FanPost

Yoenis Cespedes - 2013 vs. 2012 - Update!

USA TODAY Sports

For my last post, I detailed the improvements of Josh Donaldson from 2012 to 2013. Now let's look at someone who has taken a step back.

By the end of 2012, Athletics fans were rejoicing at not only the successful season, but at the potential of things to come. One reason the future looked so bright is the play of Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes finished 2012 with a slash line of .292/.356/.505 and 2nd in ROY voting to Mike Trout. Yes indeed, things looked pretty good with #52 slotted in the middle of the order.

Then 2013 happened. Not that he is tanking, but he has definitely taken a step back. At the time of writing this article, he has a slash line of .224/.287/.445. So what happened?

Let's start with plate discipline. Maybe Cespedes just starting swinging at poor pitches. Unfortunately, that's not so much the case.

Year

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

2012

36.50%

65.30%

48.50%

59.50%

84.00%

73.30%

2013

33.20%

70.30%

49.00%

63.00%

79.50%

73.10%

Nothing out of the ordinary. He is actually swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone, and more pitches in the strike zone. One thing to note is that he is making less contact on pitches he swings at in the strike zone, but he wasn't that high last year. Overall he is making contact at basically the same rate as last year, but just not getting the hits.

Ok then, how about BABIP, everyone's favorite indicator of luck. Cespedes is down from .326 in 2012 to .249 in 2013. Based on the old argument of BABIP, Cespedes is just a victim of bad luck and is due to get some points back on his numbers.

But I have a slight beef with this. For one, I think BABIP has a component that can be controlled. Take a look at the leaders in BABIP for 2013.

Player

BABIP

Miguel Cabrera

.386

Jhonny Peralta

.385

Joey Votto

.382

Joe Mauer

.381

Mike Napoli

.376

Yadier Molina

.375

Michael Cuddyer

.374

Chris Davis

.373

Manny Machado

.372

Carlos Gomez

.369

Not exactly a random group. So maybe there is something to why Cespedes' BABIP dropping. Let's look at his batted ball profile.

Season

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB

GB BA

LD BA

FB BA

2012

19.60%

40.50%

39.90%

14.80%

14.80%

.306

.750

.243

2013

16.50%

33%

50.50%

13.90%

14.90%

.269

.576

.242

Overall, we see he is hitting less line drives and ground balls, and that his batting average on these batted balls is decreased. His homerun-to-flyball rate is identical, but since he is hitting more flyballs we can expect a few more homeruns.

Now we are starting to get somewhere. Let's look at one more stat line. I am going to project the current rate of 2013 production over an equivalent number of games in 2012 and compare.

Season 1B 2B 3B HR
2012 89 25 5 23
2013 62 21 4 28

The problem is singles! He isn't getting enough singles to get his slash line up. Well, that and the increased strike out rate of 25% (up from 18.9% in 2012). But it is starting to look like those line drives and hard-hit ground balls that got through the infield in 2012 are turning into putouts in 2013.

Is it speed? Did he simply beat out those ground balls in 2012 and lost a step in 2013? Don't think so. His Infield hit percentage is up to 12.1% from 7.6%. While this isn't a perfect indicator, coupled with the facts that Cespedes is still 27 and there haven't been any reports of a drop off in speed, I am hesitant to saying the production dip is due to losing a step.

So what is it? Let's take a look at his swing from September 2012 on a 90 mph fastball that he blasted for a homerun.

via eastbayhittinginstruction.com

What a great swing. Really focus on the front leg. See how his front leg "clears" as his front foot drops to allow his body to turn. This is a really important movement. (If you are a swing technique junkie, I highlight this movement here.) Here is the frame we really want to focus on.

Picture

via eastbayhittinginstruction.com

Now let's look at 2013. Here is a homerun swing.

via eastbayhittinginstruction.com

Looks pretty good, but not as good. He isn't clearing the front leg nearly as well. Let's look at the same frame as above. (and a few more swings just to make sure.)

Picture

Picture

Picture

Picture

via eastbayhittinginstruction.com

We can definitely see that he is more knocked-kneed in 2013. The result is the legs are not working as much and quickly, causing him to use the arms a little early. In golf terms, he is blocking. In fact, in some swings, I see a little bit of a cast from the top with the hands.

The take-home from this is that the front-side fault is slowing down his swing just a bit. On the 2012 swing, Cespedes come in at 9 frames at 60 fps, flat-out elite. In 2013, his swing is at 10 frames. Still very good, but not elite. When La Potencia squares a ball up, he still has the bat speed and strength to hit homeruns. But on balls Cespedes doesn't quite hit flush, they have less on them than in 2012. For example, a lazy flyball instead of a smashed one hopper through the infield. Resulting in more outs for the same amount of contact. Resulting in the lower BABIP.

Honestly, I don't feel good about this. One reason is simply based on the production. Cespedes has lost (he can get it back) that little extra bat speed that gives a hitter more margin on balls he didn't hit 100%. Second, the front leg has to clear to reduce the strain on the knee. (See Woods, Tiger and Utley, Chase).

Let's hope he gets this corrected.

Update! - 7/13/2013

It is only one swing, but Cespedes clears his front leg much better in this swing. Did he read this article?????

Picture

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