Monday, June 17, 2013

Can Chris McGuiness be a Successful Big League Hitter

Chris McGuiness was a guy that I liked quite a bit offensively when I saw him in AA Frisco last year, and had a good Arizona Fall League season (which means nothing), but floundered in Spring Training as a Rule 5 pick with Cleveland. He went back to Texas, where he had a lot of success in AAA, and was brought up to the big league team, where he hasn't exactly started off hot. I wanted to take a look at his pitch data that he has seen so far, and see if we can make any judgments about whether McGuiness will succeed long term in the Majors as a hitter or not.*

Average Speed of all pitches seen: 86.64 MPH

Average Release Point of all pitches: Vertically: 5.62 Horizontally: -1.02

Average Spin of all pitches: 197 degrees

Swinging Strikes:

5.61 vertically -.9 horizontally

83.16 MPH

180 degrees

So he is whiffing at more breaking balls on average, which isn't anything unusual. It also isn't unusual, considering he is a left-handed hitter, that the closer to the center of the rubber (or more lefties) is giving him more problems than average.

Contact Plays:

85.43 MPH

5.68 vertically, -1.17 horizontally

203 degrees

Still not the average velocity of all pitches, but he is making contact with pitches that are harder on average, with more spin on average, than the pitches he is whiffing at, suggesting he is doing better with fastballs than breaking balls, nothing unusual. The release point data also isn't surprising, he is doing better the further out right-handed the pitcher is, and maybe not as usual, pitchers that are releasing the ball higher. 

Here are where pitchers have pitched McGuiness on average, along with his average swinging strike and average ball put in play:

Nothing unusual here, as he likes the ball a little more inside than he is normally pitched, and his swinging strikes are coming low, very low in this case. This shows us what the average spin and MPH of his whiffs (compared to all pitches seen) told us, he is having a lot of problems with breaking balls. However, something I found interesting was that his contact plays were still at a lower MPH than his average pitch seen. So here are all the pitches he has seen at 91 MPH and above, labelled with results, giving us an idea of how he is doing with velocity:

He is making plenty of contact in the zone with them, not missing many at all, but it is coming with a low BABIP, which of course, may not be his fault. Looking at all the balls he has put in play, labelled with the position McGuiness hit the ball to, may give us some kind of insight (and we should mention that his regular season BABIP is above league average so far in the very small sample size):

There clearly aren't many pitches high is the first thing you notice, and he is pulling everything from the middle of the plate in. For the most part, he is taking pitches outside the other way, though he tried to pull a couple low and away ones. The approach is certainly not bad, not too pull-happy, but willing to pull if the pitch is on the inside. At least so far (and plate discipline numbers usually make sense rather quickly), he is not swinging as much as an average hitter would, either in the zone or outside the zone. He has also shown good walk and strikeout numbers the last two years in AA and AAA suggesting a good approach.

To me, it seems that the skills are there (he can handle big league fastballs well), and the approach is there as well. I think he can be a good big league hitter if given the chance, especially if he adjusts his problems with breaking balls so far.

* Thanks to Daren Willman of Baseball Savant, as I got the regular season data from his website, and he also got me the Spring Training data, which was just 4 pitches, but I included them into the post. I did not include Arizona Fall League data.

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