Hitting Analysis of Brandon Phillips: From a St. Louis Cardinals’ Perspective

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Ever since this altercation (video) between Brandon Phillips and Yadier Molina back in 2010, Phillips has been one of the most despised opponents to play at Busch Stadium.

A large factor is obviously due to the incident, but another contributing factor has to be his success against Cardinals’ pitching over the years. In 117 career games against St. Louis, Phillips has a solid .264/.314/.437 slash line. He has 26 doubles, 5 triples, 14 home runs, and 61 RBI–arguably his most success against any team in the National League.

PhillipsWhiffLHP

In 2013, Phillips’ whiff rate against left-handed pitchers was exceptionally low at just 9.9% (74 whiffs/749 pitches). Down and out of the zone (boxed in yellow), his whiff rate is 18.3%–almost double that of his average whiff rate against lefties. 18.3% is still really low, but it’s the best shot Cardinals’ lefties have if they are looking for swings and misses from Phillips. Up and in (boxed in green) would be an area to avoid considering he faced 73 pitches in that zone and did not whiff on a single one.

PhillipsWhiffRHP

Phillips’ whiff rate against right-handed pitchers was 12.5% (219 whiffs/1750 pitches) in 2013. This is slightly higher than it was against lefties, but it’s still really low. Down and out of the zone (boxed in yellow) could be an area right-handers could target against Phillips, with a whiff rate of 21.3%–almost 10% higher than his average in 2013. Like with lefties, up and in (boxed in green) is an area to avoid when facing Phillips considering he had only one whiff in 83 chances.

PhillipsLHPLD

Phillips’ linedrive percentage on balls in play against lefties was 25.5% (40 linedrives/157 balls in play) in 2013. Down and away (boxed in yellow) is the best place for lefties (Jaime Garcia, Randy Choate, and Kevin Siegrist) to attack Phillips. His linedrive percentage in these zones was over 10% lower than his average at 14.3%. Lefties can also attack him down and in (boxed in orange), but they would have to paint the inside corner because he has high linedrive percentages in the zones immediately adjacent to this.

PhillipsRHPLD

Phillips’ linedrive percentage on balls in play against righties was 22.7% (87 linedrives/384 balls in play) in 2013. The zones boxed in yellow are areas right-handed pitchers could target when facing Phillips because his linedrive percentage on balls in play from these zones was just 7.3%–15.4% lower than his average in 2013. The two zones boxed in green, up and in, would be areas to avoid when facing Phillips.

Conclusion:

In short, Phillips does not swing and miss much. Because of this, he does not strike out very often. In 11 years of experience, he averages only 66.8 strikeouts per season. To break it down even more, he strikes out one time in every seven plate appearances against the Cardinals which is pretty impressive.

Thus, Cardinals’ pitchers should not look to strikeout Phillips in 2014 and beyond. Rather, lefties can attack him down and away, while righties can attack him away as well–both up and down in the zone. A quick look at his spray chart from 2013 (below) shows that the majority of his extra-base hits–and all but one of his home runs–occurred when he pulled the baseball. By pitching him away, he may still get hits, but these hits will likely be singles instead of doubles, triples, or even home runs.

phillipsSPRAY

There you have it. I have taken a look at Pedro Alvarez, Jay Bruce, and now Brandon Phillips. I hope, as fans, you can use these posts as references/quick guides going into next season to see how Cardinals’ pitchers will approach these “Cardinal Killers.”

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page

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Hitting Analysis of Jay Bruce: From a St. Louis Cardinals’ Perspective

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Al Behrman

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Al Behrman

Like Pedro Alvarez, Jay Bruce is a left-handed slugger who has had a good amount of success against the Cardinals over the course of his career. His career slash line against the Cardinals sits at .237/.294/.398.

The .398 slugging percentage is nowhere near that of Alvarez (.473), but he still has 12 doubles, 12 home runs, and 44 RBI in 88 career games against the Cardinals. One-third of his production came from last season alone. In 19 games, Bruce hit .315 with four doubles, four home runs, and 15 RBI.

