Offseason Homework Assignments - Yoenis Cespedes

Ezra Shaw

This week we move to the outfield to examine Yoenis Cespedes.

After a solid rookie campaign, many pegged Cespedes as a MVP candidate coming into the season. That didn't work out. Let's investigate why and see what Cespedes can improve for 2014.

By the numbers

Below are Cespedes' stats for 2013 and 2012 for reference. The notable differences from 2012 are the K% and the OPB (down 62 points, almost all of it from AVE). The HR-rate and ISO are essentially the same, while BB% is down even though he saw more pitches per plate appearance (3.78 vs. 3.66).

Season

Team

G

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

BsR

Off

Def

WAR

2012

Athletics

129

540

23

70

82

16

8.00%

18.90%

.214

.326

.292

.356

.505

.368

137

1.4

24.5

-14.5

2.9

2013

Athletics

135

574

26

74

80

7

6.40%

23.90%

.202

.274

.240

.294

.442

.318

102

0.6

2

-0.1

2.3

A lot of people are going to point to Cespedes' BABIP and cry bad luck. But his batted-ball profile suffered in 2013 as well, likely pulling down his BABIP. I am not saying that Cespedes didn't catch some bad luck in 2013, just that his batted-ball profile was not conducive to high BABIP.

Season

Team

GB/FB

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB

HR/FB

IFH%

BUH%

2012

Athletics

1.01

19.60%

40.50%

39.90%

23

14.80%

7.60%

0.00%

2013

Athletics

0.83

16.70%

37.70%

45.60%

26

14.40%

10.70%

0.00%

One area Cespedes really took a dive this year is hitting the opposite way. He hit the same % of balls to all fields, but the balls hit to right didn't do much good.

Season

Split

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC+

2012

Pull

159

.415

.415

.748

1.164

.333

.359

41.3

23.1

.496

225

2012

Center

142

.366

.359

.620

.978

.254

.321

27.8

11.3

.412

167

2012

Opposite

84

.286

.286

.464

.750

.179

.277

9.8

0.3

.319

103

2013

Pull

153

.359

.359

.706

1.065

.346

.295

34

17.2

.458

198

2013

Center

155

.355

.353

.671

1.024

.316

.303

32.2

15.1

.437

184

2013

Opposite

84

.202

.198

.262

.460

.060

.188

1.7

-7.8

.199

20

I've heard the argument that the league adjusted to Cespedes, causing lower production. That is pretty difficult to quantify. For what it's worth, Pitchf/x saw Cespedes receiving nearly identical percentages of pitch type as in 2012. So unless someone has a better way of quantifying this, I am going to say the league didn't make drastic changes in the way they pitched Cespedes.

Season

Team

FA%

FT%

FC%

FS%

FO%

SI%

SL%

CU%

KC%

EP%

CH%

SC%

KN%

2012

Athletics

31.50%

12.60%

5.90%

0.70%


8.40%

19.80%

8.80%



11.50%

0.20%


2013

Athletics

33.60%

11.70%

5.30%

0.30%

0.30%

7.60%

19.60%

9.80%

0.80%

0.10%

9.30%


0.80%

And of course, Cespedes didn't get hot until the final month of the season. (Man, August was terrible.)


Mar/Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept/Oct

wOBA

.339

.308

.311

.302

.278

.388

Last, after a very impressive right/left split in 2012, Cespedes showed weakness against RHP in 2013.

Season

Split

BB%

K%

BB/K

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC+

2012

vs L as R

6.70%

14.70%

0.46

.298

.350

.503

.853

.205

.317

24.5

5.9

.360

131

2012

vs R as R

8.50%

20.70%

0.41

.289

.358

.506

.864

.217

.331

59.9

16.9

.371

139

2013

vs L as R

10.90%

22.30%

0.49

.280

364

.516

.880

.236

.309

29.1

9

.376

142

2013

vs R as R

4.40%

24.60%

0.18

.223

.262

.410

.672

.188

.259

35.9

-6.9

.291

84

Areas for improvement

Basically get back to 2012. I'll save a little typing and just say Cespedes should try to get back to 2012 form. Nearly every peripheral is down from 2012, including BB%, hitting against RHP, hitting the opposite way, and K%.

