Dissecting Jose Iglesias’ Offense

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

I don’t want to alarm you, but Jose Iglesias is not hitting well this year. After a good opening week or so, Iglesias’ bat has cratered. Observe:

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While he’s never been a power threat, he’s no longer getting singles at the rate he has during his last two full seasons. Jose Iglesias with no power and a below average BABIP is essentially a replacement level player. 

Now of course, it’s still only June and players are entitled to slumps. It’s not like Iglesias was expected to be a major offensive force. He’s a guy you’d be happy to see in the 90 wRC+ neighborhood and anything more is gravy. So while Justin Upton’s wRC+ in the 60s is very bad, Iglesias’ time down there is just kinda bad. All hope is not lost. 

But I have noticed something about the way Iglesias is being pitched and felt it worthy of exploration. As you may know, Iglesias is one of the league’s best contact hitters. That is, he’s one of the hardest batters to face if you want a swinging strike. He may not bomb the ball around the park, but he makes contact. This year, pitchers are coming inside against him much more, potentially to generate weaker contact (which I’ll get to in a moment).

Screenshot 2016-06-11 at 9.32.44 AM

Those categories are based on two imaginary vertical lines that split the plate in third. Inside and outside extend for forever and middle covers the ~6 inches in the middle of the plate. Pitchers are definitely pitching inside more this year. 

Here are those categories carved up into balls, called strikes, swinging strikes, foul balls, and balls in play. For 2015, 2016, and then a comparison. 

Screenshot 2016-06-11 at 9.55.01 AM

Screenshot 2016-06-11 at 9.55.19 AM

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As you may notice, inside pitches are resulting in more balls, similar strike numbers, and slightly fewer balls in play. Middle has lots fewer balls, lots more strikes, and fewer balls in play. Outside has more balls, fewer strikes, and about the same number of balls in play. 

There isn’t an obvious implication for those values. Any of them could be good or bad depending on the value of the balls in play. So let’s look at that. Please note I called this wOBABIP to jive with the MLBAM “in play” tag, but it’s the same as wOBACON (as his homers are included). 

Screenshot 2016-06-11 at 10.18.02 AM

This is interesting. Iglesias is seeing more pitches inside and is performing better against them when he puts them in play. Mix that with a relative push on balls and strikes and he’s doing better against inside pitches overall despite seeing more of them. However, he’s doing much worse on pitches down the middle and outside this year. 

It could easily be the case that Iglesias’ desire to make contact against everything is actually harming his overall production because he’s had to focus inside more this year to the detriment of his production elsewhere. Down the middle, he’s taking more strikes and producing less and outside he’s producing less. 

There are other explanations like health, sequencing, etc that might explain something like this, but this fits the facts on the ground. Iglesias is still making contact when he swings, he’s just not producing as much overall. It seems likely that this is partly due to pitchers challenging him inside and Iglesias having a tough time catching up to those pitches without sacrificing some oomph on the outer two thirds. 

While I greatly admire his contact ability, it might be time for him to accept some swings and misses inside if it means doing a little more damage overall. Pitchers are attacking him differently and are winning, he needs to explore an adjustment. 


4 responses

  1. Is another possibility that he is just unlucky in an insufficient sample thus far this year? He never exactly crushed the ball, as you say, but his babip was high because he is fast and hit the ball on the ground. This year his squibbers might just not be finding as many holes–yet.

  2. Nice analysis, but as you warned, his poor performance at the plate was more of slump than a trend. He’s made some adjustments and wRC+ for June is 145 vs 1 in May and 74 in Mar/Apr. My perception of Jose’s hitting has been that when he is his best when he is hitting line drives and ground balls and his performance craters when he hits too many in fly balls. Interestingly, his Pitch/fx card shows that he pop up rate this year is 25-33% when he is pitched middle or high inside. Since he’s was being pitched inside more and performing relatively the same, which is to say poorly, your advice to lay off the inside pitches and concentrate on middle and outside is very sound. He appears to have done this since is GB/FB rate for June is back up to 2.26 from May’s 1.62.

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