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Don't Panic About Ben Zobrist

It's been a long time since I've front-page shilled for my brother-from-another-mother so please cut me some slack and hear me out. Ben Zobrist will be just fine. He's had a terrible road trip and could be pressing a bit at the plate, but there is simply nowhere near the sample size necessary to say Zorilla has lost his plate discipline, had his power dry up, or had his mind poisoned by Derek Shelton.

First, the facts. Ben Zobrist is 6 for 34 on this road trip with one triple, three walks, and ten strikeouts hitting out of the three spot.  As indicated below, he is really struggling to hit change ups and curve balls this season.


Whiff Rt 2008 2009
Change 11.2% 22.2%
Curve 7.1% 31.6%


Naturally more whiffs are going to lead to more strikeouts. We also know that over the first fourteen games Zobrist has been seeing fewer pitches in the zone, and chasing more of the pitches outside the zone.









 Is it meaningful? If you read Steve Slowinski's pieceover the weekend, we need 50 plate appearances before Swing % statistics take on any meaning. It is safe to say that Zobrist is expanding his zone more so than in 2009 beyond statistical noise levels. For strikeout rate, we need 150 plate appearances while walk rate requires 200 plate appearances, so let's not jump to conclusions here.

Even with his awful road trip Ben Zobrist is still tied for the team lead in doubles and triples with Carl Crawford. He had a fine home stand prior to hitting the road. The Rays have also faced some tough pitching early on in the season having faced the best of the Yankees and Red Sox, Brian Matusz twice, and John Danks. There will be plenty of better times ahead.

Last season Ben Zobrist was second on the team in the percentage of plate appearances where the count reached three balls at 28.9%. Of those three-ball count plate appearances,  52.6% resulted in walks, while 13.3% ended in strikeouts. This season, Zobrist has the team lead in three-ball counts with 17, but only four have resulted in walks while five have resulted in strikeouts. It should not take much to get this thing going in the right direction again, be it shrinking his zone, seeing less "paint", or not getting hosed by the human element like he did on Patriots Day:



 It's been a rough week for Zobrist, and I'm sure no one is as displeased as himself as he has visibly been wearing his emotion on his sleeve. In the past Joe Maddon has given Zobrist days off when he begins to expand his zone. Perhaps, a day of rest could serve him well. As for the long haul, even when he was a show-bunting slap hitter, Zobrist exhibited on-base skills. If you think these numbers after fourteen games are more indicative of what to come than a career's work, we have some business to discuss.