Hitting with 2 strikes. Cespedes hasn't done well with two strikes against him since arriving, but he was especially bad in 2013. Check out his stats.

Season

Split

BB%

K%

BB/K

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC

2012

Through 3 - 2

33.30%

24.60%

1.36

.184

.456

.237

.693

.053

.292

8.2

1.7

.352

126

2012

Through 2 - 2

14.70%

40.50%

0.36

.144

.276

.227

.503

.082

.245

6.3

-6.9

.241

49

2012

Through 1 - 2

5.10%

50.00%

0.1

.153

.195

.261

.456

.108

.28

2.7

-10.8

.201

22

2012

Through 0 - 2

3.10%

48.50%

0.06

.185

.216

.348

.564

.163

.31

5.5

-5.6

.244

51

2013

Through 3 - 2

21.00%

33.90%

0.62

.184

.355

.286

.641

.102

.296

6.4

-0.4

.305

93

2013

Through 2 - 2

8.20%

46.70%

0.18

.143

.213

.214

.427

.071

.264

2.4

-11

.199

20

2013

Through 1 - 2

3.00%

50.60%

0.06

.107

.139

.145

.283

.038

.213

-5.7

-23.9

.130

-27

2013

Through 0 - 2

2.50%

47.10%

0.05

.130

.157

.217

.374

.087

.237

-0.9

-14.1

.165

-3

By-and-large with two strikes Cespedes is already out, usually by way of strikeout. My beloved Fangraphs doesn't allow me to quickly compute the average production league-wide for these splits, so I can't say how Cespedes is compared to the league. But just from a quick look at other Athletics shows Donaldson, Crisp, Lowrie, Smith, and Moss are all much better at hitting with 2 strikes. Below is Jed Lowrie's splits shown for comparison.

Season

Split

BB%

K%

BB/K

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC+

2013

Through 3 - 2

31.40%

14.00%

2.25

.271

.500

.390

.890

.119

.326

16.2

6.7

.414

168

2013

Through 2 - 2

12.80%

26.80%

0.48

.225

.329

.333

.662

.109

.310

15

-1.3

.302

91

2013

Through 1 - 2

5.20%

31.00%

0.17

.217

.265

.343

.607

.126

.305

11.4

-5.6

.268

67

2013

Through 0 - 2

4.50%

33.90%

0.13

.187

.223

.327

.550

.140

.269

5.9

-6.3

.241

49

Using this awesome tool, we can see what Cespedes has done the last two years with two strikes compared to the league average for basic outcomes. Basically, he has a lot more swinging strikes than average, but does everything else below average as well. Cespedes is really is a sucker for pitches in the dirt with two strikes.

Player Count Ball Foul In play, (out) Swinging Strike In play, run Swinging Strike (Blocked) Ball in Dirt In play (no out) Called Strike
Cespedes 0-2 38.60% 16.50% 12.00% 9.74% 4.50% 4.50% 4.12% 4.12% 1.50%
AVE 0-2 40.74% 17.90% 12.21% 10.15% 1.70% 2.32% 3.86% 4.10% 3.75%
Cespedes 1-2 30.80% 19.60% 15.10% 16.00% 2.80% 4.50% 3.36% 3.36% 2.24%
AVE 1-2 33.55% 21.00% 14.80% 10.81% 2.22% 2.22% 3.25% 5.00% 4.18%
Cespedes 2-2 26.10% 20.60% 15.40% 16.70% 2.00% 4.25% 3.27% 4.90% 3.00%
AVE 2-2 26.60% 24.70% 17.46% 11.20% 2.80% 1.60% 2.30% 6.00% 4.70%
Cespedes 3-2 18.00% 26.60% 22.40% 15.50% 1.90% 1.90% 1.90% 7.50% 3.10%
AVE 3-2 19.20% 28.60% 21.00% 10.60% 4.20% 0.70% 1.62% 7.50% 4.64%

