Friday, March 13, 2015

Scouting Report: Ian Desmond

As the long offseason draws to a close and we inch slowly towards Opening Day, Will Ferrell is busy living every 8 year olds’ dream. Without further ado, then, we wrap up our Scouting Report series with shortstop Ian Desmond.

Pitchers are fully aware of Desmond’s power potential and show him respect in how they choose the pitches they throw to him. In 2014, Desmond saw only around 50% fastballs from left handed pitchers and right handed pitchers. That is similar to what we saw with young slugger Bryce Harper. This also makes sense given Desmond’s penchant for hacking and for hacking at the first pitch especially. It’s easier to do damage on a first pitch fastball in the zone than a breaking ball off the plate, an option that is especially appealing to pitchers given Desmond’s proclivity for swinging at pitches out of the zone. When he is not seeing fastballs, Desmond gets an equal helping of curveballs, sliders, and change-ups from left handed pitchers at rates of 12-15%, although they tend to favor the slider as a put away pitch with 2 strikes (up to 18%). Right handers also favor the slider at 21% usage in all counts, even when the pitcher is behind.

Right handed pitchers really focus on keeping the ball to the low and outside corner. Check out the placement of fastballs in the first half of 2014 compared to the second half of 2014:

That bright yellow spot, the densest location of fastballs, is in almost the identical spot in both heat maps. You see pitchers exploring the zone a little more in the second half, working both inside and outside as they see how far out of the zone Desmond is willing to chase. I would expect this aspect to continue as pitchers try to keep the ball away from Desmond but also test the limits on his plate discipline.

Left handed pitchers took a similar approach with their fastballs as you can see with the heat maps for fastballs from lefties in the first half of 2014 and the second half of 2014:

The second half has a lot of noise, but you see that the red hot location in the lower, outside corner is the same spot right handed pitchers attack. The spottiness of the heat map is due to a smaller sample size, but you can still see that focus on balls outside of the zone away as the spot lefties attack to try and get Desmond to chase.

That low and away corner is where right handed pitchers focused their breaking balls too, as you can see from this heat map of breaking balls faced by Desmond in the second half of 2014: