Evan Longoria – 2016 Player Card
As we count down the days until the blessed return of baseball we’ll be bringing snapshots from a variety of angles for each of the significant players on this year’s upcoming Rays team. The format will be similar for each player and then we want to take a look at an individual thing for each guy towards the end of each card. Think of these as a quick cheat sheet on what a player looks like. You can use the Corey Dickerson card as a walkthrough, of sorts. Now at the plate – Hank Conger
If you’ve watched Evan Longoria, as I have for just about every game he has ever played in MLB, you notice that he’s not quite what he used to be. That’s not really a new notion, either, as 2014 was even worse than this past season, but it’s beginning to feel like this is the new norm. You can see that pretty starkly in his run value chart, and this last one lends a little more insight as his power has fallen off dramatically. The white space between the lines can be thought of as his isolated power and they’re a lot closer of late than they used to be. I wanted to dig into this by looking at the trajectory and direction of his batted balls:
Throughout, I will be comparing his past two seasons to his first six. The pop ups have increased, which is bad, but the pull side liner increase is real nice. With more liners, though, has come a drastic loss in his fly balls. Flies that go opposite field aren’t generally all that great, but, classic Longo had the power to make it work. The real loss is the downturn in pulled outfield fly balls. The merit of the other two directions is debateable, but there is no confusion over how important pulled fly balls are for sluggers like Longoria.
Take a second to really marvel at how good young Evan Longoria was from a power perspective. He had nearly a .900 slugging percentage on contact, which is truly elite in this game. The majority of that came on his pulled liners and flies, but the rest of his liners were also hammered. Not hard to see that he has fallen off basically across the board. The pulled liners are still close, and really his only salvation. The liners aren’t really all that far off so it’s not like this is some charity case or anything, but you can see how much Evan’s power to all fields on the fly has declined over time. The liners are nice to see, though.
Looking at batting average on contact we see a similar drop across the board. The liners are still falling in at a high rate, just not at a best in class rate, anymore. The flies are also dropping for hits at a lower than previous rate. We can see this better when we subtract the SLG from the BA to get ISOCON:
Looking at Isolated power on contact allows us to see where his power drops have been due to batting average drops and where it truly is due to a loss of power. The biggest place to see that is the pulled flies, and really all fly balls for him have shown less flex. His pull liners continue to be a bit of a success story, and those up the middle haven’t been a sore spot, either.
While the batting average would take a hit I think it makes sense for Evan to start harvesting for power, to borrow a term from my hero Tony Blengino. Longo can continue to use all fields as a hitter. As long as he’s spraying liners. If he’s going to hit a flyball he better be attempting to turn and burn to the pull side in order to help him increase his power on balls in play. If pitchers start killing him with soft stuff away then he can still poke a liner the other way, but I would be more concerned with increased right on right sliders getting him to chase off the plate more and more. The resulting contact issue may be nothing, but could be something very real.
This could go any number of ways for Longo as he continues to glide into his post-prime years. I don’t think he’ll ever be the tremendously feared slugger of his youth, but that does not mean that he is without use. The fact of the matter is that he cannot continue doing what he has the past two years as that sort of middle ground neutralizes his strengths as a power hitter with a good eye. The hope in 2016 for Evan Longoria is that he can find a way to make it all work. Pulling more fly balls, while still hitting a ton of liners does that even if it comes with an increase in whiff rate.