Are you there Grady, it’s me Tony: A Statistical Look at Grady Sizemore’s Plate Problems

16 05 2010
There are bound to be questions in the mind of any Indians fan this year: When is Carlos Santana coming up? When will Matt LaPorta start hitting? Michael Brantley? Even, is Mitch Talbot for real? But the biggest has to be, “what happened to Grady Sizemore?” Is he just amidst an unlucky April or is there something wrong; can we expect a turn-around sometime soon? If you look at the numbers, you might not like the answer.

2007? This ball is smoked. 2010? This ball is in the catcher's mitt.

Let’s start with the most glaring problem, Sizemore has 0 home runs this year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they just aren’t leaving the park. We aren’t dealing with ‘doubles power.’ Grady’s ground ball percentage is up several points on his career average and his fly ball percentage down several, leaving him with an ominous .9 ground ball to fly ball ratio; meaning, Grady is just pounding the ball into the ground.
Now, grounders aren’t a terrible way to make a living in the Major Leagues, just ask Ichiro, but Grady’s grounders aren’t getting him on base: his atrocious .207 AVG and .270 OBP are statistical proof of that. Disparagingly, we can’t blame it on being unlucky. His batting average on balls in play is just that- completely average. His BABIP is .283, meaning that he isn’t getting robbed of hits by web gems, typically balls in play should go for hits 3% of the time, Grady’s are.
In Bull Durham Crash Davis explains the importance of some lucky hits:

“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There’s 6 months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – a gorp… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.”

Sure, Sizemore isn’t lucky, he isn’t getting that grounder with eyes, or that dying quail and historically that would keep him from a career year, but the problem is that he isn’t unlucky either, so he should be having a typical Grady stat line. So what’s the deal?

Grady lost his eye. Grady’s strike out rate, 27.2%, is the highest in his career. This wouldn’t be a huge deal if Grady was still getting on base. Players like Mike Reynolds, Justin Upton, and Ryan Howard have even higher strike-out rates and are All Stars. The aforementioned All Stars also have high walk percentages to accompany their strike outs.

Jim Thome, one of the biggest strike-out artists in Tribe history had perennially huge on base percentages. Grady has always been a free swinger, like those guys, and has been improving his walk rate every year of his career accordingly- going from 8% as a rookie to a 13% walk rate as an All Star. But, not this year, Grady’s walk rate is actually at a career low 6.6% plummeting his walk/strike-out rate from .75 to .25.

You don’t need to be an economics major to see that striking out 3 times more than you walk is going to keep you off base.

Suddenly, Grady is swinging at everything. He is swinging at pitches outside the strike-zone 34% of the time, nearly double his habit of chasing pitches at 18% last year. What’s worse, it appears pitchers have noticed. Grady is swinging at anything, but his percentage of swings at pitches in the zone is down 8% from last year, meaning he isn’t getting a lot of pitches in the zone. Grady’s contact rate on these pitches he is chasing is also debilitation high. Grady’s outside the strike-zone contact rate is up 5%, to 57%, which explains all the weak grand balls- he is getting contact on terrible pitches.

I would be a happy man if the problem were just Grady’s eye. But I don’t think he is completely healthy yet. Perhaps Grady’s timing is just off, having missed most of last year due to injury, but I fear that maybe that elbow just isn’t ready. Grady’s contact on pitches in the strike-zone is down 5% and his swinging strike rate is is up to a whopping 11% (from last year’s 7%), a career high. This suggests that even when Grady is seeing the pitches to hit, he can’t get around on them. Frankly, if it were as simple as an elbow injury, I would be a happy man. Elbows heal.

So can we just blame the elbow? Maybe, but I think there is a larger amalgamation of doom plaguing Grady. Maybe the elbow isn’t ready, but that shouldn’t explain his loss of patience at the plat. I chalk that up to Manny Acta taking a player, working hard to groom himself as a lead-off hitter, and shoving him in the middle of a terrible order.

Grady’s got to be worried about expectations. Instead of just trying to get on base and get things started, he is not settling for walks and is trying to do too much. He’s in the box trying to get a big hit every time- you can often hear commentator’s talk about this. He’s pressing. This also stems from what I see as the third part of the problem. Grady feels like he has to do everything. Everyone Grady knew and developed with is gone. Victor, Cliff, CC, Casey America… all gone. Grady has to be a little over whelmed suddenly being the veteran leader of this club at only 28 and with no help.

So, what’s wrong with Grady are the same problems the plague the organization. Instability, no talent, high expectations, and a sore elbow (Shapiro’s got to be hurting from jerking off the Dolans all the time).

Can we expect improvement? Yes and no.

There are some talented rookies in this organization and as they develop, things will get better. But will it be too late? Will that be at the cost of the once prized Sizemore? It may be, but I don’t think so. They kid is a worker. At some point, even retard Manny Acta will move him out of the heart of the order and let him get his head straight and hopefully that will be his turn around.

That being said, shipping off all of Grady’s Tribe family may have the same lasting debilitating effect orphaning a talented kid does. We have to hope Carlos Santana is a Jason Heyward or Justin Upton impact talent that can get Grady excited again and playing well.
– Tony Z




3 responses

16 05 2010
Mark Reynolds


16 05 2010


17 05 2010

Let’s put both typos together Mark Reynolds. Or maybe it is Mike Renyolds, who knows. He will be showing up in the next blog post too. This time with the right name. Funny thing is, I hate Mark Reynolds. He is just too damn relevant in these posts.

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