Three Keys to Brett Lawrie’s Turnaround

Love or hate; bust or star; I can’t recall a Toronto Blue Jay that has divided the fan base as much as Brett Lawrie.

At the start of the season fans were calling for his head, citing mental errors, a lack of performance, and maturity. Since returning from the DL and producing, segments of the Jays fan base consider Lawrie the second coming; a perennial all-star and a WAR beast.

What’s the deal? Is Lawrie on a hot streak, breaking out or soon to be cooling down.

His pre-DL (.279 wOBA, 23.5% K-Rate) and post-DL (.379 wOBA, 8.7% K-Rate) rates are night and day.

I’ve identified three ‘problem areas’ that Brett has improved upon since returning.

  1. Inside Fastballs
  2. Sliders
  3. Change-ups

We’ll look at all three; before and after his DL stint in late May.

Before DL – .279 wOBA, .642 OPS, .165 ISO, 23.5% K-Rate

Overall Swing rate – before his DL trip in late May:

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Inside Fastballs: .256 wOBA, .487 OPS, .063 ISO, 47.5% Chase Rate

Swing Rate – Note high chase rate low & middle in out of the zone. strike-zone (11)

Change-ups: .187 wOBA, .409 OPS, .047 ISO, 45.2% Chase Rate

Swing Rate – notice high rate for changes dipping low and out of the strike zone, particularly middle & in.

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Sliders: .279 wOBA, .616 OPS, .080 ISO

Swing Rate – note high chase rates of 40% and 46% away & out of the zone

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Post DL – .378 wOBA, .883 OPS, .193 ISO, 8.7% K Rate

Overall Swing Rate

strike-zone (8)

Inside Fastballs: .468 wOBA, 1.071 OPS, .429 ISO, 40% Chase

While on the surface the chase rate continues to be high, it’s important to note the location of the chases. Before the DL, Lawrie spent his time chasing middle in & down fastballs — pitches that are harder to drive — at a rate of 75% & 50%. Since returning from the DL, Brett is letting those pitches go;

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and instead focussing on ‘chasing’ high & in pitches. He’s mashing them to the tune of .800 SLG & .600 ISO.

Change-Ups:

While his actual success rate on decision change-ups (balls put in play, outs, walks, etc) is nothing to write home about: .125 wOBA, .245 OPS, .000 ISO; Lawrie has drastically cut down on the number of chases down to 31.8% (from 45.2%)

strike-zone (6) This keeps him competitive in counts and gives him the chance to offer at a higher quality of pitch.

Slider: .565 wOBA, .1.391 OPS, .348 ISO

strike-zone (7)

But one has to wonder how much of this is luck? A good portion of Lawrie’s in play success is coming against the aforementioned slider, but notice the location of hits. While he is taking advantage of mistakes up, one has to wonder if this will continue.

Also, 2 of his 5 post DL HR have come on mistake location curveballs.

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Let’s give Brett credit: he’s taking advantage of off-speed mistakes up in the zone and making opponents pay.

But I have to to wonder, is Lawrie’s recent success due to

  • luck?
  • a by-product of his new found patience?
  • simply chilling out?
  • or someplace in-between?

As the season grows, so will the sample size. We’ll check back in after–mercifully– the 2013 season ends.

What do you think?

Is Brett for real? Do you need more time to assess his performance? Is he just getting lucky? Let us know in the comments section.

Sources: Images, Stats via ESPN

has written for mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Matthias on Twitter, Facebook and Google +

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