Plate coverage. In 2013, Cespedes was pretty picky about where he wanted the ball. Below I show his hot zones from 2013 (left) and 2012+2013 combined (right). We see that when we add in the 2012, a lot of the averages go up, especially on the outer third. (That's the best I can do. ESPN doesn't let me show separate years.)

 photo 2013_Hotzones-2012_Hotzones_zpsc4a104af.jpg

Swing Analysis

One of my early posts on AN was around July 4th, detailing the swing differences of Cespedes from 2013 vs. 2012 (republished here on my site, how do you dig up old FanPosts?). My argument was Cespedes was not using his front leg properly, essentially blocking the rotation of his lower half by not opening the front leg early enough. The result was a lot of top-half driven swings. I wish I could say that Cespedes' improved final month corresponded with an improved front leg function, but that wasn't the case. I do think Cespedes' front leg function was better in September, but it was incrementally better and still not nearly as good as in 2012. Below I show two swing comparisons. Both comparisons have a swing from the early part of the season on the left, then one from September on the right. We can see that Cespedes' front side is working a little better, allowing him to get on the side of his front foot.

 photo mlbtv_26896581_1800K-mlbtv_detoak_31086387_1800K_zps93cc5478.jpg

 photo mlbtv_26207083_1800K-mlbtv_oaktex_30572935_1800K_zps397447eb.jpg

A little better, but not much. And as nice as it was to see Cespedes get rolling in September, that month's wOBA would have been good enough for third-best month in 2012. He simply isn't swinging the bat as well as in 2012. Allow me to explain in detail.

Below I have two home run swings. The swing on the left is from 2012, the one on the right is September 2013. Notice the different timing of the front leg.

 photo CompFrontGif_zps198c55ae.gif

When looking at the side view of the stride and bat-launch portions we can really see a pretty big difference. In 2013, Cespedes gets A LOT of inward rotation of the front leg and posts up on the front foot early and stays there. The stride on the left is much smoother. Again, these videos are synced at contact.

 photo SwingComp_zpsdf904db2.gif

Just to be clear, Cespedes is not adjusting to an off-speed pitch on the right. The pitch is a 96 mph fastball. The one on the left is is 90 mph, so if anything he should be moving faster on the right. As we break down some key frames, we get insight into why Cespedes struggled in 2013. At toe-touch, he just has so much inward turn of the front leg. The front leg and hip just have to go so far to clear in a very short time.

 photo 2012Swing-Late2013Swing-0000112-TT_zpse09682ba.jpg

With the front foot half-way down, we can see that Cespedes isn't clearing nearly as well.

 photo 2012Swing-Late2013Swing-0000120-Launch_zpsa5ade890.jpg

Now with the front foot all the way down, Cespdes is blocking the lower body rotation with the front leg. He is going to have to push the front side open with the top half.

 photo 2012Swing-Late2013Swing-0000132-HP_zpsbfbe81b5.jpg

Of course, Cespedes is so damn strong that he is able to still have some pretty good success. But blocking of the rotation of the lower half causes the top half to do more work, causing some feeble looking swings on pitches he can't get to (fastball away, anyone?). I am going to say this blocking of the front side is a big reason we saw the RHP splits, opposite field hitting, and plate coverage suffer.

As I stated in the July post, I still see this as an injury concern. Because of his strength, Cespedes' top half is putting a ton of pressure on that front knee to move laterally, a direction it is not intended to move. Not a good thing considering Cespedes is already a little injury prone.

Projection

I am going to wimp out a little bit and offer a conditional projection. If during Spring Training I see Cespedes hanging out on that front foot like in 2013, I will say he is going to have a season very similar to 2013: some good times when he gets the timing right but also some bad times. But if he reports with a stride we saw in 2012, I will be more than happy to revisit those preseason MVP talks.

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