Grady Sizemore’s Plate Discipline Problems

Between 2005 and 2008, Grady Sizemore was, by our WAR valuation system, the fourth best position player and one of just four worth over 20 wins. Last year he had an injury-shortened, down year — though was still worth almost two wins — so this year he was looking to reestablish himself as one of the game’s elite players; at this point, that has not happened.

His wOBA sits at a disappointing 0.264. In 119 PAs he has yet to hit a home run. His strikeout rate is at an all-time high, while his walk rate and ISO at all-time lows. The plate discipline issues problems seem particularly troubling. Over his career Sizemore has had great plate discipline numbers, but this year Sizemore is swinging at 32% of the pitches he sees out of the zone. His career average is 19%, and his previous high is just 20%. On the other hand, he is swinging at fewer pitches in the strike zone, just 59% compared to a career average of 65% and a previous low of 63%. So it is not that he is just swinging more at all pitches, rather he is swinging at more pitches he shouldn’t and at fewer pitches he should. That is what leads to his career-high K rate and career-low BB rate, and probably plays a role in his power decline.

Using the pitchf/x data I looked at his swing rate broken up into bins by pitch location. Then I looked at the change in swing rate for each location between this year compared to 2007-2009 (the years covered by the pitchf/x data). Red locations have a higher swing rate in 2010, while blue a lower swing rate in 2010. The color intensity represents the magnitude of the difference.

Since he has only seen 470 pitches this year the data are a little noisy, but you can see a clear trend. Locations outside the zone have a higher swing rate, particularly on inside pitches, while those in the zone, particularly down-and-away, have a lower swing rate. So the pitchf/x data support the BIS plate discipline numbers, and they are troubling for Sizemore and the Indians.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


38 Responses to “Grady Sizemore’s Plate Discipline Problems”

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  1. The A Team says:

    Damn that rain out. I was finally rewarded for all the games I played Grady (actually I just didn’t have extra OF’s) with a homerun and the game gets rained out.

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  2. benson says:

    great thread about this popped up a few days ago on an indians board:

    http://www.swerbsblurbs.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=17722&sid=c7571fc05b578e2a709ab5c388652928&start=0

    you can tell a couple of the posters are obviously fangraphs readers.

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  3. kirk T says:

    Agree with ‘The A Team’

    was shouting at my computer that the game would at least get through the 5th…

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    • Neil says:

      Ditto. I was glued to weather.com, watching the storm path, hoping it would blow out of town and they could resume play. I also own Miggy, so I lost his HR as well.

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  4. Galt says:

    I think a major issue he’s facing that won’t change is that he’s facing far more lefties this year than previously. Sure, the Indians got some bad luck in terms of which starter’s they’ve been facing, but with Sizemore, Choo, Hafner, and Branyan 4 of their best hitters, teams will continue to pump lefties against them out of the bullpen whenever possible.

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  5. the verdict says:

    Compelling analysis, but I’m unsure of what the present and future implications are of it. Is anybody aware of similar comps of once formidable hitters in their prime years suddenly losing plate discipline over a protracted period like this? Do these players typically eventually rediscover their hitting zone? This situation seems unique to me. Seems doubtful it’s just the result of a different approach at the plate. Assuming he’s now healthy, he’s clearly not picking up the ball as well as he has in the past. Maybe it’s something as simple as getting his eyes checked out for any changes?

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    • NadavT says:

      Good questions — I’m also wondering about what generally causes a pattern like this. Is it simply that he’s “pressing,” in which case he should eventually work it out? Or is he compensating for some physical issue – either his eyes not working right or some other nagging injury?

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  6. Rex says:

    The data IS The data IS. The data IS. The data IS The data IS. The data IS.
    The data IS The data IS. The data IS. The data IS The data IS. The data IS.

    IS IS IS singular. Collective singular.

