Joyce's Struggles

August 23, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Matt Joyce (20) hits a 2-RBI double in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Joyce, or MOM (month of May) as he is sometimes called in these parts, has certainly struggled this summer. We are accustomed to seeing Joyce have his wOBA peaks and valleys throughout a season, but this season has been a bit different. He started out the season very strong but has quietly stayed in a decline throughout the summer that has not showed much signs of changing.

Where has it gone wrong for Joyce?

This graph shows his wOBA trends by career as well as each of his (somewhat) full seasons with the Rays:


The career line shows a trend that was heavily influenced by last year's numbers that spawned the MOM meme, but this year's line stands out because the second half spike that Joyce has typically shown has not shown up. In fact, the slide starts as May became June and has not showed any signs of stopping at this point.

The spray charts by that split offer some insight into what the issue is. They do show he is getting fewer hits to the opposite field in recent months but they also show he is not hitting the ball as far these days to all field as he was earlier in the season.


Joyce is still using all parts of the field, but fewer hits are falling into play to the left side, which is a bit of a problem since pitchers are attacking him more frequently on the outer half of the plate.


Before the summer, Joyce was laying off pitches in the lower reaches of the strike zone but that behavior has changed as he is swinging at those pitches more often during this slump.


That change has adversely affected his batted ball outcomes as well as he is producing more groundballs, walking less often, and making less contact.


The league is pitching Joyce differently after he wore them out in the first two months of the season and Joyce has been slow to make the adjustments. The run value heat maps below show just how badly things have changed in the summer months.


Outside of the recent forearm annoyance and a few other nagging day-to-day injuries, it is unclear Joyce is suffering from any kind of physical malaise. What is clear is that pitchers have changed their plan of attack against him and he has been slow to adjust. His bat is a key one in the middle of the lineup and his struggles of late have been masked by the overall strong performance of the lineup.

Much has been made of Calos Pena's struggles with runners in scoring position as he has driven in runners in just four of his last 25 plate appearances with runners on but Joyce is not much better as he has done so just six times in his last 23 situations. The team's resurgence in August has been fun to watch, but the team absolutely needs Joyce to stop the downward slide as they head into the critical final weeks of the season.

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