Thursday, June 23, 2011

Aaron Cibia is the Mayor of Split City

You know what's awesome? Being wrong. The value of being dead wrong is two-fold for someone as ironically detached as myself:
  1. When you're constantly negative, being wrong means things actually went well!
  2. Something something learning.
Astute readers may remember me expressing concern with J.P. Arencibia's offensive potential. Quite clearly, I was wrong. Which is great, because it means JPA is having a fine season. Third among rookies in home runs and not a single pitcher died under his watch. Way to go JPA!

All was well until the calender turned to June. This month, Aaron Cibia's gone in the tank some. Tired? Maybe, but he's 25 and it's only June. Maybe the league figured something out about the studly catcher. Like, maybe, I dunno, he can't hit a slider?

Arencibia currently sports some pretty gaudy left/right splits. His exposure to left-handed pitching is pretty minimal but he's smacking it around with extreme prejudice. 5 of his 10 home runs came from southpaws in 1/3 the PAs.

His OPS is nearly double versus lefties, his ISO 200 points higher. The numbers are eye-popping but, we must remember, the sample is small and neither side is an accurate representation of his true talent level. (As a weird aside, he displayed large reverse splits in the his final year at AAA. Can't predict baseball!)

Wait, hold on. What if these splits are indicative of a pattern, of a hole in his swing or the league figuring him out? Arencibia's wOBA by month tells a tale (.369, .341, .211). You know what else tells a similar tale? The percentage of sliders he sees from right handed pitchers, also by month.

Arencibia, percentage of sliders (from RHP) faced by month
  • April 11%
  • May 18%
  • June 31%
Which would be fine if, well...

Whiff rate versus slider (from RHP) by month
  • April 18%
  • May 27%
  • June 52%
Having watched Joe Carter and Vernon Wells play baseball for much of my natural life, I'm pretty confident I know how right-handers are pitching JPA these days. For the sake of showing our work, let's take a look at all his swinging strikes versus righties this year.

Sliders and slider-shaped items down and away with fastballs up in the zone? You don't say!

While J.P. Arencibia is far from the first right-handed batter to struggle with the slider down and away, it is now his duty to make an adjustment. Arencibia's young enough that there is plenty of learning and/or development time before we throw up our hands and declare him a one-trick pony. God only knows the last thing this team needs is another platoon player.


  1. I wonder how much his dislocated thumb (suffered at the beginning of June) has to do with this? Maybe nothing as it relates to the swing, but I can definitely see it sapping his power when he does make contact.

  2. Hey, I've got an idea, save yourself some time tomorrow, just change JP Arencibia to Rajai Davis, take out the 'still young' thing, and your next post has written itself!


  3. Honest to goodness this just happened to me:

    I started scrolling down on this post and when I got to the word 'Swinging strikes' only the top half of the graph was visible. I said to myself "Is Drew going to say that he's struggling with the ball up and away?"

    and then I scrolled down to the bottom half of the graph and said out loud: 'Oh dear.' in such a tone that my roommate asked me from the living room if something had gone wrong.

  4. I'm not sure why the whiff rate against sliders would increase if you were seeing more, unless you were in a funk. And if you were in a funk, maybe you'd then see more sliders. So maybe cause and effect are reversed here.

    Or maybe not. In any event, I wouldn't make any pronoucements on JPA until at least 2021. But then I'm risk averse.

  5. I'm working on something for later this week..I think he's in a funk. Not all his doing, to be fair.

  6. The Dwayne Murphy Effect.. got lucky with bautista, but everyone else has suffered from his pull-heavy approach. Most hitters can't pull balls on the outer third of the plate like jedi can, but everyone on this team other than YEScobar is trying to. Davis is a career .290ish slap hitter with a lot of speed that got a few hrs in ST and thought he was going to 'break out' at age 30 instead of sticking with what has worked throughout his career. Aaron Hill used to have oppofield gap power, now he's just another 250 hitter that may pull 20hrs against bad pitchers.


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