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    • NadavT says:

      This is incorrect:

      http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutgrammar/data

      Singular is acceptable, but it is definitely not more correct than plural.

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      • Rex says:

        Eh.

        Can you find one instance of respectable writing prior to 1960 that used data in plural form?

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      • NadavT says:

        I’m not going to bother looking. If you don’t consider Oxford to be an authority on grammar, then that’s your prerogative.

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      • Rex says:

        If Oxford says that the plural is the traditional usage, and there is no record of data ever being used in the plural before 1960 (and I’m being generous with the date), then Oxford is on shaky ground. I would conjecture that this is in fact the case and that Oxford and the grammarians are seeing the world as they wish to see it rather than as it is. This is a common failing of those who speak from “authority” and that is a major reason why arguing from authority in and of itself is not advisable.

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      • NadavT says:

        I couldn’t agree more. Arguing from baseless conjecture is far superior.

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      • delv says:

        Rex is correct. It should be “is” here, because the data—as a collective—is noisy… not as individual data points (“are”).

        eg.
        The staff are working on their curricula.
        The staff is working on its plan.

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    • Grammar Nazi says:

      I thought I was the Grammar Nazi?

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    • Dave Allen says:

      From Bryan Garner Modern American Usage:

      Data is a skunked term: whether you write data are or date is, you’re likely to make some readers raise their eyebrows. Technically a plural, data has, since the 1940s, been increasingly treated as a mass noun taking a singular verb. But in more or less formal contexts it is preferably treated as a plural.

      Garner then gives examples of its use as both a singular and plural noun.

      And from the New York Times Style Guide:

      data is acceptable as a singular term for information: The data was persuasive. In its traditional sense, meaning a collection of facts and figures, the noun can still be plural: They tabulate the data, which arrive from bookstores nationwide. (In this sense, the singular is datum, a word both stilted and deservedly obscure.)

      So I think it is safe to say it can be used either way in current usage, although according to Garner data are is preferable in formal settings, and I know in scientific contexts data are is used much more often.

      Rex I think you have the timing of its shift in usage backwards. Previously it was only used as a plural noun, and the singular use is a recent trend as its singular, datum, is used less and less. According to Henry Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926:

      data is plural only (The data are, not is, insufficient./ What are the data?/ We have no data.)

      So the usage authority in 1926 was even stronger that data is plural. Also based on its etymology, plural of the Latin datum, it should be plural. If you are going to come and so vigorously claim I am wrong please provide some evidence.

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      • Jay says:

        Last time I checked this thread there were six comments. Since Sizemore is on one of my fantasy teams, and I haven’t even been playing him lately, I was really curious to read more about him. I saw there were 13 new comments, and looked forward to reading them. Then I saw that eight of the 13 were about grammar. Ugh.

        Technically I guess I added nothing here and just complained about people complaining about grammar. Ironic.

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      • NadavT says:

        Very well researched. Sorry to not contribute more on the question of why Sizemore is struggling. He’s on my fantasy team too, so I’m dying to find the answer. I didn’t find that thread on the Indians board to be too illuminating, other than the fact that Sizemore seems to be doing worse both when he swings at the first pitch (tiny 7-AB sample size) and when he lets the first pitch go for a strike. Sounds like he’s in a deep funk.

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      • philosofool says:

        I’m pretty sure Dave is right here; people use the word both as singular and as plural. It’s irregular to begin with, so I’m not sure why correctness is even a worry.
        -Many observations suggest…
        -Much evidence suggests…
        If you’re a “collective singular” guy, you say “much data.” If you’re not, you say “many data.”

        The matter is extremely subtle from that standpoint of reasoning: “the data suggest that X” implies that each individual datum suggests it, while “the data suggests that X” implies that the collection does, even if no individual datum does. Data are often collected individually, but used collectively. Thus, it seems natural to use the plural when we’re collecting but the singular when inferring. And contexts besides inferring and collecting may have their nuances as well (data may be *criticized* individually when some are improperly collected, but collectively when it does not suggest the conclusions than someone draws…)

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      • Mister Delaware says:

        This are an interesting debate.

