Will Ryan Hanigan rebound?

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

It's all about the swing.

Now that the glow of acquiring the much-loved-in-Cincinnati Ryan Hanigan has dimmed, it's time to start thinking about what his presence will mean for the Rays. Yes, he's an expert game-caller, framer, pitch-blocker, and thrower. Yes, he sounds like a fabulous clubhouse presence. Yes, he struggled with injuries last year. That doesn't change the fact that in 2013 he was a pretty horrible hitter.

PA wRC+ PA vs. L wRC+ vs. L PA vs. R wRC+ vs R
2010 243 126 55 168 148 108
2011 304 100 48 144 256 91
2012 371 88 89 135 282 73
2013 260 53 54 63 197 50

Why the drop? What went so wrong in 2013? For a start, I went to Jeff Zimmerman's www.baseballheatmaps.com. All heat maps are from a catcher's perspective. They compare Hanigan in 2010-2012 to Hanigan in 2013. On a swing map, hotter colors mean that he swung there more often in 2013, cooler colors mean that he swung there less often. The results map take a look at run values for each pitch.

Swings against right-handed pitchers:

1drrqd6hjcpcsof6rsomkos1q5452672rwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Results against right-handed pitchers:

1drrqd6hjcpcsof6rsomkos1q5452672wm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

That's pretty interesting, although I can't say I know exactly what it means. Hanigan has taken more pitches in on his hands, and at the same time he's also hit those pitches better. Meanwhile, he was slightly more aggressive over the rest of the plate, with worse results. The other area where he was more patient, the upper and outer corner of the strike zone, his results were the same in 2013 as in years past.

What should you make of this? I'm not sure. Hanigan has never been a power hitter (.081 career ISO), and injuries 2013 sapped any power he might have had. He's always been a guy for whom swinging the bat carries very little reward, and with a sprained wrist and oblique, Hanigan appears to have successfully compensated by being even more selective than usual on borderline pitches. When a pitcher throws a fastball right down the middle of the plate though, no veteran adjustment is going to take the plays of a good swing -- hence the 50 wRC+ against righties.

Swings against left-handed pitchers:

1drrqd6hjcpcsof6rsomkos1q5452672lwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Results against left-handed pitchers:

1drrqd6hjcpcsof6rsomkos1q5452672wm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

The picture against lefties is much the same, if a little less clear. Hanigan took more pitches on some of the corners, and swung at more on others. Either way, though, his results were better or similar in those outside or borderline spots where his decision about whether or not to swing would matter most. A pitch down the middle, though, will almost always be called a strike if not swung at, and once again, any gains Hanigan may have made on the edges was more than offset by an inability to do much with pitches out over the plate.

What's the lesson? Ryan Hanigan knows what he's doing at the plate, as shown by his career walk rate (12.0%) being higher than his career strikeout rate (10.1%), but baseball is a difficult game, with only a small margin between success and failure. Hanigan's margin has always been smaller than most, so when age and/or injuries impeded his swing, major league pitchers were about to capitalize. The Rays gave him a three-year deal, so they're betting it was the injuries and not the age. Hope that they are right.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join DRaysBay

You must be a member of DRaysBay to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at DRaysBay. You should read them.

Join DRaysBay

You must be a member of DRaysBay to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at DRaysBay. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker