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Trying to uncover the differences in Adrian Gonzalez’ at-bats this season

05.07.12 at 12:49 pm ET

So what are the differences in Adrian Gonzalez‘€™ at-bats this season, compared to 2011? Thanks to BaseballAnalytics.org we were able to take a closer look at Gonzalez’€™ approach this season and how it might differ from a year ago.

The key to Gonzalez’€™ success in the past hasn’€™t been complicated: He hits balls in the strike zone better than almost anybody else in baseball. Last season, for example, his batting average on balls in the strike zone was a major league-best .418 on pitches in the zone, with Ryan Braun coming in a distant second at .394.

This season Gonzalez has a .319 batting average on balls in the strike zone. It’€™s still respectable and within the top 50 percent of the league average, but certainly not to his standards. (Ryan Sweeney, by the way, is at .451 on balls in the zone.)

He is still swinging at more balls in the strike zone than any Red Sox hitter 73.9 percent (compared to 68 percent last season), but isn’€™t making his usual contact. In ‘€™11 he swung and missed at just 11 percent of the pitches he saw in the strike zone, whereas his swing and miss percentage currently is at 20 percent.

Gonzalez also isn’€™t putting balls in the strike zone in play as often down from 45 percent last season to 39 percent this time around.

But another big problem for Gonzalez is coming in how he handling pitches out of the strike zone. In a nutshell: He is putting too many bad pitches in play.

Gonzalez carries a .171 batting average this season on pitches out of the strike zone, also down from last season’€™s mark of .211. But here’€™s the difference:

The first baseman is swinging at slightly more bad balls (33 percent this year compared to 31 last year), but he is putting far more in play. Gonzalez has put 38 percent of his swings on pitches out of the strike zone in play, compared to 31 percent in ‘€™11.

And when you’€™re looking for balls out of the strike zone that result in a strike for Gonzalez, it continues to be down in the zone (making up around 75 percent, which is similar to last season’€™s total).

As for Sunday’€™s 0-for-8 performance by Gonzalez, 11 of the 26 pitches he saw were out of the strike zone. He swung at four of them, striking out once and putting another in play.

He fouled six balls off, four of which were in the strike zone. Gonzalez saw a total of 15 balls in the strike zone, swinging at 10. (Marlon Byrd, by the way, swung at 26 of the 36 pitches he saw Sunday.)

One more strange turn for the worse for Gonzalez has been facing starting pitching for a third time through the lineup. Facing a starter for a third time this season, Gonzalez is 2-for-19, whereas last season he thrived in such situations, hitting .330 with an OPS (1.022) better than the first two meetings with the pitcher.

It’€™s still very early, but when a hitter the caliber of Gonzalez experiences a day like Sunday, analysis (and over-analysis) seems inevitable

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