FanPost

Sean Rodriguez and his Frustrating Approach

Sean Rodriguez is a frustrating baseball player. When we first got him in the Kazmir trade, I was stoked (I literally went outside and started throwing 95 mph fastballs with poor command and little movement, good for a 64 ERA+). A friend of mine who follows prospects much more closely than I do cautioned that his minor league numbers were a bit up and down, in hitters parks, etc., and that people could pretty much see whatever they wanted to see in them, but I'm an optimist, so I chose to see a future all-star. Then Rodriguez had an amazing spring, and I was hooked. Rodriguez has a super quiet, calm stance. When he takes a pitch, he doesn't bat an eye, and when he swings, it's quick, handsy, level, and explosive looking. Problem is, the results just haven't matched up with my probably unrealistic expectations. And while I first thought his approach looked like that of an elite batter, who spit on everything he couldn't drive, while daring the pitcher to give him something hittable, I soon began to doubt his ability to actually tell what he could or couldn't hit.

To try to verify my eyes, I looked at the swing percentages for all major league batters, excluding pitchers not named Micah Owings, who accrued 100 or more plate appearances from 2008 till now (the span during which Rodriguez spent time in the majors), which yielded a group of 642 players. All stats are from Fangraphs.

S-Rod

League AVG

Percentile

Swing%

46.2%

46.2%

50

Z-Swing%

62.9%

65.8%

29

O-Swing%

28.8%

27.4%

63

 

So, while S-Rod is right in the middle when looking at the total number of pitches he swings at, he's in the bottom third in terms of actually offering at the more hittable pitches, and also trails the pack in being able to lay off balls out of the zone. He meets the league average by being below average in two different, opposing ways. And for those who are wondering, it's not like he's being confronted with real unusual pitch location - 51.1% of pitches to him have been in the zone and the league average was 48.9% during this time period.

But, how bad is this? Well, a player with a good batting eye should swing at significantly more balls in the zone than he does out of it, so I sorted eligible players by the difference between their Z-Swing% and their Swing%. This should give some idea of a players skill at pitch selection separate from their overall aggression. Heading off this list is unsurprisingly, Chipper Jones, followed not terribly closely by Milton Bradley and Elijah Dukes. Clearly, debilitating personal issues go hand in hand with otherworldly pitch recognition. The much coveted Russel Branyan checks in at number four, and the departed Carlos Pena at number eight. Of current Rays, Matt Joyce has the best showing at #20, with the next appearance being B.J. Upton at #88 (a fact I found shocking, given the rap he's gotten for poor pitch selection).

Sean Rodriguez checks in all the way down at #539, good for 16th percentile, last on the Rays (yes, slightly worse than Brignac). The average "isolated eye" is 19.6%, S-Rod's is 16.7%. Get this man some Lasik!

"Isolated Eye"

Percentile

Matt Joyce

25.6%

97

B.J. Upton

22.8%

86

Kelly Shoppach

22.4%

83

Dan Johnson

21.6%

71

Casey Kotchman

21.1%

67

Sam Fuld

20.6%

62

Johnny Damon

20.5%

62

Evan Longoria

19.9%

53

John Jaso

19.4%

48

Ben Zobrist

18.8%

39

Reid Brignac

17.0%

18

S-Rod

16.7%

16

 

Edit: I've fixed the numbers to exclude pitchers. I left Micah Owings in because he's awesome, and has an above average isolated eye of 19.7%.

This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.

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