Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Alex Rios Effect feat. The Power of a Hitting Coach

Last year can be summed up for Alex Rios in one word... nightmare. At the plate, in the field, on the base paths. Alex Rios had a brutal 2011. But for as bad as that year was, he's been that good this year.

Rios is now hitting a solid .360, including .432 in the last 10, on base of .414, 1 homer, 7 run batted in, and has scored 4 runs. He's also on an 11 game hitting streak in which he has 17 of his 18 hits this year.
He's also been fantastic on the defensive end. Getting good jumps on balls to his left, right, front and back. He flagged down the so called "hardest hit ball" in the Perfect Game and made a number of nice catches in the past 5 or 6 games as well.

In games in which Alex Rios has a hit, the Sox are a healthy 9-3. Games in which he gets an RBI, Sox are 3-1.

Rios' effect on the team last year was mostly negative. His consistent failures with RISP cost the team on numerous occasions, and he tended to bring these failures to the outfield where they would compound themselves.

Alex Rios has all the talent in the world necessary to succeed at this game. But he finds himself over thinking the game far too often. Long stride, short stride, no stride, hands high, hands low, hands move as ball approaches, up in the box, back in the box, you name it, Alex Rios has tried it.

But finally the Sox have a hitting coach who (thus far) seems as though he's addressing the problem. Alex needs to, like any good hitter, stay back and think opposite field. 11 of his 18 hits have been up the middle or the other way, including his game winning home run in the 9th in Texas.

The power number will likely decrease when this approach is taken. But the average will go up, on base will go up, strike outs will go down, and you will see a lot more pitches. Hitters that look the other way often fight off bad ones instead of swinging through them. They spoil the sliders down and out that once looked good and live to fight another day.

That was not the Greg Walker way. That way was sit back and drive the ball. Hit everything hard. The Sox often did this. They had 24 occurrences in which a player hit at least 25 HR's in a season. Most of which were 30+. So yes, the long ball was evident. But so were the strikeout numbers. The Sox ranked in the top 6 in the AL in strikeouts 4 of the 9 years he was here.

So Jeff Manto comes in and preaches something different. Something good. Stay back, and drive the ball the other way. See lots of pitches, strike out less, and force the defense to make plays. The Sox right now rank 2nd in the AL in striking out. And that number has been in free fall since the end of that series in Cleveland.

The Sox rank 2nd in the American league in foul balls, and 5th in the AL in pitches seen. Both numbers are getting better as well.

Now the big one. Scoring runners from 3rd with less than 2. The Sox have had 39 such plate appearances. The runner has scored in 19 of them. That's a scoring percentage of 54% good for 4th in the AL. Compare that to last year when the Sox were 2nd to last (that's 13th) with a sad 48% success rate. The teams better than the Sox in this department this year are the Blue Jays, Rangers and Angels respectively. Those teams are a combined 29-20.

That's how you win games. See pitches, and score runs when you have the chance. The Sox pitching staff is excellent. Arguably the best in baseball, 3rd in the AL in starters, 4th in relievers, and 2nd overall. Jeff Manto has had a very short time to work with these guys, but it's already paying dividends for Alex Rios and Adam Dunn, and it will likely begin to pay off for more guys. 10-6 is pretty good, but with the pitching we are getting, Manto's approach could lead this team to a very good year.

No comments:

Post a Comment