I want you to look at a few pictures with me.
Well, not with me, I already looked at them, and drew some conclusions that may be right, may be wrong. You can draw your own conclusions. I’m not your dad.
Anyway, this is about Yandy Diaz, and a couple pictures that, I think, tell an interesting story about his abilities at the plate. First, here are all the pitches Diaz has taken this season in the majors that were called a ball, colored by pitch type:
That’s 32.7 percent of all the pitches he’s seen this year as of Thursday afternoon. The plurality of them are four-seam fastballs, 35.2 percent, followed by sliders at 29.8 and then two-seamers at 15.4 and changeups at 9.9.
That isn’t that surprising — it’s about the breakdown in terms of pitch types Diaz sees overall, within a percentage point or two. He particularly lays off pitches up in the zone a lot, especially close ones. That area is very 50/50 for umpires and they’re hard to hit up there, so he’s smart to do that.
The next image is all of Diaz’s batted balls this season, colorized by exit velocity:
That bright red one resulted in a double play against the Red Sox. His home run the other night was this one (this image doesn’t count as one of the three we’re talking about here):
It makes some sense — even with his rather flat swing, he had to go down and get that one a bit and it led to that launch angle boost we all clamor for with Diaz. In general, he does damage to pitches in the middle of the plate (duh) but also is quite impressive at getting to balls just below the zone and brutalizing them. They just tend to go in the wrong direction.
The third picture to look at is all the pitches Diaz has swung and missed at:
It’s happened a grand total of 19 times, or 6.8 percent of all pitches Diaz has seen this year.
A few of these are in his previously shown “nitro zone” as Rick Manning calls it. Most are on the outer side of the plate, demonstrating his love of going the other side. Combined with the exit velo image, paints a picture of the attack plan Diaz comes to the plate with. In conjunction with the balls he’s taken, it shows an incredible command of the plate — he’s barely chased out of the zone this year, and only two of them seem to be truly unhittable.
It seems like such a small sample size, only 278 pitches and 70 plate appearances — we’re barely on the edge of stabilization — but even here it’s illustrative. There’s no reason to think he’s going to suddenly expand his zone down the road. He’s successful, and he’s shown tremendous pop to all fields.
His approach is plainly to attack the opposite field if these pictures are any indication, and while that saps him of some of his power potential since he doesn’t pull for the bleachers, it’s still a path to some level of success. He’s a hitter who knows his zone like a superstar and knows what kind of pitches he wants to hit. That combination seems to be rare in baseball.
So draw your conclusions from what I’ve shown, I think it shows a player who deserves regular at-bats and has the ability to change games. We saw it once, we’ll see it again if he gets his shot.