Sunday, August 21, 2011

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By Andre Castillo - AngelsWin.com Feature Writer

So what's wrong with Vernon Wells? While many expected him to drop off from his stellar 2010 after moving away from Toronto, no one quite expected this:

BATTING
AVG
OBP
SLG
wOBA
WAR
Vernon Wells: Career
.274
.323
.468
.340
2.5 (avg)
Vernon Wells: 2010
.273
.331
.515
.362
3.9
Vernon Wells: 2011
.201
.234
.365
.263
-0.3

Vernon Wells has cratered, to put it bluntly. He's also walking less and striking out a whole lot more:

BATTING pt. 2
BB%
K%
Vernon Wells: Career
6.6%
13.1%
Vernon Wells: 2010
7.7%
13.0%
Vernon Wells: 2011
4.0%
17.3%

And he's not having much luck on the balls he does hit. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a career low, at .200. But it isn't all luck either. He isn't driving the ball with authority. His line drive percentage (LD%) has declined dramatically this year as well:

BABIP/LD%
BABIP
LD%
Vernon Wells: Career
.282
18.1%
Vernon Wells: 2010
.272
15.9%
Vernon Wells: 2011
.200
11.9%

So what's wrong with Vernon Wells? Well, a part of it is that he is swinging at balls out of the strike zone more than ever (O-Swing%) and swinging at balls in the strike zone less than he should (Z-Swing%). He's also swinging at more pitches than normal (Swing%) and swinging and missing more (SwString%):

PLATE DISCIPLINE
O-Swing%
Z-Swing%
Zone%
SwStr%
Swing%
Vernon Wells: Career
26.9%
71.9%
45.1%
8.8%
49.8%
Vernon Wells: 2010
33.5%
71.9%
48.1%
9.6%
50.8%
Vernon Wells: 2011
36.7%
68.1%
51.0%
10.1%
51.8%

All that said, there isn't any one indicator that seems to explain it all. Even though all of the bad plate discipline indicators are up, they aren't that much higher than they were in 2010, when Wells was having a very productive year. Vernon Wells is swinging at a more balls outside of the strike zone this year than his career, but look at the chart -- the year before, 2010, he also swing at a lot more pitches out of the strike zone. So we should have expected a decline, yes, but it's hard to say whether this fact explains all of his decline, or even most of it.

Let's look at how he's being pitched:

PITCH TYPE
FASTBALL
SLIDER
CHANGEUP
CURVEBALL
Vernon Wells: Career
59.7%
16.4%
9.3%
9.2%
Vernon Wells: 2010
58.3%
17.1%
7.8%
9.2%
Vernon Wells: 2011
58.2%
16.0%
9.6%
8.9%

These numbers are rather consistent too. Curveballs and sliders slightly down from a year ago, and change ups are a little bit up, but nothing extreme. So let's look at one more set of indicators, his home and away splits:

Batting AWAY
OBP
SLG
wOBA
Vernon Wells: Career, AWAY
.317
.449
.332
Vernon Wells: 2010, AWAY
.299
.400
.306
Vernon Wells: 2011, AWAY
.245
.416
.292

Well look at this. Vernon Wells actually has been pretty consistent from this year to last in terms of his stats away from home. Both were a significant drop off from his career numbers, but in terms of wOBA, he actually looks like the same Vernon Wells from 2010. I think we may have our explanation. But just to be sure, let's look at his home numbers:

Batting HOME
OBP
SLG
wOBA
Vernon Wells: Career, HOME
.331
.493
.351
Vernon Wells: 2010, HOME
.363
.627
.417
Vernon Wells: 2011, HOME
.221
.309
.232

I think we may have it. Vernon Wells was a monster at home last year, far surpassing even his career averages. This seems to have masked the fact that he was actually already entering his decline phase. If you look at his career compared to 2010, he actually was in decline in 2010 in most indicators, such as LD%, plate discipline, and his away from home hitting slash (AVG/OBP/SLG, and wOBA) -- everything except his BB%, which somehow spiked in 2010. And if you look at his overall away stats from 2010-11, he's actually been pretty consistent. It's only his home numbers that have cratered. Instead of having a favorable stadium in Toronto, it looks like had a heck of a time adjusting to Angels stadium, which for whatever reason doesn't play well for him.

I guess when he said he had difficulty "getting aligned," he really meant it.
Love to hear what you think!

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