Juan Francisco made his Blue Jays debut on April 19th and has been a surprising source of offense, sporting a .254/.333/.562 slash line and 144 wRC+ in 41 games. He has struggled over the past few weeks, recording no walks in his last 40 plate appearances.
In this FanPost I will look at if there has been a change in his approach at the plate or a change in the way he is being pitched to. I'll be looking at the difference between his first 21 and his last 20 games. If someone wants to see a different split just say so in the comments.
All images courtesy of Brooksbaseball.net
The First 21
Francisco saw 33.02% inside the zone (I imagine it is tough to be exact on the edges here) and a pretty decent number of those were right down the middle. The main plan of attack against Francisco through the first 21 games was to pitch him low and away. Over these games Fransisco saw 60% hard pitches, 26% breaking pitches, and 14% offspeed pitches. About half of the breaking pitches were thrown low to low and outside. Link
What we can gather from these two charts is that Francisco chased and missed a lot of pitches that were low and away. If we look at the away and low zones (squares with 38.4%, 70%, 33%, and 44% in the chart above) we see that Francisco swung at 38 of 92 pitches (41.3%) and missed 18 (47.3%) of them. This is pretty concerning. Most impressive to me is that he only swung at a single pitch located high and away, and though he missed, he let the other 15 go by.
Let's compare this to the last 20 games.
I'm surprised that the number of pitches up and away went up so much but the sample in both of these sets is probably too small to draw definite conclusions from. He still saw a healthy number of pitches low and away. The number of pitches in the zone saw a slight decline to 31.9%, and he's probably not too happy that the number of pitches right down the middle has decreased. The number of hard pitches he saw dropped to 52%, breaking pitches rose to 30%, and offspeed rose to 17%. Pitchers had the same idea throwing the bulk of their breaking stuff low and away for him to chase Link
I expected to see more swings and misses from the upper 4/5 of the chart. That being said, of the 66 pitches in the bottom row, he swung at 31 of them (46.9%) and missed 20! (64.5%). I'm impressed that he has only swung at 6 of 32 (18.7%) pitches above the strike zone. I'm also impressed that he is making a solid amount of contact on pitches inside the strike zone, only missing 6 of 51 (11.7%).
Overall, pitchers are adjusting by increasing their use of breaking and offspeed below the strike zone, and Fransisco continues to swing and miss. He's done well with pitches in the zone, and seems to be a pretty good mistake hitter. Unfortunately, the number of mistakes he has seen in the past 20 games has lowered. If Fransisco can learn to recognize breaking pitches low and away he will force pitchers to stay inside the zone where he has done well. If not, I see no reason why pitchers won't continue to abuse him in this way.
*Edit: e&n4e brought to my attention that the number of LHP per split can skew results if it's not even. Juan has been platooned much more heavily in the second half than the first half. He saw 89 pitches from LHP in the first 21 games and just 19 in the last 20. Assuming that he will be heavily platooned in the future, I will look at what only RHP have done to him below.
First 21 games RHP only