clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Josh Donaldson knows where his bread is buttered

New, 63 comments

Josh Donaldson is known as a very disciplined hitter. He's also a very self-aware one.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Just about everything that can be said about the Josh Donaldson-Brett Lawrie trade has been said.

That doesn't mean there isn't more to know about the man who will be manning the hot corner for the Blue Jays for the foreseeable future. MjwW already put out an excellent summary on what Jays fans can expect from Donaldson as a hitter, but today I figured I would go a little bit deeper on the man who rather justifiably fancies himself a "Bringer of Rain".

Donaldson's patience-power combo is well documented, as is his inspiration, but what makes the slugger so effective? It should come as no surprise to know that as a Jose Bautista disciple Donaldson absolutely feasts on pitches middle-in. The following Brooks Baseball zone profile shows his Isolated Power by pitch location since his 2013 breakout:

Almost all of his extra-base hits come from pitches on the inside half of the plate. We tend to think that Bautista is the same way, but in fact Donaldson is much more extreme in his preference for inside pitches. The Baseball Savant heatmap below shows the pitch location for all of Bautista's extra-base hits last season:

Joey Bats is hitting the ball with authority wherever it's pitched. Donaldson, on the other hand, is more specialized:

The 28-year-old does almost all of his rain bringing on pitches middle-in with a preference for balls lower in the zone. Interestingly, Donaldson's swing rate by pitch location over the last two years seems to suggest that he is very much cognizant of this information.

For the more chart inclined folks, the relationship between Donaldson's swing rate and power breaks down like this:

Pitch Location

Isolated Power

Swing Rate

"Inside"

.261

47.4%

"Outside"

.069

31.3%

For the purposes of the table I defined "inside" as the leftmost two columns in the zone profile above and "outside" as the rightmost two. From this information it appears that Donaldson destroys inside pitches, and he knows it.

The quick rebuttal to this would be to say that most extra-base hits come from pulling the ball, and it's easier to pull inside pitches. There is absolutely some truth to that, but looking at the distribution of Donaldson's extra-base knocks last year shows he is not just pulling the ball:

Even if the new Blue Jays slugger isn't hitting pitches all over the plate, he is driving balls all over the diamond. It seems that he is simply a savvy guy that know his greatest strength, specifically crushing inside pitches. More specifically, he has absolutely owned pitches on the low-and-inside corner of the zone.

He can pull those pitches to left field...

...drive them to centre....

...or even take them the opposite way.

Donaldson is just a special hitter. His combination of power and plate discipline make that abundantly clear. It seems that he pairs those abilities with a strong knowledge of where he can do the most damage on by aggressively going after balls inside and laying off outside pitches.

While self-awareness is unlikely to be graded on a scout's 20-80 scale, it could be a big factor in Donaldson's success.