• Is Nick Johnson Too Selective?

    Posted by on April 18th, 2010 · Comments (11)

    While watching the early part of today’s game vs. the Rangers I noticed that Nick Johnson took fastballs for called strikes in his first two AB’s, had a hard time catching up to some mediocre fastballs in the middle of those AB’s and then struck out looking, again on fastballs.  In all, Johnson struck out three times on fastballs today.

    It got me wondering about the percentage of fastballs that Johnson had seen thus far in the season.  Figuring that any hitter sandwiched between Jeter and Teixeira (and Rodriguez) would see a lot more fastballs and noticing both Johnson’s passive approach and slow bat through the team’s first 11 games, I was very curious to see if my hunch was correct.

    Courtesy of the “pitch type” info on each player’s page on Fangraphs‘ website, below is a list of all the pitch types Yankee batters have faced (through yesterday’s game):

    PA FB SL CT CB CH SF XX
    Derek Jeter 52 67.3% 9.4% 11.9% 6.3% 3.8% 1.3% 12.2%
    Nick Johnson 49 67.0% 8.1% 7.6% 11.2% 6.1% 0.0% 11.3%
    Mark Teixeira 50 62.1% 4.6% 9.7% 9.7% 12.8% 1.0% 9.7%
    Alex Rodriguez 49 58.6% 17.2% 8.6% 6.9% 7.5% 1.1% 7.0%
    Robinson Cano 47 66.0% 9.0% 7.6% 10.4% 4.9% 2.1% 7.1%
    Jorge Posada 39 60.8% 8.3% 8.3% 11.7% 7.5% 3.3% 9.8%
    Curtis Granderson 46 57.1% 13.0% 3.4% 12.4% 11.3% 2.8% 9.2%
    Nick Swisher 45 49.5% 8.1% 9.1% 17.2% 11.8% 4.3% 8.8%
    Brett Gardner 31 76.7% 6.7% 3.3% 7.5% 5.8% 0.0% 11.8%
    Marcus Thames 11 60.0% 5.7% 11.4% 5.7% 17.1% 0.0% 5.4%
    Francisco Cervelli 8 65.4% 7.7% 19.2% 3.8% 3.8% 0.0% 10.3%
    Randy Winn 6 51.7% 10.3% 3.4% 10.3% 24.1% 0.0% 0.0%

    (XX = uncategorizable pitches; the biggest flaw with Pitch F/X data is always the potential for erroneous pitch categorization)

    Of players with at least 40 PA’s, Nick Johnson does seem to see an extremely high percentage of fastballs.  He obviously has advanced pitch-recognition abilities in that he’s able to lay off breaking pitches that won’t be in the hitting zone but at what point does a hitter’s ability to lay off pitches begin to work against him?  If Johnson’s bat has indeed slowed down just a bit and he’s not willing to swing at fat pitches thrown for strike one, he’s really taking the bat out of his own hands.

    Fortunately, Johnson hasn’t cost the team any games.  Having said that, his sole responsibility on this ball club is to provide offense as a designated hitter.  An AL-leading 14 walks is nice but no one will respect a hitter if pitchers keep on offering fastballs and Johnson doesn’t punish them…

    Comments on Is Nick Johnson Too Selective?

    1. April 19th, 2010 | 8:47 am

      [...] of Was Watching takes a look at whether or not Nick Johnson is overly selective at the [...]

    2. April 19th, 2010 | 9:37 am

      I suppose this is another “Nick Johnson sucks” post?

      J/K

    3. clintfsu813
      April 19th, 2010 | 9:52 am

      Thought I warned you about this… ;)

    4. Tresh Fan
      April 19th, 2010 | 10:30 am

      MLB.com had an interesting article about this yesterday: Things are going so well for the Yankees these days that their fans really need to nit pick in finding something to complain about—one example being Johnson’s selectivity at the plate and another being Vasquez’s performances thus far (but cf. “Jon Lester” in reference to Vasquez). But for me there is something a little eerie about this season. Things are going a little too well, like the calm before the…

    5. OldYanksFan
      April 19th, 2010 | 10:30 am

      I think NJ sees FBs because he has a great eye and doesn’t swing at slop that’s not a strike. Harden already BBs a lot of guys, so unless he wants to walk NJ, he has to throw strikes… which for harden means FBs.

      Are you worried about Teix? He has walked alot and we know his current BA.
      Are you worried about ARod? He has walked alot, and while hitting decently, he certainly hasn’t hit his stride.

      Why are we ‘picking on’ NJ? He’s a new guy.
      Here’s here instead of the very popular JD or Matsui.

      Johnson’s career line is: .272 .402 .445 .847 / .371 wOBA
      HMatsui’s career line is: .292 .370 .484 .854 / .368 wOBA
      JDamons’s career line is: .288 .355 .438 .793 / .351 wOBA
      I don’t think we have to worry about Nick.

    6. MJ Recanati
      April 19th, 2010 | 11:16 am

      @ OldYanksFan:
      I’m picking on Nick Johnson by pointing out that he struck out on fasballs in three separate AB’s yesterday?

      All I did was ask a question. I know Johnson has a good eye and I know he won’t swing at breaking/off-speed stuff. The point, however, is that selectivity leads to seeing more fastballs. But what good does seeing more fastballs do if you won’t swing at any of them or — as has been the case with Johnson thus far — your bat is too slow to hit any of them?

      I’m not picking on Johnson, I’m asking a question. Moreover, I’m not finding something to nitpick. I’m thrilled the Yanks are 9-3 despite getting nothing from their 2-3-4 hitters. If anything, it’s encouraging that the Yanks can win ballgames without their best hitters doing much damage.

      You don’t learn anything if you don’t ask questions and that’s what I’m trying to do.

    7. April 19th, 2010 | 12:43 pm

      Is it just me, or, does this data suggest that teams are thinking Swisher can handle fastballs but not the curve?

    8. MJ Recanati
      April 19th, 2010 | 12:54 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Is it just me, or, does this data suggest that teams are thinking Swisher can handle fastballs but not the curve?

      Bingo. Which, if you watched yesterday’s game, makes it even worse when Swisher struck out on two FB’s in consecutive AB’s. If they know you can’t hit the breaking stuff AND you miss your opportunities with the straight stuff, that’ll eat you up at night.

      I’m amazed teams don’t throw more junk at Cano too, given how he loves to swing and doesn’t take too many pitches.

    9. Dwnflfan
      April 19th, 2010 | 3:08 pm

      This is the problem with analyzing small samples.

      Nick Johnson KILLS fastballs.

      NJ is 112 runs above average on FB’s over his career. He has never posted a negative number on fastballs…including this year’s +1.5 witch projects as a +20.25 over an entire season.

      In the 4 years he played over 100 games he has put up the following runs above average on FB’s.
      http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=828&position=1B
      2003 – 10.9
      2005 – 27.1
      2006 – 37.4
      2009 – 21.0

      That doesn’t look like a developing problem to me.

    10. Raf
      April 19th, 2010 | 6:45 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Is it just me, or, does this data suggest that teams are thinking Swisher can handle fastballs but not the curve?

      I was under the impression that most ML hitters are like that.

    11. MJ Recanati
      April 19th, 2010 | 9:35 pm

      @ Dwnflfan:
      I wasn’t analyzing small samples as much as I was just curious about the results so far. I never drew any conclusions.

      Having said that, his bat seems slow to me thus far in 2010 so I won’t blindly rely on his track record vs. FB because past performance doesn’t guarantee future results as the body (and bat) ages.

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