Profiles in missing power: Evan Longoria
The Rays' third baseman isn't experiencing this season's biggest power outage, but its persistence should be a source of concern to Fantasy owners.
In my last blog post, I had a little fun exploring the flyball distance data on the Baseball Heat Maps website. I looked at several hitters with unexpected power trends this season, but Evan Longoria was not among them. With 11 home runs and a .129 Isolated Power at the break, he certainly qualifies as one who has disappointed with his power numbers, so when I got the following request, I was happy to oblige.
I didn't do any actual heat map analysis in my last post, but I'll take Kevin's request probably more literally than he intended and do some here. But first...on with the flyball distance data.
Longoria hit grounders at an unusually high rate in April (50.6 percent, per FanGraphs.com), but since then, he's been steadily lowering his ground ball-to-flyball ratio. So frequency of flyballs hasn't been a problem for Longoria over most of this season, but distance has been. In every season but one prior to this one, Longoria has averaged more than 290 feet on his flyballs (2011 was the lone exception, when his average flyball distance was 287.33 feet). This year, Longoria's average distance has dropped to 276.97 feet, so he appears to be experiencing a real drop in power, and not just an unlucky decline in his power stats.
Worse yet, Longoria has yet to have a month in which he has shown his typical level of power. June was his closest month, when he posted a .177 Isolated Power, which is well off his career norm of .226 and last year's .230 mark.
Now for the heat maps. According to FanGraph's heat maps, Longoria isn't being pitched to much differently this year than in the past, but he's been a different hitter. Whereas in prior seasons, Longoria posted his highest Isolated Power rates on pitches all across the center and inside of the strike zone, this season he is hitting for little power on pitches that are down in the zone.
Given the dramatic difference in Longoria's ability to drive lower pitches for power and his lack of an extended period with typcial power this season, I see little reason to expect a rebound in the second half. Granted, Longoria's power slump has been confined to this season, so it's premature to assume that he is in the midst of long-term decline, especially since he is just 28 years old. Whatever is sapping his thump this year has been persistent, though, so Longoria is far from an ideal buy-low candidate.
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