Josh Reddick Hates Fastballs

“Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.” — Pedro Cerrano

The archetype of power hitters feasting on fastballs and whiffing on offspeed pitches has long floated within baseball circles. The quotation featured above from the movie Major League highlights how pervasive the idea that “power hitters are fastball hitters” has become in baseball.

Alfonso Soriano has long found success by smashing fastballs, and he now receives a heavy diet of sliders and curveballs to counter that strength. Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds, and Garrett Jones also serve as fruitful examples of sluggers who have experienced the vast majority of their success against fastballs.

The stereotype often proves true, so you’ll have to excuse me for jumping to conclusions when assuming that Oakland Athetics’ outfielder Josh Reddick would fall into that same broad category. After all, his 29 home runs, .216 ISO, and .242 batting average all suggest on the surface that he’s merely another power-hitting, fastball-feasting slugger who needs to adjust to big league breaking pitches to become more consistent at the plate.

That’s not just a misleading statement, though. It’s blatantly wrong. In fact, amongst qualified batters this season, Josh Reddick has the worst batting average against fastballs in all of baseball, and it’s not particularly close.

Player AVG vs FB
Josh Reddick .215
Colby Rasmus .224
Justin Smoak .233
Dan Uggla .234
Hunter Pence .240
Pedro Alvarez .241
Jeff Francoeur .242

To put Reddick’s .215 batting average against fastballs in a bit more context, the league-average batting average amongst qualified hitters against fastballs is .295. Reddick’s .301 wOBA is also well below the league average .371 wOBA, which underlines the fact that he is both struggling to hit for average and power against fastballs.

Common sense tells us that Reddick must find success against breaking pitches if he seemingly cannot handle fastballs well, and we actually find that the 25-year-old particularly prefers changupes and sliders to the hard stuff. His .311 batting average and .398 wOBA against changeups is well above average, as is his .283 average and .348 wOBA against sliders.

Furthermore, Josh Reddick hits for less power against fastballs than he does against any other pitch type.

Pitch ISO
Changeup .311
Curveball .232
Slider .208
Fastball .188

It’s unclear why Reddick struggles so significantly against fastballs. My first thought was that he lacks enough swing speed to turn around mid-90s fastballs with regularity. Perhaps the offspeed pitches simply play into his swing speed a bit better. However, online scouting reports and my old Baseball America handbooks mention nothing about a lack of swing speed. Considering bat speed is one of the core principles of scouting a hitter, it can reasonably be assumed that a lack of bat speed would be noted if it were a particular issue.

Another possibility lies in the fact that the right fielder prefers the baseball down-and-in. This season, he has hit .417 on pitches on the low-inside corner. Few pitchers, however, throw down-and-in with the fastball against Reddick. In fact, only 2.4% of the fastballs he has seen this season have been in that location. Pitchers tend to locate the vast majority of their fastballs against him on the outside corner. Perhaps that’s a large reason why he struggles against fastballs.

Whatever the reason, opposing pitchers may be wise to feature the pitch more frequently against Reddick. This season, he only sees 59.3% fastballs at the plate, which is just slightly above the league-average 57.6%. The numbers suggest that pitchers are doing him a favor throwing offspeed pitches over 40% of the time. Of course, mixing up pitches and remaining unpredictable on the mound is supremely important, but again, the seasonal numbers indicate that Josh Reddick will struggle more than he already has if he sees more fastballs at the plate.

And for someone who could finish the season with 30+ home runs in one of the most difficult hitting environments in the major leagues, that’s highly unusual and certainly noteworthy.



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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).


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NatsFan73
Member
NatsFan73
3 years 9 months ago

Of course Reddick just went BOOM on what mlb.com called a 2-seam fastball. Not sure where in was in the zone tho …

MustBunique
Member
Member
3 years 9 months ago

He hates these cans!

I like your location preference argument. Makes sense to me that if he likes the ball down and in, and pitchers don’t throw him many fastballs down and in, he is going to perform better on pitches other than fastballs.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 9 months ago

This one of those times when stats raise an interesting questions that are best answered by watching the player in question. Josh has + bat speed and when he is going well has quick compact stroke, but he has a tendency to let that swing lengthen. Additionally Josh chases high fastballs and is susceptible to pitchers who will “climb the ladder.”

og
Guest
og
3 years 9 months ago

Notice the other names on the list…those aren’t exactly light hitting old timers…they pretty much offer a similar skill set to reddick. Couldn’t it be possible that instead of strikeout prone power hitters prefering fastballs, strikeout prone power hitters sit on particular pitches and learn to crush them, but never develop enough to make adjustments to multiple types of pitches?

Hayden
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Hayden
3 years 9 months ago

There have been so many times this year I’ve laughed after watching an opposing pitcher go up two strikes then throw something offspeed, thinking they would get Reddick with a strikeout pitch, only to see it go rocketing the other way. The flip side is that I’ve darkly wondered when the opposing team would realize that he absolutely kills that stuff. I guess that day has come. I do think, however, that pitch location is a big factor. Reddick, particularly in his recent slump, has been pulling the ball more and more, and when he is doing poorly I tend to notice what (appears to me) to be a longer bat path, somewhat correlated with a change in his initial hand position.

I would also be curious to know how Brandon Moss does in the same regard. For someone whose rate stats are great, I am totally befuddled with the number of times he appears to swing right through fastballs.

Paul
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Paul
3 years 9 months ago

Interesting. Except for Pence, the guys on that list are all extreme fly ball hitters. The first thing that came to mind was that he just hits a lot of fly balls to the deep part of the park, which hi-lights the park effect there.

If you look at the pitch locations and spray charts by pitch, it’s true that he has a much greater tendency to loft the fastball to the gaps, while he pulls the offspeed. I also find it very interesting that it appears that the league works him very much off the plate outside with the FBs and changeup. But as noted, with the change, he pulls it despite location.

I’m a big fan of guys sticking with their approach the way he has. Here in Kansas City, we see hitters constantly adjusting to the park (Alex Gordon) instead of sticking with their approach and accepting the result. I don’t think Reddick would thrive on pulling that outside changeup for power if it was not for this trait. And it makes him a real matchup nitemare, as you can see with the curve because if a righthander throws him offspeed at the bottom of the strike zone it’s right into his sweet spot.

swfcdan
Guest
swfcdan
3 years 9 months ago

Another huge suprise to be on that list is Hunter Pence, who’d have thunked he’d be on this list with his pedigree. Real down season for Hunter.

bowie
Member
bowie
3 years 9 months ago

I have a dumb question.
Does batting avg vs. fastballs equal the percentage of hits resulting from all the times a batter put a fastball into play?

e.g., say you swing and miss at 2 sliders, and then the third pitch is a fastball. You hit that fastball for a ground-out.
Are you now 0-for-1 vs. fastballs and 0-for-0 vs. sliders?

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