Leading up to Opening Day, I will be profiling each member of the Indians 25-man roster with mini scouting reports based on information gathered from ESPN Stats & Information. The full series can be found here.
Up next are the outfielders…
Michael Brantley – LF
We can analyze a hitter’s approach through the statistic Good Eye Rate, which looks at whether the hitter makes the “correct” decision to swing at a pitch in the strike zone or take one out of the zone (using data from Inside Edge, we are able to analyze a consistent zone rather than the unpredictability of umpires decisions).
In 2011, Brantley managed a Good Eye Rate of just 65.9 percent which ranked 158 out of 205 qualifying players. His GER has steadily risen, and peaked at 70.1 last year, which ranked 47th out of 184 players.
Overview vs Righties – Brantley destroyed just about everything righties threw at him in 2014 (.337 BA, .923 OPS), so let’s focus this report on his weaknesses.
Low offspeed pitches has always been Brantley’s weakness. He’s improved in this area (his chase rate has dropped every year since 2010) but it remains an area righties are able to attack.
In 2014, Brantley posted a .239 average on low offspeed pitches with a tendency to swing and miss on pitches just below the strike zone (see Heat Map below). His overall chase and whiff rates on offspeed pitches are significant better than league averages, but it is a relative area of weakness.
Overview vs Lefties – In 2014, Brantley hit .292 on outside pitches from lefties (28-96)—a dramatic improvement from his combined .234 rate the previous two years.
Unfortunately this may be an area for regression, as Brantley’s BABIP rose over 30 points to .333, while his hard-hit rate actually dropped, indicating a high degree of luck.
This is particularly concerning, as it’s the area where lefties prefer to attack Brantley due to his impressive performance on inside pitches (he hit .436 last season). Based on the combination of these stats, lefties will likely continue to be aggressive and attack Brantley on the outer half of the plate in hopes that he regresses to his previous form.
Michael Bourn – CF
Over the past two seasons Bourn has a .202 average on all pitches on the outer half of the plate against righties, which ranks him dead last in the majors among left-handed batters.
The issue is exacerbated when Bourn falls behind in the count, as righties rely more on offspeed pitches. Bourn’s average on the outer half of the plate falls to just .135 against offspeed pitches, and .092 against breaking balls.
Overview vs Lefties – Overall Bourn fares reasonably well against lefties due to his ability to handle fastballs anywhere in the zone.
However, Bourn gets into trouble when he falls behind in the count due to his ineptitude against offspeed pitches.
In hitter’s counts, Bourn has seen 85 percent fastballs over the past two seasons, but that rate plummets to 45 percent in pitcher’s counts. Due to Bourn’s .153 average against offspeed pitches, it’s an easy choice for pitchers to pound him with offspeed stuff whenever they get ahead in the count.
The main reason for his struggles is the fact that he simply can’t make contact. Bourn has a disturbing whiff rate of 51 percent against all offspeed pitches from lefties.
David Murphy – RF
The key to beating Murphy is getting him to chase offspeed pitches low in the zone. On offspeed pitches below the strike zone, Murphy had a chase rate of 40 percent, which led to a 61.9 percent ground ball rate when he made contact.
The upside to righties attempting to bait Murphy into chasing offspeed stuff, is his ability to crush their mistakes. On all offspeed pitches excluding those down and out of the strike zone, Murphy posted a .342 average (see Heat Map below)
Overview vs Lefties – Since Murphy was primarily used in a platoon, he only saw 86 plate appearances against lefties and posted a .237 average with a .279 OBP.
His biggest issue is his low contact rate against offspeed pitches, as he whiffs at 35.1 percent of the pitches at which he swings.
Brandon Moss – RF
Overview vs Righties – Moss is all or nothing against righties, as 49 percent of his hits over the past two seasons have gone for extra bases but 25 percent of his plate appearances have resulted in strikeouts.
The primary hole in Moss’ swing exists up in the zone, as he has offered at 44.6 percent of all high fastballs, but generated just a .228 slugging percentage on such pitches over the past two seasons. On all other fastballs, Moss posted a slugging percentage of .681 with 23 home runs, but he needs to show more patience and lay off the high heat.
In fact, Moss should really lay off all high pitches, as his power comes from lower in the strike zone (see Heat Map below). Of Moss’ 47 home runs against righties, 43 came in the lower two-thirds of the zone.
Overview vs Lefties – Moss is one of the rare lefties who doesn’t lose power when facing left-handed pitching. In fact, over the past two seasons only Ryan Howard and Joey Votto have a higher HR-to-Fly Ball ratio as a left handed batter against lefty pitching than Moss.
The issue Moss has against lefties, however, is making consistent contact. He whiffs on 40 percent of his total swings against lefties—a number which rises to 50 percent against offspeed pitches.
Over the past two seasons, 38 percent of his plate appearances against lefties have resulted in strikeouts, primarily due to a disturbing aggressiveness at the plate. On outside offspeed pitches, Moss chases the ball out of the zone 49 percent of the time—which predictably leads to a 70 percent whiff rate.
When a lefty gets Moss into a two-strike count, the end result is a strikeout 60 percent of the time—a rate bested only by Ryan Howard and Alex Avila.
Ryan Raburn – RF, LF
Raburn struggles with fastballs on the inside part of the plate, generating a .105 average over the past two seasons. Since most pitchers like to get ahead in the count with a fastball, this is an obvious area to attack Raburn early.
Once ahead in the count, most pitchers turn to their offspeed stuff, which is typically thrown low and outside. Unfortunately for Raburn, this is exactly where his biggest hole lies.
Over the past five seasons Raburn has a .097 batting average on offspeed pitches low and away, and he hasn’t collected a hit on a pitch in that zone since 2012.
Both of these areas of weakness play right into the pitcher’s hand, meaning Raburn is forced to wait for mistakes. Given these struggles and the addition of Moss, it’s unlikely we’ll see Raburn face righties this season.
Overview vs Lefties – Raburn has a reasonable .248 average with a .795 OPS vs lefties as a member of the Tribe, but there is one glaring hole lefties have been able to take advantage of in his swing.
In hitter’s counts, Raburn has a .432 average against lefties, due to the fact that they’re forced to feed him fastballs. However, his average drops to .182 in pitcher’s counts when breaking balls come into play.
Against righties’ breaking balls, Raburn has just a .159 batting average.
His chase rate is relatively low (15.6 percent) and his miss rate isn’t awful either (35 percent), which means Raburn is simply making weak contact on the breaking balls. Not surprisingly, 51 percent of breaking balls he puts into play were classified as “soft hit” balls.