Matt Joyce Is Aggressive But Disciplined | The Process Report

Matt Joyce Is Aggressive But Disciplined

The last time I wrote in-depth on Matt Joyce was April 11. He was hitting .130/.259/.217 at the time (through 27 plate appearances) and whatever flak he caught was undeserved in my mind. In the 109 plate appearances since (beginning that night), Joyce has hit .423/.468/.701 with six home runs and nine doubles. To say he looks fine is missing the point, but this isn’t just a humble brag, there is a larger point here and it comes from the second paragraph of the April 11 post:

One of Joyce’s best attributes is his plate discipline. He shows a willingness to take pitches that can sometimes be confused as passiveness at the plate. Last season alone, Joyce averaged 4.18 pitches per plate appearance and is at 4.96 pitches per plate appearance so far this season. I would not consider this detrimental to his success, though, as he is not falling into pitcher’s counts then putting whatever he can into play. The reality is just the opposite: Joyce is ending his plate appearances while ahead, as illustrated by these numbers:

Here is the real reason I wanted to write this post. If I asked you this: Who swings at more first-pitch offerings between Joyce and Reid Brignac, you would probably say Brignac. Unless, of course, you knew I would only ask if it’s a trick question and then you would say Joyce. Well, it’s not a trick question—at least not in the usual binomial sense, but in a more general perspective I suppose it is. See, Brignac is swinging at 43 percent of the first pitches he sees while Joyce is swinging at 41 percent—good for the highest and second-highest rates on the Rays.

How could that be, after all, Brignac is an unrefined hacker and Joyce is essentially a disciple of the Bonds clan. Therein is a perfect illustration of the differences between discipline and patience. The latter is all about taking and taking, the former is about picking and choosing. To illustrate, here is a side-by-side comparison of the first-pitches Brignac and Joyce have swung at:

I count four pitches offered at for Joyce that are not within the normalized strike zone or do not touch some part of it. I count 11 for Brignac. Swinging on the first pitch should mean the pitch is at least within the zone, but Brignac’s plate discipline and pitch recognition lets him down there. If you needed further proof that those are the attributes separating them, consider the pitch types they are offering at (Note: These are aggressively rounded since the exact percentage isn’t necessary to get the gist):

Fastball – 57 percent
Offspeed – 24 percent
Breaking – 13 percent
Knuckler – 4 percent
Splitter – 2 percent

Fastball – 64 percent
Offspeed – 14 percent
Breaking – 17 percent
Knuckler – 2 percent
Splitter – 2 percent

Brignac is doing the right thing for his skill set by swinging at fastballs, but they tend to be out of the zone. I do not know if he is cognizant of the pitch type or projected location when he swings, or if he just has a predetermination on when he will swing. I doubt it’s the latter, and I’d like to believe he knows the pitches are fastballs. Maybe Joyce just realizes his boundaries better. Whatever it is, I don’t know. I do, however, think Joyce is a good example of how a batter can be a disciplined hitter and heavy first-pitch swinger at the same time.

[Ed: I would add that Ian’s work elsewhere supports most of what I say here too.)

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