Jedd Gyorko’s Struggles

A couple of months ago, I wrote a community post on FanGraphs stating that I felt as though Jedd Gyorko was a special player. I summed up the fact that Jedd Gyorko goes against the normal second baseman positional identity. Rather than being the slappy hitting second baseman,  Gyorko was a second baseman with some serious power. A second baseman with power is not something you see everyday. You can really only point to guys like Robinson Cano and Ian Kinsler in today’s game, that have played second base, and have had success because of their power.

Gyorko’s success last season was mainly driven by his power. Gyorko hit 23 homers to go along with a line of .249/.301/.444.  Gyorko’s contact rate was below league average in 2013 with a mark of 73%, and when you pair that with a walk rate of only 6.4%, you end up getting a player who makes most of his value from driving the ball a long ways.

This season has been a bit of a different story. Gyorko has been one of the worst hitters in the league. In just 56 games this season — before going down with a foot injury — Gyorko has hit an abysmal line of .162/.213/.270. Gyorko’s lack of production could be attributed to a below average BABIP of .192. Gyorko has been unlucky, but it’s also likely that he’s also just not been very good.

In 2013, Gyorko hit a slightly higher FB% than league average (39%), and that has remained the same for 2014. The difference this year has been that Gyorko has been hitting more groundballs, more IFFB’s, and less line drives. Whenever you’re hitting less line drives, you’re probably not getting as many hits.

Year O-Swing% Z-Swing % Swing % O-Contact% Z-Contact % Contact % Zone %
2013 33.6% 70.8% 50.1% 60.0% 82.1% 73.8% 44.4%
2014 30.0% 66.3% 47.5% 54.4% 84.8% 74.8% 48.1%

If you look at Gyorko’s plate discipline, the story hasn’t actually been that much different from 2013. For the most part there’s only been a +/- 6% margin between his plate discipline stats from 2013 to 2014. The contact rate has been steady. Gyorko is swinging at less pitches outside of the zone, however of those pitches outside of the zone he’s making less contact than he did in 2013. For the most part it looks as though Gyorko’s plate approach has remained relatively consistent.

Jedd Gyorko » Heatmaps » RAA/100P | FanGraphs Baseball.

In 2013, Gyorko’s heatmaps indicated that he had success mainly on pitches low and inside. However, he hit pretty well on pitches inside most of the strike zone excluding pitches up and in or low and outside.

Jedd Gyorko » Heatmaps » RAA/100P | FanGraphs Baseball.

In 2014 nearly all of locations in the strike zone Gyorko has struggled with hitting. Gyorko has only had success with pitches that are  low and inside, and even that location has a pretty small area. For the most part Gyorko has not been able to punish anything inside the zone.

Overall pitchers have been able to get away with throwing Gyorko strikes. However, the thing that is also mysterious about Gyorko is that the power has been gone. Even if Gyorko hasn’t been making a whole lot of contact, you would at least think that when he did make contact it would be going a long ways. Thanks to Baseball Savant’s Pitch F/x tool, I was able to take a look at the velocities of pitches which Gyorko was hitting home runs. None of Gyorko’s home runs came off of pitches that were slower than 90 MPH.

Ironically,  despite all of Gyorko’s home runs having come off of high velocity pitches, he has struggled against fastballs this season. In 2013 Gyorko had a 3.6 wRAA against fastballs. In 2014, Gyorko has had a -8.3 wRAA against fastballs: nearly a 12 run difference.  The struggle against fastballs is something that is new for Gyorko, but what has remained steady for Gyorko between 2013 and 2014 has been the struggle against breaking balls. Gyorko has posted negative wRAA against every single type of off-speed pitch. When you can’t hit anything very well, and have never been able to hit off-speed pitches well, it makes the pitchers job very easy.

This dilemma is not something I know how to fix. It may be something mechanical or it may be something mental. Right now, Jedd Gyorko is on the disabled list taking care of a foot injury. Hopefully he can take advantage of his rehabilitation and make some adjustments to his swing. In my posts a couple of months ago I mentioned Jedd Gyorko in the same sentence as Dan Uggla. This season Gyorko might be showing that he may never reach Uggla’s ceiling. He’s played like Uggla’s floor. However the good news is that there is a whole second half of baseball, and Gyorko still young. There’s still the chance that Gyorko can fix whatever it is that is making perform terribly, and be the second baseman that breaks positional identities.

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Josh Byrnes
Josh Byrnes

Good thing I extended this guy before I got fired.