Bruce has a career .257/.330/.482 slash line. After taking a look at his slugging percentage against the Cardinals (.398, 84 points lower than his career SLG%), he may not be a true “Cardinal Killer” like Alvarez. However, given his numbers against the Cardinals in 2013 and the fact that one of my readers asked me to take a look at Bruce, I decided to write a post on him anyways.

As noted on the following graphs (from BrooksBaseball.net), but to avoid any confusion, all zones are from the catcher’s point of view.

BruceWhiffsLHP

Bruce’s 2013 whiff rate against left-handed pitchers was surprisingly low for a lefty slugger who averages 137 strikeouts per season at just 15.9% (136 whiffs/858 pitches). Non-overpowering lefties like Jaime Garcia or Randy Choate can attack the zones boxed in yellow (21.5% whiff rate); whereas, Kevin Siegrist (fastball averaged 96 MPH in 2013) can attack Bruce up in the zones boxed in orange (26.4% whiff rate).

Ideally, if one of the above pitchers is looking for a strikeout, they should avoid the inside corners of the strikezone against Bruce. These two zones are boxed in green, and he had just two whiffs on 63 pitches (3.2%) in those zones last season.

BruceWhiffsRHP

Right-handed pitchers, especially hard-throwers like Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha, can attack Bruce up the zone–preferably towards the outside corner. His 2013 whiff rate against right-handed pitchers was also pretty low for a slugger at just 15.3% (290 whiffs/1899 pitches). However, his whiff rate was significantly higher in the zones boxed in yellow (23%) and even higher in the zones boxed in orange (27.6%).

Thus, if any of our righties find themselves in a situation where a strikeout is necessary and Bruce is at the plate, their best bet is start him up and away in the zone, with down and out of the strikezone as their primary backup plan.

BruceLHPLD

Of 152 balls in play against lefties in 2013, 35 of them were linedrives–23%. 40% of these linedrives came on pitches in the middle of the zone which is to be expected–big league pitchers know to avoid the middle of the zone, especially against sluggers like Bruce.

After taking a look at both lefty graphs, it appears that the best place for lefties to attack Bruce is down in the zone from the middle-out (boxed in yellow) where his linedrive percentage is just 12.5%. There is that little blip on the outside corner where nearly 30% of the balls in play were linedrives, but I think this may be due to the small sample size. Either that, or he just loves scorching liners down into the left-field corner.

BruceRHPLD

As a fan of the Cardinals, this graph frightened me. There’s a reason why he has a .267/.341/.502 career slash line against right-handed pitchers. I really could not find a glaring hole that Cardinals’ pitchers could exploit. In 2013, on 302 balls put in play, 94 of them (31.1%) were linedrives. This puts him near the top of the league and shows just how potent his bat can be against righties.

As I noted in the right-handed pitcher whiffs graph, pitching Bruce “up and away” can lead to more swings and misses. However, as you can see, if he does make contact on pitches that are up and in the strikezone, there is a pretty good chance he makes solid contact. Thus, the best place for righties to go is up and out of the zone (boxed in yellow)–hoping to get Bruce to chase. They can set these pitches up with breaking balls or changeups down in the zone immediately prior to change his eye level–increasing the chances of him chasing pitches out of the zone.

Conclusion:

Overall, Bruce is a much better hitter than Alvarez. He may strike out just as much as Alvarez, but he hits for a higher average and has a significantly higher on-base percentage. Also, when he does put the ball in play, it’s more likely to be a linedrive than balls off the bat of Alvarez.

Being a better hitter, there are obviously fewer glaring holes in his swing. However, as I noted above, the Cardinals’ hard-throwing righties (which they have plenty of) best chance is by throwing pitches up and away–with their best chance on pitches out of the zone completely. This not only leads to more swings and misses, but also fewer line drives.

Lefties can attack him low and away, just like with Alvarez. Siegrist can attack him up and away, but he must be careful because zones immediately adjacent to these somewhat “cold” zones show that he can be very dangerous.

In short, Bruce is a much tougher hitter to pitch to than Alvarez. I hope the Cardinals can figure him out because at the age of 26, they are going to have to deal with his potent bat for years to come.

Due up next: Brandon Phillips

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page