More Lineup Protection: A Look at Where Pitchers Pitched Evan Longoria During Carlos Pena's Absence

Evan Longoria's slump from 8/1 to 8/15, which coincided with a DL stint from Carlos Pena, is well documented. His Ks, went up, his BABIP went down, his walks went down, and his balls weren't leaving the yard. Since Pena has returned, Longo has too. He's put up an OPS of 1.142 with 4 homers in the dozen or so games since Pena has returned.

The article mentioned above found that pitchers gave him less fastballs and he was swinging at more stuff (barring changeups). The general consensus seemed to be that the best thing to look at, more than pitch selection, was pitch location in relation to swinging. A look at the results of me dabbling in pitch f/x after the jump.

The table below takes a look at his swinging rates for pitches in and out of the zone.

Season 8/1 to 8/15
Z-Swing% 62.3 59.0
O-Swing% 27.4 29.8
Swing% 44.0 44.0

These numbers appear to be roughly the same year round. He swung at a few more pitches out the zone and a couple fewer inside, but overall the differences seem to be fairly negligible. How about how pitchers were pitching to him? The table below looks at what percent of pitches were in and out of the zone based on the pitch type.

Season 8/1 to 8/15
FB Zone% 51.4 52.0
CB Zone% 44.7 56.5
SL Zone% 42.9 41.9
CH Zone% 37.3 40.6
Total Zone% 47.7 48.3

This was quite a shock. After the results of the last article suggested that pitchers were being cautious and throwing Longoria fewer fastballs, I would've assumed that they would similarly be cautious and throw him less pitches in the zone. The opposite was true and, if anything, pitchers were more aggressive with how they were pitching to him in Pena's absence! His zone% increased for all pitch types except sliders, which decreased a negligible amount. This might just be small sample size noise, but given that he saw roughly ~240 pitches during these 15 games, I would think that it's safe to say that at the very least pitchers weren't pitching around him. The obvious question here is why exactly pitchers might do that.

Perhaps they identified that he was in a slump and pitched to him accordingly. Perhaps they thought the consequences of him getting on base wasn't as bad with Willy Aybar coming up to bat, rather than Pena. Perhaps the pitchers Longo faced over this stretch were simply "pounding the zone" more. Or, perhaps this change was simply random variation and had nothing to do with any conscious decisions of the players to treat Evan Longoria differently. It would be a mistake to look at this change and immediately assume correlation=causation, but at the very least it seems safe to say that, while pitchers did throw Longoria fewer fastballs during this time, they certainly weren't pitching around him. In the end, it's tough to say what impact Pena exactly has on the diet of pitches that Longoria ends up getting, but the theory of "Lineup Protection" is looking a lot less certain than it was a week ago.

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