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  7. csusi says:

    until he decides he wants to quit trying to pull every pitch he sees to right field, he’s in trouble. ive missed one game this year of the tribe’s and its painfully obvious watching him at the plate. he’s sitting back on every pitch it seems like, trying to get his arms around the ball and force it to right. bummer is, he’s a better hitter than that and just like they’re doing to hafner, they need to explain to him that its alright to put the ball in left field. until then, fantasy owners will continue to ask..”tell me again why i drafted him so early”.

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  8. R M says:

    Could you maybe say why you think it’s troubling? I don’t hear of players everyday who lose their ability to judge the strike zone overnight. Unless he’s losing bat speed because of an injury or something, it seems like this is something that will just correct itself….

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  9. Bluebird says:

    Sick graph… in a good way. Keep up the good work.

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  10. LMack says:

    Its hard to believe such a plus talent is busted at 27.
    Would you consider Sizemore a buy low candidate?

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  11. Neil says:

    This is another case where the data does a great job of explaining why something happened (or is happening), but doesn’t do a good job predicting what will happen going forward. He’s chasing and making worse contact, but will it continue? Apologies in advance if my grammar is off.

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  12. bballer319 says:

    Looking at a few numbers, I suspect Jose Reyes is in the same boat.

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  13. To be fair, he HAD a home run…it was just rained out

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  14. Jay says:

    I think you mean “between 2006 and 2008,” not 2005.

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  15. Great insights; I noticed Sizemore’s not being so noticeable thus far thus year.I wish I was as adept as you at drilling into the Pitch/fx data. Thanks for the article.

    Follow me on Twitter @Baseball_Critic.

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  16. benson says:

    dave, does the pitchf/x data tell us when sizemore is letting these strikes go by? is it early in the count and he’s getting himself in the hole — or is it spread out evenly?

    maybe he’s expanding his strike zone when he’s behind.

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  17. isavage says:

    I can tell you just from watching him that when it’s early in the count he lets good pitches go by, and once he gets to 2 strikes he will swing at basically anything. Like literally, anything. I have gotten into the habit of calling his strikeouts before they happen when I watch the games: “Fastball up around his head, swing and a miss strike three” or “curveball down and in, swing and a miss” and five seconds later exactly those things will occur.

    I too am not sure why this data is more “troubling” to the Indians than simply looking at Sizemore’s OPS. It was a nice piece, a great statistical analysis that completely supports what I’ve subjectively observed watching Sizemore this year. But I actually find Sizemore’s situation much less troubling than say, Matt Laporta’s, who doesn’t so much have plate discipline problems as far as I have subjectively seen, but instead just can’t hit the ball in the air. Troubling indeed, for a “power” hitter. In Sizemore’s case, it would seem to be the whole “not seeing the ball well” thing, and something that he’ll eventually come out of … unless he’s going blind.

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  18. Josh Culp says:

    May be a case of trying to show that he’s better than last year, and he’s “thinking” too much. Some say the game is 90% mental… not really, but there is definitely a big mental aspect to the game that can sometimes cause statistical outliers.

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  19. ScottM says:

    Will someone please get this guy some eye drops. Sounds to simple and I’m probably and idiot, but I would move him 2 inches closer to the plate to make the inside pitches appear more inside and generate less swings also allowing him to recognize & cover the outside corner better.

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  20. Skjelstrom says:

    I think a big issue with his plate discipline is the high number of left-handed pitchers he’s facing and how terrible he is doing facing them. His splits are terrible: RHP he is batting .284, LHP he is batting .106….

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  21. Neil says:

    Next week (Monday, May 17 onward) he faces righties in 6 of his 7 games. If he doesn’t hit .250+ with some xtra base hits, he is heading to my bench.

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