Throughout this season, I have mentioned the importance of reviewing the data as much as you review the video. There has to be a balance of both because our eyes can deceive us whether we are staring at a spreadsheet of numbers or a spectrum of pixels on a video screen watching a player play on a daily basis.
Your statistical or visual bias can become even more clouded when it involves a player from your favorite team or one you watch and/or cover on a nightly basis. I know when it comes to Rays players, I am extra diligent while reviewing those players and will always reach out to other trusted sources to verify or to disprove things I see from my own research. I bring this up after seeing this tweet on Twitter on Tuesday.
I enjoy the writer's work and read his blog
to follow my childhood baseball team. Jose De Ortiz watches the Astros on a daily basis as part of his job, but the statistics do not match his observations right now.
Last year, I wrote a piece
about the changes Chris Carter
made at the plate after reading an interview from his Triple-A hitting coach and interviewing the organization's roving hitting instructor. One talked about him using more of his lower half while the other thought Carter was standing too far away from the plate and not allowing him to get proper coverage on the outer half. The changes led to the first amount of sustained success in his career last season as he hit .267/.371/.533 over July and August while walking 15 percent of the time and striking out 28 percent of the time. He closed out the season with an awful September, hitting .148 with a .644 OPS and striking out 43 percent of the time as the league made adjustments to the changes Carter made at the plate.
The trade to Houston brought about hope for Carter because it was a beneficial change in his home ballpark as well as a guarantee for increased playing time in Houston. The RotoWire projections for Carter were for him to bat .249 while slugging 22 home runs, driving in 69, scoring 64 times, and stealing that all-important one base. The batting average predictions, in hindsight, were fairly optimistic as Carter has hit 32 points below that mark but he has already exceeded the home run and RBI totals with another 19 games left to play, and he should get to the projected runs total while even surpassing the steals.
While it seems as though Carter has been around awhile, he is still just 26 years old and this season will end up being his first full campaign in the major leagues. Last season, he had 260 plate appearances for Oakland and this season, he has doubled that after Tuesday's game against the Mariners. Even though he was traded, he was able to remain in the same division and league as last season due to realignment which should have helped the slugger in knowing the opposing pitchers better than most hitters that are traded. Here are how his numbers compare heading into play last night:
Carter's strikeout rate has gone up, and that will happen in a division that features Yu Darvish
, Felix Hernandez
, C.J. Wilson
, Jered Weaver
, Hisashi Iwakuma
, Derek Holland
, and Jarrod Parker
among others. The decreased contact and walk rate have cut into his on-base percentage as it is 34 points lower than it was last season and the switch in home parks has not benefited Carter as his slugging percentage is down 66 points.
The following chart shows where Carter is in terms of plate discipline:
Carter is offering at more pitches this season while also coming up empty more frequently, despite seeing more strikes. He is putting fewer pitches in play because of the decrease in contact, in part because he is expanding his strike zone more than he was last season. When he connects with a flyball, it is still leaving the park at nearly the same rate as it was last season.
The league is pitching him with nearly the same approach as last season in terms of pitch type. He is seeing an identical percentage of fastballs this season that he saw last season, while changeups and breaking balls are within one percentage point. His groundball rate has fallen from 34 percent last season to 29 percent this season. That is part of the problem as batters are hitting .240 on groundballs this season but just .184 on flyballs according to Baseball-Reference.com
Looking into how he is hitting against different pitch types shows where the struggles are happening:
|2012 vs Fastballs||641||.294||1.074||28%||19%|
|2013 vs Fastballs||1281||.255||.923||32%||14%|
|2012 vs Changeup||110||.200||.860||20%||20%|
|2013 vs Changeup||183||.205||.741||38%||9%|
|2012 vs Breaking Balls||354||.153||.470||45%||5%|
|2013 vs Breaking Balls||693||.156||.479||49%||9%|
His production against fastballs has dipped but the off-speed stuff has also eaten him up this season in terms of strikeouts while he has shown little improvement in his production against breaking balls.
has made a career out of being a hitter who crushes mistakes out over the plate while coming up empty quite frequently. Gomes and Carter have identical weighted on-base averages this season despite the differences in their baseball card statistics. Carter, should he make just a bit more contact, could find himself on a Gomes-like path in his career as he tries to find his niche within the sport. We know he can hit with power, while serving as a designated hitter. The Astros are more than willing to give him the playing time as he works on things, but that could change as the roster continues to add talent from the farm system such as Jonathan Singleton
and George Springer
When you can strike a ball this well and make this kind of sound off the bat, you will get plenty of chances to prove yourself.