By Jason Wojciechowski on April 28, 2012 at 8:30 PM
I wrote a piece up at the Mother Ship that went up today about Yoenis Cespedes. I mentioned his numbers here and there, but more to illustrate the experience of rooting for him than to do any kind of analysis. So as a companion piece, here are a few pictures and such that might tell us some things about Cespedes's performance.
Here, first, is a heat map showing where pitchers are pitching to Yoenis Cespedes.
They're really working him low and away, right? Well, hold on. How do pitchers throw to righties in general?
So kinda the same, then.
I'm not going to actually post here the maps of his swings because he hasn't taken enough of them, leaving the whole thing sort of tie-dye. The last thing I want is Demosthenes all up on my blog. That said, at the moment, they show exactly what you'd expect them to show: way too much swinging at pitches way below the strike zone. The culprit is the off-speed and breaking stuff, of course -- TruMedia lets you filter on pitch-type, and Cespedes isn't chasing fastballs in the dirt. It's all changes, sliders, and curves.
Still, until he stops chasing those pitches, he's going to keep seeing them. His walk rate on the year (9.2% of PAs) is just shy of the 70th percentile in baseball, so he's actually doing a decent overall job of not going after every damn thing the pitchers throw, but check this: just 43% of the pitches he's seen have been in the zone, per TruMedia, a figure that ranks lower than all but eight percent of the league. (I'm assuming that TruMedia's zone data is PITCHf/x derived, but we should note that even that is suspect given that using the rulebook zone horizontally doesn't fit how umpires actually call the game, and PITCHf/x has a hard time dealing with the vertical zone, as Mike Fast has detailed.)
Ideally, Cespedes would stop chasing those pitches down, thus drawing more walks, at least until pitchers adjusted again. In a perfect world, Cespedes would force the opposing team to make the impossible choice of giving him first base or giving him balls he could knock out of the yard. In a perfect world, in other words, Cespedes would be Barry Bonds. That's not going to happen today, tomorrow, or next year, in all likelihood, yet Cespedes has a top-half OBP and a top-75% SLG (comparing all players who qualify for the batting title). If that's "all" he ever is, as long as he can stay in center field, the A's should have a very valuable player for the next four years.