Leading up to Opening Day, I will be profiling each member of the Indians 25-man roster (and disabled list) with mini scouting reports based on information gathered from ESPN Stats & Information. The full series can be found here.
Up next are the infielders…
Jason Kipnis – 2B
The one area that appeared to be affected most was his ability to adjust to offspeed pitches (see Heat Maps below). Based on my limited knowledge of oblique injuries, it seems reasonable to think that the injury could affect a hitter’s ability to adjust to slower pitches once the swing has started, which may explain Kipnis’ collapse in this area.
On pitches below 90 miles per hour in 2013, Kipnis posted a .317 average and .519 slugging percentage. In 2014, those numbers plummeted to .207 and .295 (that slugging percentage ranked as the third-worst in the majors).
As an opposing pitcher, it would make sense to study Kipnis’ pre-injury tendencies, so we’ll use his 2012 and 2013 numbers to formulate the rest of the scouting report.
Overview vs Righties – Opposing pitchers have to be careful throwing fastballs to Kipnis. He absolutely crushes fastballs from the middle to the outside of the plate. In total, he posted a .436 average against righties’ fastballs in 2012 and 2013. However, he can be attacked on the inside. Kipnis only swung at 13 inside fastballs during that two-year span, showing great discipline but also an area where opponents can exploit if they can paint the corner.
One of Kipnis’ primary weaknesses has been against heavy groundball pitchers. He posted a .100 average against sinkers and splitters from righties. While this is a weakness only certain pitchers can take advantage of, it may be something Francona considers when deciding when to give Kipnis the day off.
Overview vs Lefties – Kipnis remains relatively weak against lefties, but he is capable of making pitchers pay for mistakes.
On pitches on the inner third or outer third of the plate, Kipnes posted a .186 average and a .273 slugging percentage against lefties. But when those southpaws served it up over the middle third of the plate, Kipnis ripped them for a .435 average and a .681 slugging percentage.
Ideally, Kipnis can work to become more consistent against lefties, but it’s certainly better to have someone who can crush the mistakes than a lefty who struggles across the board.
José Ramírez – SS
Ramírez produced a contact rate of 84.5 percent against righties last season, higher than all Indians hitters aside from Michael Brantley (see Heat Map below). Unfortunately his contact rate didn’t produce consistent success due to a BABIP of just .274.
We can’t just chalk up the low BABIP to bad luck due to the fact that it’s coupled with a below-average hard-hit rate. Ramírez managed a hard-hit average of just .143, well below the league average. For comparison sake, Brantley’s hard-hit rate was .257.
In terms of how opposing pitchers attack him, Ramírez’s major weakness against righties is the outside pitch. He posted a .151 average on outside pitches last season, and struggled equally with the location on fastballs and off-speed pitches.
Overview vs Lefties – Ramírez’s stats were actually better against lefties, but it may have been just luck. His contact rate was lower and his hard-hit average was significantly lower (.060), however his BABIP was an inexplicable .343.
Ramírez needs to become a more patient hitter against lefties, especially against breaking pitches. In 2014, Ramírez chased 46.7 percent of all breaking balls from lefties.
Mike Aviles – 2B, 3B, SS
Against righties, Aviles has no plate discipline, demonstrated by a 32.6 chase percentage over the past two seasons.
His tendency to chase pitches out of the zone gets him into consistent trouble, as he’s generated a whiff rate of 32.2 percent when offering at pitches outside the zone and just a .214 average when swinging at such pitches.
Aviles is particularly helpless in pitchers’ counts, as his chase rate rises to 40.8 percent.
Overview vs Lefties – In his two years in Cleveland, Aviles has a .091 average against lefties on fastballs down the heart of the plate—and that pretty much sums up all you need to know.
Aviles’ performance vs fastballs (see Heat Map below) indicates that his successes and failures are left up to pure chance, as there’s no rhyme or reason to his hot and cold zones. Additionally, he’s generated a BABIP of just .266 over the past three seasons, which is enough of a sample size to conclude that his low average is a result of a lack skill, rather than consistent bad luck.
The one positive Aviles has going for him is a contact rate of 88.4 percent against lefties. For whatever it’s worth (not much) he is at least capable of producing “productive outs.”
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Chisenhall had a .415 average (44-106) on pitches in the middle of the strike zone. Those 44 hits accounted for nearly half of his hits against righties, and 20 of those hits went for extra bases.
While he crushes mistakes, he also has a major hole in his swing on the inner third of the plate, especially against offspeed pitches. On inside pitches, Chisenhall managed just a .171 average, and a .034 mark on offspeed pitches.
Chisenhall also has a disturbing chase percentage of 51.5 on inside offspeed pitches, giving pitchers an obvious area to attack when going for the strikeout.
Overview vs Lefties – Chisenhall’s performance against lefties dramatically improved in 2014, but there’s little evidence to suggest it was more than just dumb luck.
From 2013 to 2014, his BABIP rose by over 200 percent but there was no meaningful change to any other statistic indicating an improved performance. In fact, Chisenhall’s hard hit rate actually dropped from .083 to .081 – both of which are well below the league average of .125 for lefties versus lefties.
As far as how lefties approach him, Chisenhall does have legitimate success on inside fastballs in the middle to lower portion of the plate. He’s generated a .304 average on these pitches the past two seasons. Unfortunately, opponents are well aware of this and fewer than 20 percent of the fastballs he sees land in this zone.
Lefties prefer to attack Chisenhall with breaking pitches on the inner or outside portion of the plate due to his 43.6 percent chase rate on breaking balls (see Heat Map below).