Evan Longoria’s Trouble With the Curve | The Process Report

Evan Longoria’s Trouble With the Curve

One concern when Evan Longoria returned to the Rays lineup was power. After missing 85 games with a partially torn hamstring, it was fair to wonder if Longoria’s power would remain intact, or if the injury would impact his swing. Longoria has eased this concern.

Longoria played in 23 games and amassed 97 plate appearances before injury. In that time, he hit 11 extra-base hits including four home runs. In the 20 games since his return, Longoria has 83 plate appearances. He has just 19 hits during his comeback; however, six of those 19 have gone for extra-base hits.

After going homer-less in his first eight games back, Longoria has now hit five home runs in his last 12 games. The mini-binge started in Los Angeles when he crushed a Jerome Williams cutter that didn’t cut enough. Two days later, Longoria went deep off an 84 mph changeup from C.J. Wilson that traveled 407 feet. In this past series, Longoria went deep three times against the Rangers. He covered more than 1,200 feet with his three home runs, all on fastballs. In the series opener, he turned on a 94 mph inside fastball from Derek Holland, pulling the ball 372 feet and over the left field wall. In the finale, Longoria had his first multi-home run game of the season, smashing two home runs to center field. The first one came against a 3-1 fastball from Matt Harrison (423 feet). The other was a solo blast off a 96 mph heater from Alexi Ogando (413 feet).

Thus far, Longoria has show that he can still hit the ball hard and far as long as it doesn’t bend. This brings me to another concern: Longoria’s inability to hit breaking balls.

If you look at the home runs, they do not come on pitches with a lot of horizontal break. There are four home runs off variations of the fastball and another off a changeup which is typically a north-to-south pitch. Breaking balls are–and have been–another story. Historically, curveballs have always been problematic for Longoria. According to run values, breaking balls have been his Kryptonite since joining the league; however, they have been particularly troublesome in 2012.

The problem is not just post-injury either. In April, Longoria saw a curve just under 10 percent of the time. He missed on nearly half of his swings. Since returning, the usage rate on the curve has jumped to15 percent. Currently, he is whiffing on more than half of his hacks on the breaking ball. In fact, Longoria has put a just a handful curveballs in play this season–none of them hits. The bulk of them have ended up as strikes: called, swinging, or fouled.

The majority of curveballs to Longoria are buried low and away. This is a sound strategy, as he tends to pound pitches closer to his body. Scouting reports travel quickly, and if there is a weakness to be exploited, teams will figure it out. If Longoria is unable to get to these pitches because of limited lower-half movement or he is just a sucker for curveballs, teams will pick up on it – if they haven’t done so already. One adjustment deserves another, meaning Longoria will have to adapt to maintain his torrid pace.

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