Brendan Rodgers is having one of the weirdest seasons of any Major Leaguer in 2022. Entering May, he was hitting an unbelievably bad .078/.172/.098 and had been benched for a few ballgames towards the end of the month. Then, like flipping a switch, he started raking, hitting .313/.351/.514 in May and June and looking every bit like the top prospect he was not that long ago. He’s scuffled in July, however, hitting .233/.309/.367. The overall line comes out to .260/.313/.420, a below-average performance mainly caused by his horrific April. Since May 1st, he’s hitting .295/.341/.481 despite his recent struggles, an excellent slash line, in particular when paired with his improvements with the glove.
But there’s something keeping him from truly breaking out, and we’re going to take a look at it today. A spoiler: it has to do with the gray area that is the edge of the strikezone and the results he’s getting in those spots.
The Shadow Zone
First of all, let’s define the shadow zone. Baseball Savant divides the strikezone into four areas: Heart (pitches down the middle), Shadow (edges of the zone, meaning strikes, pitches right on the limit and pitches that are close but still balls), Chase (pitches that are clearly balls) and Waste (pitches way off the zone). To make it easier, here’s a visual of all the Shadow pitches Brendan Rodgers has seen this season:
The shadow area of the plate is the most important part of it. The swing decisions here can make or break a hitter’s productivity. So, how’s Brendan Rodgers doing in the shadow area?
In one word: poorly! Out of 136 hitters who have seen at least 500 pitches in the shadow area, he ranks third-worst in weighted on-base average (wOBA), one of only three below .200. His company isn’t great: Spencer Torkelson, who just got demoted to Triple-A, Tony Kemp, who’s hitting .203/.282/.263, Max Muncy, who’s been slumping badly all season... you get it. Rodgers is having lots of issues with pitches on the edges of the plate, and there’s one group of pitches in particular that’s giving him major issues.
The Fastball Problems
Rodgers isn’t hitting breaking balls in the shadow zone all that well, but that’s nothing special among even good Major League hitters. It’s the fastballs that are really hurting him: he’s hitting .130/.193/.182 against them, and his -13.3 Run Value and .175 wOBA both rank third-worst in the big leagues (min. 500). He’s beating them into the ground far too often (4.9º average launch angle), and one of the most notable quirks of his issues with fastballs is the direction of his batted ball events:
That’s pretty astonishing. Rodgers has put 59 shadow area fastballs in play this season, and only one of them can qualify as a pulled flyball, one of the lowest rates in all of baseball. And while his BABIP on those fastballs at the edge (.155) is extremely low, and his expected stats are much better (.230/.285/.374) than his actual line (.130/.193/.182), the expected line is still not good, and just as with Connor Joe earlier this season, he’s getting beat on fastballs on the inner third, hitting just .059 against them without a single extra-base hit.
If Brendan Rodgers, who’s already a solid everyday player, is going to take that next step towards true stardom, performing better against pitches on the edges of the plate is a must, and especially against fastballs. Let’s see what happens in the second half.
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The full list of Rockies draft picks in the 2022 MLB Draft. A good list, in this writer’s humble opinion. Lots of good tools here.
I don’t even know where I stand on the whole mic’d up pitchers thing, but it produced some highlights for sure. Kershaw picking Ohtani off was hilarious, and Stanton and the others did his thing. I still think Sandy Alcántara should’ve started the ballgame for the NL, though, but whatever.
On The Farm
All affiliates off until Friday, July 22
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