Offseason Homework Assignments - Derek Norris

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This week, we move behind the plate and take a look at Derek Norris.

Derek Norris was part of the four-headed monster that was the A's backstop in 2013. Let's see what he can improve for 2014.

By the numbers

2013 was Norris' first full season after playing in 60 games in a couple stints in 2012. Norris appeared in 98 games and made 308 plate appearances. Here are his stats from 2013.

G

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

Def

WAR

98

308

9

41

30

5

12.00%

23.10%

0.163

0.301

0.246

0.345

0.409

0.335

114

3.2

2

There isn't much to complain about there. It would be nice if a few more hits cleared the fence, but that's about it.

Norris did have one of the most drastic left/right splits you will see. Norris' .426 wOBA against LHP was 4th in MLB.

Season

Split

PA

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC+

2013

vs L as R

173

12.70%

19.10%

.320

.410

.580

.990

.260

.361

34.2

15.3

.426

177

2013

vs R as R

135

11.10%

28.10%

.149

.261

.184

.445

.035

.218

4.6

-10.2

.217

33

Norris definitely puts effort in using the whole field. Check out his stats to all fields.

Season

Split

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC+

2013

Pull

79

.430

.425

.772

1.197

.342

.370

21.2

12.4

0.512

236

2013

Center

72

.319

.315

.486

.801

.167

.296

9.8

1.8

0.344

120

2013

Opposite

42

.190

.190

.286

.476

.095

.190

1.1

-3.6

0.206

25

Areas for improvement

Hit RHP. Out of 362 hitters with 130 PA against RHP, Norris' wOBA of .217 is 356th. That's pretty bad. Interestingly, Norris hit RHP slightly better than LHP in 2012 (.277 wOBA vs. .272 wOBA).

Hitting the opposite way. Norris spent the offseason reworking his swing so that he could hit more to the opposite field (no doubt to please Fosse). It didn't work. In fact, he went way the wrong direction. In 2012, Norris' opposite field wOBA was .313.

Swing Analysis

As I said above, Norris went through an effort in the off-season to keep the front side from "leaking out" and as we will see, he kinda over did it. Norris also went to a more pronounced leg lift around July 1st, and after that he really took off. Let's take a look at one of his home run swings against Jon Lester. The contact frame is frozen for a count or two.

 photo NorrisSW1_zps46504892.gif

Here we can start to see why Norris might struggle against RHP. At contact, Norris' front shoulder is really behind. He is keeping the front side closed a little too long and the rear arm can't get through (notice the space between his rear elbow and rear hip). Here are a couple more contact stills to show my point (both HR to left field).

 photo ContactFront1-ContactFront2_zpsd96fcac1.jpg

Now compare to a couple contact frames from Donaldson. Really notice the two frames on the right. Both pitches are fastballs high and tight. We see that Donaldson's front side mechanics have allowed his front side to clear and keep the rear arm close to his side and front arm closer to his body. Norris' swing has the look of trying to go the other way. (Norris' front forearm looks almost like a cricket block, am I right?)

 photo Donaldson4-0000276-mlbtv_minoak_30795793_1800K-0000347_zps47ceee60.jpg

We can see the effects of this swing approach by looking at Norris' heat map against RHP. He doesn't have much success anywhere, but the few hits he has are middle-to-outside thigh and knee high. On the inside pitches, the space between the rear elbow and hip prevent him from getting the sweet-spot of the bat on the ball. The lagging front side essentially keeps Norris from turning on the inside pitches, and I also argue hitting to the opposite field (stay tuned for an article on front side mechanics).

 photo NorrisVsRHP_zps9f5c2472.png

Overall I like Norris' swing. I really hope he keeps the leg lift. I believe if he can get his front shoulder contributing to his swing, he will improve his RHP and opposite field splits. And his LHP splits for that matter.

Projection

Projecting catcher's performance is always dangerous, simply because of the physical toll of receiving. Plus, considering Norris has done two swing changes over the course of 12 months, it is difficult to say what his swing will look like in 2014. And we don't know how many at-bats Norris will get against RHP.

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict an All-Star type season for Norris. Somehow he will get his front shoulder involved in his swing, hit a few more home runs, and be respectable against RHP. My dream for Norris is take two-thirds of the catcher at-bats, and another few at DH, giving him about 375 PA. I'll go .268/.372/.435 with 18 HR.

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