So, I'm continuing the heat maps analysis series today, and, per a request from the thread the other day, I want to take a more nuanced and visual look at what has been killing Mitch Moreland's production. I don't want to run these posts into the ground, because (a) if I do, you'll begin tuning them out, and (b) if I don't seek to make hard points with these heat maps, they're basically just further contributing to everyone's crippling cases of information overload
Here, then, is the point that I want to make, and the point that I think is supported by the graphics below: Moreland is losing the battle within the outer third of the strike zone. Badly. As was the case yesterday, you can click on each individual heat map to enlarge it to full size:
Moreland until 6/29/11: 485 PA, .284/.362/.481, .359 wOBA, 21 HR, .315 BABIP
Moreland from 6/29/11-present: 273 PA, .218/.280/.335, .267 wOBA, 6 HR, .250 BABIP
These numbers/heat maps do include post-season plate appearances.
Why June 29th, you ask? Because that appears to be a significant inflection point where his offensive performance really began to crater ... he had already been in the process of falling off for the better part of June, but after collecting three hits in seven at-bats on June 26th and 28th, Moreland began a 4-for-38 slump (beginning June 29th) that signaled the onset of a larger-scale second-half slump.
What's especially interesting is that the league appears to have caught onto the fact that Moreland has lost his way against pitchers on the outer half of the plate ... embedded below are two more heat maps, with the heat map on the left showing the distribution of "hard pitches" (fastballs, cutters, sinkers, and splitters) against Moreland from the beginning of his career up until June 29th, and the heat map on the right showing that same distribution from June 29th to present:
As Moreland has lost his capacity for hitting outside fastballs, opposing pitchers have attacked that area of the zone more aggressively while eschewing the middle-in fastball. Now, obviously, there's more to Moreland's struggles than merely his emergent difficulties against outside heaters, and we still don't know exactly why he's faltering against such pitches now ... but at least we're getting closer to solving the puzzle.
And that's the entire purpose of utilizing these heat maps: solving puzzles.
A couple of additional bonus time-lapse .gifs after the jump, for those who want to watch Moreland's decline in visual form.
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[All data and graphics courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information.]