Thursday, March 12, 2009
Let the Right One In
Seems like every vein of the vast Blue Jays deposits have been stripmined by writers and bloggers alike. First we had Brett Cecil Day and recently we all lined up for the Million Mills March. Johnny Mac, Matt Clement, Aaron Hill, Scott Rolen, and of course Vernon Wells have spit quotes and positivity for the coming year.
Somewhat frighteningly, aside from the occasional slip of chauvinism, we haven't heard much about Alex Rios. How can that be? Is there another player who's output controls the entire team's fortunes more directly? Which Alex Rios will we get?
For each of the past three season, Alex Rios has been two different players. Strong first half is interrupted by full blown itis leading to a weak second half. Strong first half gives way to home run derbyitis and a weak second half. Middling first half before an infusion of Citocity leading to a strong finish to the season. What gives?
Alex Rios is nothing if not frustrating, and we've all watched him throw at bats away. Last year Professor Hale uncovered some troubling posture issues that may have interfered with his power stroke. I've decided to go full nerd and examine his contact rate and out of zone swing numbers. Exciting stuff, I know.
Thanks to Fangraphs, I can look at Rios's monthly plate discipline splits. I decided to compare his monthly contract rate, starting with April 2006 with his monthly OPS splits over the same time frame. His OPS remains pretty steady over his career, with some huge months and a few real dogs mixed in. Mind my terrible Excel skills, but here we go:
The pink dot represents his career marks, with the one outlier being July 2006, a month in which he made only 14 plate appearances. What does this mean? Shockingly enough, the more Alex puts the bat on the ball, the better he does! How's your mind? Mine is pretty fucking blown right now. The R squared number indicates the relationship between contact rate and OPS in this instance. 61% of OPS is contact rate? Not likely. These sample sizes are pretty small and I have no fucking clue what I'm doing.
My next thought was "what will make his contract rate go up, since that is obviously the desired outcome?" Walp, let's so how Alex stacks up. Is swinging at out of the zone junk bad for his health?
This relationship is much weaker, but definitely shows a connection between swing at crap and putting the ball into play. July 2006 is off the reservation once again, were I credible in any way I'd have discounted it long ago. The Pink Dot again represents his career numbers; not to mention a tremendous scene in my favorite movie of all time.
So what can we expect from not-so-young Alex in 2009? Hopefully a disciplined yet aggressive approach. Both he and Vernon are free swingers, but need to ensure they're swinging at strikes to maximize their talents. I'm new to this "graphing and trying to figure shit out" business, so if any smart people have any feedback or if you'd like to see the raw numbers I stole, please help me out in the comments.