Name That Ray: Year-To-Year Comparison Edition

Mr. Negative isn't able to make it to his regularly scheduled Monday Morning Recap today. Don't worry, he'll return, either later in the week or next Monday. In the meantime, think back on the fantastic road trip in your own time, and play this trivial little game I've made. If you enjoy it, I'll try to make "Name That Ray" at least a semi-regular feature, so do let me know.

One of my favorite sites on the web is Baseball Heat Maps. Jeff Zimmerman makes fantastic tools that, while not always the most visually appealing and easy to use, do things (for free) that most other online baseball tools can't. His batter heat maps allow you to compare a hitter's locational run values (or swings/looks) to either league average or another hitter. What I just realized, though, is that this feature also allows you to compare a player to himself from last year.

Here are run value heat maps for four Rays players who are having rather different seasons in 2012 than they did in 2011. A positive value means they were better this year than last, a negative value means they were worse. Keep in mind that these are average run values, not total, so to understand overall value, you would need to also know how often a player is being pitched in each location. Can you identify who's who?

1)
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via www.baseballheatmaps.com

More heat maps and the answers below the jump.

2)

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via www.baseballheatmaps.com

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via www.baseballheatmaps.com

4)

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5)

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via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Don't scroll down until you're ready, answers below.

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1) B.J. Upton - This is what a player who's being more aggressive looks like. The type of pitch that Upton should crush, he really is crushing now. But it's come at the expense of pitches neighboring the "should-crush" zone that he probably needs to lay off of. Interestingly, Upton's actually doing a bit better recognizing sliders down and away than he used to.

2) Elliot Johnson - This one surprised me. As we all know, EJ is having a better year here in 2012 than he did in 2011. What I didn't know is that he's doing it on the periphery of the zone. Johnson has been slightly worse in the middle of the zone, but he's making up for it by laying off high pitches and crushing low pitches. Batting left handed, it's seemed to me that Johnson had developed a hole in his swing on pitches down and in. As I look at it now, I see I was only half right. Yes, EJ is struggling with pitches down and in off the plate, but it's probably because he's aggressively jumping on pitches in that general area. When pitchers are able to get that pitch in on him, they can get him out, but if they leave it just slightly more central, good things happen for the Rays.

3) Carlos Pena - I think this was the easiest graph to identify. Pena still has his good plate discipline, and he's doing even better on pitches outside of the zone than he used to, but his power has deserted him. Once upon a time, Pena loved to get his hands extended. Pitches down the middle and on the outer half of the plate got crushed. No longer. He's done okay pulling pitches up and in, where most everyone can hit with authority, but Pena's historical wheelhouse is no more. :(

4) Sean Rodriguez - Rodriguez's chart looks not unlike Pena's. He's lost his power in 2012 (which may of course be due to a rumored back injury). He's hitting pitches up and in with authority, but doing less well on pitches over the heart of the plate and the outside edge. Is this what the graph of a player cheating on fastballs looks like?

5) Jeff Keppinger - This was a little bit unfair, as most of us Rays fans probably didn't see a whole lot of Keppinger last year. I only included it because it's weird. Kepp's having a fantastic season, much better than he did in 2011, but you wouldn't know it by this graph. He's been worse on middle-in pitches, that you would figure he's hitting with some authority. Not sure what's going on here, but thought I would share.

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