@Score_Tomlinson Colour me impressed by him, sure. Hitting #2 ahead of the hottest hitter in baseball doesn’t hurt, but full credit to him.
— Greg Brady (@bradyfan590) June 23, 2012
As we all revel in the wave of hotness that is a reborn Colby Rasmus, it is important we take stock. As one might expect, those who spoke poorly of the Blue Jays centerfielder are currently looking for new and exciting ways to cover their tracks. The soft-spoken Southerner makes an easy target and many people took aim during the winter and early-season swoon.
As the backhanded compliments eek out, it is important we consider the source and quickly do our best discredit them further. Their passive aggressive attempts at retaining credibility will not stand without rigorous oversight.
Despite ample evidence to the contrary, many people still buy into the myth of batter protection. The thinking goes like this, I think (paraphrased):
Hitter X is so good at hitting baseballs, we will make it more likely for him to bat with men on base by making it easier for the guy ahead of him to get hits. We endeavour to retire the obviously inferior batter stuck in front of Hitter X by offering more fastballs (which Major Leaguer hitters are better at hitting). It’s science, really.
Bunk, completely inaccurate science.
We could go through the archives of Baseball Prospectus or any one of a dozen different sites, pulling up hundreds of words written on the subject of lineup protection. The famous Manny Ramirez/David Ortiz examples stand out, not to mention the complete lack of protection offered Jose Bautista over most of the previous three years.
Enough digression, on to facts: Colby Rasmus is not seeing more fastballs or more hittable pitches. He adjusted his stance and position in the batters box. It allows him to reach pitches away that previously troubled him. He remains quick enough to spin on inside fastballs and drive them to right field, as evidenced by seven of the 10 home runs he hit since making these adjustments. Four of these blasts came on fastballs on the inside half.
Pitchers will adjust to Colby in time but, for now, he is one adjustment ahead of the league. He isn’t Babe Ruth and his 1.018 OPS since moving to the second spot for the first time isn’t going to last forever but he is certainly a better hitter.
If anything, pitchers are already changing their collective approach: they are throwing Colby Rasmus fewer fastballs. Even with the larger than life persona of Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus sees fewer fastballs in the #2 hole than he did over the first two months of the season. And they are throwing more of these pitches off the plate.
If heat maps aren’t so much your thing, I’ll summarize and add in pitch type information from pitch f/x:
- Colby Rasmus, prior to May 28th: 45.6% pitches in the zone, 50.4% fastballs.
- Colby Rasmus, since May 28th: 42.7% of pitches in the zone, 49.0% fastballs.
Marginally more off-speed stuff for Colby, notably more pitches outside of the strike zone. This is surely due to his current hot streak, not because of phantom fears of Jose Bautista hitting a two-run homer after some poor fool walked Colby Rasmus. The idea of protection just doesn’t match the execution, friends. Let’s go ahead and give full credit where it is due.