CLEVELAND – Finding the difference between a coincidental event and analytical data to disprove a coincidence can be tricky, especially when it comes to a pitcher’s first major league start.
Every ball hit off Chase De Jong was ripped to the pull side of each respective Indians hitter as part of a 12-4 victory on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field.
It was a small sample size of 15 batted balls in play, but the Tribe seemed to be in front of every pitch delivered by the 23-year-old rookie out of Long Beach, Calif. De Jong allowed six runs on nine hits in 2.2 innings of work to depart much earlier than he probably intended.
To begin, it is worth examining De Jong’s inability to keep the ball away from the middle of the plate…
On first glance, it is easy to conclude that De Jong just had a rough day on the mound and likely was adjusting to the pressures of making his third big league appearance.
Not so fast.
Opposing minor league hitters registered a pull percentage ranging as low as 39.9% in 2015 and as high as 66.7% in 2017 off De Jong. In looking at his five-year MiLB tenure, De Jong allows approximately 46% of batted balls to the pull side of batters, a mark that nears the “extreme-pull” category of 55%, according to Fangraphs.
This is exactly what Cleveland was able to do in the final game of their homestand…
In the above graph, all balls to right field came off a left-handed bat while all balls to left field came off a right-handed bat.
What did Francisco Lindor have to say after hitting a two-run homer just past the foul pole in right field?
“We just try to get the barrel to the ball, it just so happened it was to right field and the wind was blowing out that way,” said Lindor. "It was a big help when the wind was blowing, but we just try and get the barrel to the baseball and see what happens. We’re not sitting at the plate saying, ‘We’re going to pull this ball because the wind is blowing out.’”
Certainly there is some truth to what Lindor said as the wind was blowing at 15-mph out to center field, but the All-Star shortstop may not have been aware of De Jong’s historical numbers as a hurler that struggles to establish command on the outer-third of the strike zone.
Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Ramirez would mutually agree based their walks with numerous instances of De Jong missing outside…
With all this in mind, it will be interesting to see how De Jong adjusts moving forward in his professional career.
The MLB is a completely different ballgame compared to the minor leagues and his short-term success at that level may not translate into a long-term option on a playoff caliber roster.