Today has been all about Matt LaPorta here at It’s Pronounced Lajaway. Brenden got things started by analyzing the CC Sabathia trade which brought him over from Milwaukee, then we learned that he’ll be starting the season in the minors, and I followed up with a few historical comparisons in an effort to determine where his career may go from here.
Now to wrap things up, let’s take a look at what LaPorta needs to work on while in Columbus.
Much like Shin-Soo Choo, Laporta’s struggles stem from his inability to hit the slider. And opposing pitchers are very much aware of his kryptonite. In 2011, 24.4 percent of the pitches LaPorta saw were sliders, the third highest rate in the majors.
The reason for the heavy dose of sliders is the fact that LaPorta is batting just .200 against the pitch in his career, well below the league average of .239.
As you can probably tell by the league average, there’s no shame in struggling to hit the slider. But part of that is due to the nature of when the pitch is used. While it’s more difficult to hit, it’s also more difficult to control. As a result, it’s often used in pitcher-friendly counts, which lowers the expected average against the pitch.
The problem for LaPorta, however, is that pitchers are so confident in his inability to hit the pitch, they’ll throw it whenever. In 2011, LaPorta saw 54 sliders in hitters counts – he swung at 23 of them, whiffed 15 times and collected just one hit.
As long as LaPorta is gift-wrapping strikes at that rate, he’ll continue to be an easy out. Hopefully in Columbus he will have the opportunity to work out the kinks against minor-league level offspeed pitches before returning to the big leagues.