Steve Pearce – 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 – Steve Pearce
Steve Pearce was a journeyman that one day realized he wasn’t swinging enough. He started to get more aggressive and with that came increases in power, but it hasn’t come without some trade offs. One of the biggest things that stood out to me when putting Pearce’s card together is the large discrepancy between what he does in and out of the strike zone. Look through his tables and you see incredible numbers when he swings at pitches in the zone. Conversely, when he swings or makes contact out of the zone you see much worse results. Look through these other cards that we have put together and you won’t find a single guy that comes near Pearce’s 37% swinging strike rate on pitches out of the zone. To investigate this a little further I put together these pitch location graphs that show extra base hits and whiffs. See if you can notice a pattern:
Looks like he’ll chase the fastball up and is somewhat susceptible to expanding his zone away, but you better not miss inside. That is a black hole of lost pitches. He can cover the outer part of the plate ok, but gets beat up quite often.
The change on the other hand is something he’s rarely on time for. Down below the zone is a problem, but down within the zone is larger one. A good change up artist can leaves him in knots and might go a long way in explaining his struggles with lefties last year.
We see something similar with the breaking ball down and away. He’s prone to the chase and doesn’t appear to have any coverage down and away even within the zone. He does show a lateral plane in the middle of the plate where he can hurt a mistake. I don’t think it’s enough to scare good pitchers away from using their breaking ball, especially ahead, but those with inconsistent pitches might think twice about throwing it.
Take it all together and you see a massive hole down and away. Down and in isn’t a whole lot better, but if it’s anywhere else inside there’s a good chance he can put a hurting on that pitch. You get a good idea of his swing path here as the outer half of the plate doesn’t feature much more than a barrel’s bit of coverage. As such, I think pitchers will pound him away and down enough that it will be hard for him to be much more than a little above average. That will come with soaring heights, however, when pitchers miss inside or hang a secondary pitch. I think Pearce is going to have games that he can singlehandedly influence and a lot of little the rest of the time. That’s not so bad, if used properly. To combat this hole it makes sense that he would just spit on those pitches and hope they run off or get called balls. To look at this we have the excellent Baseball Heatmaps at our disposal:
The above maps show Pearce’s swing rate throughout his career compared to the league average. You can see how aggressive he is if a lefty tries to get in his kitchen and how he leaves the outer edges alone as much as possible. Against righties he seems to do a good job of laying off of the pitches below the zone. We can also look at the results compared to the league average using run values:
Sure enough he has a pretty big hole low and away, but we can see just how very dangerous he is on inside pitches, especially up. Seeing this does little to change my opinion. If Pearce can stay within his strengths this year, while avoiding getting buried in counts then I think there’s a good chance he leaves us more happy than frustrated. Against good pitching I think he will have his struggles, but even very good pitchers make mistakes. It looks like Steve Pearce is more than happy to jump all over them.