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Yandy Watch 2017: Diving plays and swing planes

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There is a reason that Yandy Diaz doesn’t have any “power”.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Hello again, friends.

Please take your time as you settle in this afternoon. As we expect the crowd at these meetings for Yandy Watch to continually grow, our friend Steve took the initiative to bring an entire pallet of assorted Timbits and a tremendous amount of coffee.

Thank you, Steve.

I do not have very many administrative notes (flips through several pages) that actually matter, so let’s get right to it, then.

Yandy Diaz is an effective major league ballplayer. I think we all agree that what we presumed to be his calling card — an advanced approach at the plate — is taking a back seat to his proficiency in the field. This is a surprise. Or at least, it seems to be. It relies on advances metrics, so if you’re not sold on the — well, okay. Goodbye, Terrance. You don’t have to yell.

Anyway, I like to discuss a specific aspect of the #FreeYandy movement before launching into his statistics for the last week. Today, I find it more instructive to flip the script.

Yandy Watch by the numbers

April 7: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 SO

April 8: 1-4, 0 BB, O SO, 1 GIDP

April 9: 1-4, 0 BB, 0 SO, 1 R

April 10: The Cleveland Indians did not participate in a baseball game.

April 11: 1-4, 0 BB, 0 SO

April 12: 0-3, 1 BB, 3 SO

April 13: 2-3, 1 BB

Every hit was a single. Current season slash: .242/.306/.273.

Defensive Notes:

Other than missing a tag in yesterday’s trainwreck of a game, Diaz played exceptional-looking defense at third. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

So where are the dingers?

As it turns out, Yandy Diaz leads all of Major League Baseball in hard-hit ball percentage. His average exist velocity is 93.2. This complicates his lack of extra-base hits.

Another way in which Diaz might improve: being more aggressive on the first pitch. To date, Diaz saw a first pitch strike in 71.9 percent of his plate appearances, the 22nd highest total in baseball. Since Diaz makes excellent contact on pitches, he might be better served by teeing off on these early strikes. A single on the first pitch is as good as a single on the sixth, and it keeps him from falling behind in the count.

Finally, it’s a bit baffling that a man who crushes so many balls usually ends up hitting singles, isn’t it? And that a man so patient at the plate, waiting for a pitch he likes, doesn’t deposit them deep into the bleachers? Anyone who has looked at Yandy Diaz knows that he has all the power potential in the world. So, what’s the problem?

LAUNCH ANGLE. LAUNCH ANGLE LAUNCH ANGLE LAUNCH ANGLE.

To date, his average launch angle is -0.11 degrees. Yes, that is in the direction of the ground. The average MLB launch angle is about 13 degrees right now, up from 11.5 last season. It appears to me that an elite power hitter lives inside of Yandy Diaz, but he needs to add a little bit of lift to his swing. As it stands now, the quality of his contact in terms of power is on par with Josh Donaldson, Mike Trout, Yoenis Cespedes, and Paul Goldschmidt’s numbers from 2016. This is real talk.

If Yandy Diaz is able to make adjustments at the plate to fix his launch angle, he can transform into an elite power hitter. If not, he’s going to keep hitting line drive outs that break hands and singles that can’t score a runner from second.

For more on this, Michael Bode did an excellent write-up on the 11th, which gives a little more background on hitting profiles in general.

And now, the Matrix. Jim, the projector, please.

more dingers please

This is not a bad place to be at all. It is fine. It is good. No one is going to be mad that a rookie is nearly league-average at the plate and makes exceptional plays defensively.

Something to watch for, though: what if Diaz suffers from the Derek Jeter illusion at third? Sure, Jeter made diving, leaping, backhanded plays all of the time, but that’s because 90% of shortstops would have made them look routine. When it comes to fundamentals and mechanics, Jeter was masterful. The problem is that he had the range of a Frigidaire.

We’ve seen beautiful plays from Diaz so far. His sprinting, bare-handed snare makes me believe that his range is good, and his diving stop makes me believe that his reflexes are sound. Still, it is difficult to successfully rate a defender based on a single season worth of evidence, let alone a couple of weeks. It’s not quite as clear-cut as something like quality of contact, or launch angle.

For now, we can only sit back and enjoy the plays as they unfold. I recommend that you do the same. In person, if possible. I’ll be at the ballpark today, for example. Is anyone else from today’s meeting attending? Great, I —

Oh. Hello officer. A robbery? Well, I don’t... wait. They knocked over a Tim Horton’s? Where did he — when did he leave?!

God dammit, Steve.