit off the pitch or a little bit behind it. Does that sound like a shoulder injury maybe?
The green misses are a lot of breaking pitches. As anyone who watched a game or two knows, the way to get Wells to chase is to pitch him something low and away, but he didn’t go for them that badly- a lot of those pitches he swung and missed at are in places that are being called strikes half the time, and he laid off even more.
At least on the first pitch, Vernon wasn’t overly aggressive this year. If anything it was the opposite, he took too many quality pitches. His real problem was he was missing his pitch when he got it. If a hitter is fouling back mistakes left up and down the middle that they normally feast on, they’re going to end up getting behind in the count and looking bad on nasty pitches later in the at-bat while they should be rounding the bases. Here’s another one of the results of fouling off (or staring at) those pitches- instead he had to make more contact while behind in the count on pitcher’s pitches, which he didn’t hit well even in his excellent 2006 season.
|Count||2007 AB||2007 AVG||2006 AB||2006 AVG|