Do you know that after Stephen's (spot-on) manifesto on the philosophy of this site that we haven't actually published a story with hard-hitting analysis? I'll try to change that with this short look at Brett Wallace. I don't know about you, but I've been pretty quick to write off Wallace this offseason. I know it's unfair, especially since he got so few at-bats in the majors last season. They were spectacularly average at-bats, but that doesn't gibe with what he did in the minors, right?
Lucky for us, we've got some Pitch F/X data to delve into on Wallace. Just like when we used it to look at Pedro Feliz last spring, I'm not sure how useful the data is for drawing conclusions, but I'm going to nonetheless.
So what's the book on Wallace with pitchers right now? That he can't catch up to a good fastball.
Of the 625 pitches he saw last season, 209 of them were four-seam fastballs. 71 percent of those were thrown for strikes and he swung at 51 percent of them. He whiffed 10 percent of the time and put the ball in play 12 percent of the time on those fastballs.
49 of those fastballs came on the first pitch and the strike percentage remained the same. Wallace's swing rate went down to 44 percent, though his whiff rate remained the same. Here's the complete list of pitches he saw:
As bad as it seems that Wallace can't seem to hit a four-seam fastball consistently. Of course, the encouraging note here is that he did foul off a big percentage of those four-seamers (28 percent), which suggests that he might be able to hit them more consistently after he gets more comfortable in the big leagues. If it's because his bat isn't fast enough to get around? He's in trouble.
The other thing I found very interesting about that fastball data is his swinging strike chart/take chart:
There is just as big a cluster all along the inside of the strike zone as there is low and away. But the really interesting thing here is that the strike zone appears to be divided in half for Wallace. Anything up and away for him was something to swing at. Inside or low and he left it alone. Is that a hole in his swing or just batting preference? Will that be something Mike Barnett looks to change?
The pitch Wallace seemed to have the most success against was the two-seamer. Though he only saw it 11 percent of the time, he hardly ever swung through the pitch and really picked his spots well with it, putting it in play 25 percent of the time. All 72 sinkers he saw also came from right-handed pitchers. Of those 18 sinkers he put into play? Seven fell for hits and 11 were outs. Only six of them were infield outs and all but one were hit to the left side of the infield. Was Wallace trying to go inside-out with the pitch? The majority of the sinkers he hit did go to left field, so that may be the case. His overall spray chart doesn't show much of a preference for going opposite field. In fact, he has a cluster of hits that he pulled to short right field against right-handers.
It seems a bit incongruous, but the pitch he was able to drive the most was that sinker. He was rarely able to muscle up on four-seam fastballs and had trouble driving the slider, but that sinker banged off the facade at Minute Maid Park multiple times.
About those sliders. Wallace really seemed to struggle hitting that pitch this year. From lefties, from righties, it didn't matter. When he made contact, the ball rarely dropped for a hit. Why is that? Just look at the swinging strike chart for the slider from right-handers:
To me, that looks like pitchers trying to target him low and inside with that slider. That's a little dangerous, because the pitch has to sweep over a good bit of the strike zone first, but judging from the results, Wallace had a hard time hitting it.
Overall, I think what this data suggests is that Mike Barnett might need to work with Wallace on shortening his swing. If he can get to some of those pitches that are busting him inside, he could definitely up his batting average significantly. If a few more of those foul balls drop for hits, he's going to raise his average. In short, Wallace could get things turned around pretty quickly. The downside here is that Wallace may just not have the skill set to hit those pitches. If he doesn't have the bat speed to catch up to a good fastball or turn on an inside pitch, he may not be anything more than he was this season. I don't think that's the case, but it's worth watching next season.