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Entries in rookie of the year (3)


Harper, Trout Polar Opposites on the First Pitch

Bryce Harper and Mike Trout turned in epic seasons while taking home Rookie of the Year Honors. In addition to their swift defense and base running savvy, Harper (whose 22 HR trailed only Tony Conigliaro among all teenage hitters) and Trout (whose 171 OPS+ was highest ever for a player qualifying for the batting title during his age-20 season) were historically dangerous in the batter's box. But the two stars destined to be compared to each other for decades to come began their at-bats in markedly different ways. Harper was ultra-aggressive on the first pitch. Trout, by contrast, rarely took the lumber off his shoulder in 0-0 counts.

Check out Harper and Trout's swing rates by pitch location in 0-0 counts:

Harper's first-pitch swing rate by pitch location


Trout' first-pitch swing rate by pitch location

Harper took one of his hellacious cuts about 41% of the time in first-pitch counts, dwarfing the 26% major league average. The only qualified hitters with a higher first-pitch swing rate were Josh Hamilton, Ian Desmond, B.J. Upton, Freddie Freeman, Yadier Molina, Delmon Young, Danny Espinosa and Chris Davis. Harper's aggression paid off, as he slugged .659 on the first pitch (.579 MLB average).

Trout swung just under 10% of the time in first-pitch situations. Kevin Youkilis, Martin Prado, Joe Mauer, Dustin Pedroia and J.J. Hardy were the only batters with a more passive approach on the first pitch. While Harper chased 24% of pitches thrown out of the strike zone in 0-0 counts, Trout showed Zen-like patience by going after only 5% of first-pitch offerings (14% MLB average).

Two all-time great rookies, two totally different (and effective) ways of beginning ABs. Harper embraced his inner Josh Hamilton, lunging at first pitches and tallying lots of extra-base knocks. Trout channeled Rickey Henderson, laying off would-be balls and later doing damage in hitter's counts. Sorry, pitchers: whether these guys swing at the first pitch or not, you really don't stand a chance.


ROY or Not, Cespedes a Quick Learner

Ordinarily, Oakland A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes would earn Rookie of the Year hardware for his performance during the 2012 season. Cespedes racked up nearly 250 total bases and slugged 23 home runs while transitioning from Cuban baseball (thought to be the equivalent of A-Ball stateside) to the majors. 2012 could hardly be described as an ordinary year, however -- not with a Mickey Mantle-in-training grabbing the nation's attention with each circus-like catch and clout.

While Cespedes lost out to Mike Trout in ROY voting, the new face of Oakland's franchise proved to be a quick study against major league pitching. He started his big league career swinging and missing at Adam Dunn-like levels, but he connected much more frequently as he led the A's to their first playoff appearance since 2006.

At times, Cespedes looked like he came straight from A-Ball during his first month in the majors. His 38% miss rate during April was second-highest among qualified hitters, besting only Dave Kingman doppelganger Mark Reynolds. Cespedes had an especially hard time against low pitches, whiffing 57% of the time that he swung:

Cespedes' contact rate in April

Cespedes logged only 23 plate appearances in May due to a left hand injury. But when he returned in June, he was a much more complete hitter. His 28% overall miss rate matched the MLB average, and he sliced his miss rate on low pitches to 36%:

Cespedes' contact rate in June

He plateaued contact-wise during his monstrous July, missing 28% of pitches overall and a slightly smaller percentage of low stuff than the month before (33%)...

Cespedes' contact rate in July

...Then cut his miss rate down to 22% in August (26% on low pitches):

Cespedes' contact rate in August

Cespedes whiffed slightly more in September (25% overall, and 32% on low pitches), but that was still far below his early season rates:

Cespedes' contact rate in September

Cespedes was a near-automatic out against low pitches prior to his hand injury, coming up empty over half of the time he swung at stuff thrown at the knees and slugging just .333 (about 40 points below the MLB average). From June on, though, Cespedes cut his miss rate to below the league average led the American League with a .563 slugging percentage against low pitches. He went from a liability to lethal in no time, and his counterpunching pitchers so quickly bodes well for his future. Cespedes is no Trout, but he's much more than the one-dimensional slugger some feared he would become.


One Tough Out: Buster Posey

Buster Posey continues to have an impressive postseason. The image below is an overlay of the pitch sequence in his at bat vs. LHP Antonio Bastadro in the 7th inning of last night's game (NLCS Game 4). Despite Bastardo only giving Posey one pitch in the zone he still fails to keep him off the bases.

Pitch Sequence with 2010 In Play SLG% Heat Map: Buster Posey vs LHP Antonio Bastardo (NLCS Game 4 - 10/20/2010). Bot 7, 1 out, Bases Empty.

The Pitch Sequence:
Buster Posey doubles (2) on a line drive to right fielder Jayson Werth. Vs LHP Antonio Bastardo (Philadelphia Phillies - Home - 10/20/2010)

Bot 7, 1 out, Bases Empty, 2-2 Fastball, 94 mph

  • 1: 0-0 - Strike Looking on a 93 MPH Fastball - Over the Plate
  • 2: 0-1 - Ball on a 85 MPH Changeup - Inside
  • 3: 1-1 - Ball on a 93 MPH Fastball - Inside
  • 4: 2-1 - Strike Swinging on a 83 MPH Slider - Over the Plate
  • 5: 2-2 - Foul on a 94 MPH Fastball - Over the Plate
  • 6: 2-2 - Double on a 94 MPH Fastball - Outside

Here is video of all Buster's hits in Game 4 of the NLCS.