Desmond Jennings: Starting from the Bottom | The Process Report

Desmond Jennings: Starting from the Bottom

Joe Maddon unveiled a new lineup on Memorial Day that featured struggling leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings batting seventh. Maddon made the move to “take some heat off” and allow Jennings to “work on different things that he’d like to work on” out of the spotlight at the top. The goal as Maddon said is for him “get on base more consistently and start running again.” It is just two games, and a little over a handful of plate appearances, but the 26 year-old appears to be responding. Against the Marlins, Jennings reached base seven times in nine plate appearances; he knocked four hits, took two walks, and was also hit by a pitch; he scored three times.

This season Jennings’ issues have generally come on pitches with tilt or that are off-speed.


Prior to Monday’s game, he was hitting .145 on non-fastballs in 2013. These offerings accounted for 47 percent of his total pitches seen. Meanwhile, he was hitting a healthy .310 fastballs—including 15 of his 18 extra-base hits. Scouting reports move quickly. In the two-game series against Miami, Jennings saw 36 pitches total. Only 17 of them were traditional fastballs. He was served 14 non-fastballs (12 sliders) and a handful of sinkers. His response to their attack was a step in the right direction.

While Jennings continued to swing at a similar rate, his attempts were more targeted. Of his 15 swings versus the Marlins, only three were on pitches out of the strike zone. In the two weeks prior, he swung at nearly a third of pitches out of the zone with 13 strikeouts versus one walk.

On Tuesday night, Jennings came to the plate with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth. Marlins’ manager Mike Redmond called upon right-hander Chad Qualls to face him. The former Ray is a two-pitch reliever with a slider accompanying a mid-90s sinker. He uses the sinker over 60 percent of the time with the slider making up the rest. That said, on first pitches, he goes to the sinker nearly 80 percent of the time.

Considering his issues with non-fastballs, it is not a surprise to see that Jennings has been aggressive on first pitches. He purposely curbed his enthusiasm, however, against Qualls. In his post-game interview, Jennings he intentionally took the first pitch to get a look at the sinker. His wanted see the what Qualls was working with in lieu of jumping on the first pitch and driving it into the ground as Redmond hoped. On the next pitch, Qualls threw an identical sinker that Jennings ripped into right field for the win.

Two good games does not mean Jennings is ready to re-gain the top spot in the order. Nor does it mean that he is magically cured of what ailed him for the past few weeks. However, all turnarounds must begin somewhere. For Jennings, that appears to be at the bottom of the lineup.

Data and visuals courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.


  1. Yet another interesting analysis. You guys do an amazing job. I’ve learned so much about the game from reading the articles. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  2. Jake wrote:

    As I just pointed out at DotR(sorry, cheap plug) and with a little help from Collette….maybe this current spot/role is better suited for Desmond Jennings than having him leadoff. He does a ton of things that aren’t consistent with things that you want to see from a leadoff hitter(propensity to go after early fastballs, low career batting avg., middling OPS) and really hasn’t been much of a SB threat as he has in the past.

    Btw, nice last name Miles.
    -Jake (@jakelarsen )

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