During his first plate appearance on Sunday’s game, Brett Lawrie fouled off the first pitch he saw.
According to Pitch f/x it was right down the middle. The plate appearance was his 100th of the season and the 73rd time he saw a first pitch strike. It was good to see him take a hack, and wonder if part of his early season struggles can be attributed to his lack of aggressiveness early on.
Fangraphs says the league average for first pitch strike percentage is 59 per cent, so Lawrie’s first pitch strike percentage is quite high. I can’t find anywhere that gives his swing rate on the first pitch, but one thing I’ve noticed is that early in the season there are two numbers that have gone the wrong direction: he’s swinging at more balls out of the strike zone and fewer in the strike zone.
This makes me wonder, have teams noticed that he’s loathe to swing on the first pitch? Perhaps they’re just grooving one in, knowing they can pretty easily get to an 0-1 count. (Of course as I write this he’s swung at both first pitches he’s seen. Noteworthy though is that he put neither ball in play).
And that might coincide with another problem: he’s not pulling the ball. Check out his spray chart at Fangraphs (http://www.fangraphs.com/spraycharts.aspx?playerid=5247&position=3B&type=battedball&pid2=5247&ss1=2014&se1=2014&ss2=2012&se2=2013&cht1=battedball&cht2=battedball&vs1=ALL&vs2=ALL)
An awful lot of going the opposite way. Strangely, and perhaps encouraging, is that when he pulls the ball in the air it goes a long way.
Could it mean that he’s taking early, getting down quickly and being forced to expand the zone and shorten up? It would explain the lower O-swing% and increased Z-swing% as well as the inability to pull the ball.
He has had a good week, hitting to a .422 wOBA. However he’s swinging at even more balls out of the zone, up over 40 per cent.
Still, with the insane first pitch strike percentage, hopefully he adjust and is ready to go early in the count.