Matt Joyce Stuck At Three Home Runs In 2014
In the previous three seasons Matt Joyce averaged a home run every 27 plate appearances while averaging 18 home runs per year. This year with the season half way over he has hit only three home runs or one every 87 plate appearances.
Maybe a little more concerning is that the drop in power being exhibited in 2014 actually started in the second half of 2013 when he hit just four homers over his final 171 plate appearances (HR per 42.75 PA).
He is still the same hitter as he has been in the past. According to Fangraphs.com his line drive/groundball/flyball distribution of 20.8%/38.7%/40.5% is not that different than his career 19.7%/36.4%/43.9%.
As expected the number that sticks out the most is his HR per fly ball rate. The last three seasons he has a HR/FB rate of 12.3%, 13.3%, and 12.7% while his number in 2014 has dropped to 4.5%.
He is having a good season in other areas carrying a .259 average and an impressive .349 on-base percentage into today’s game but much of his value is tied to his being able to provide power in the middle of the order.
A measure of a players raw power is isolated power (ISO) which is simply slugging percentage – batting average which results in the percentage of exta-base hits per at-bat.
Looking at each season in which he had more than 250 plate appearances we see a decline in ISO: 2008 (.240), 2010 (.236), 2011 (.201), 2012 (.188), 2013 (.184), and 2014 (.123).
The reason for his drop in power is unclear. He is only 29 years old (30 on August 3rd) and the power drop exhibited is more common among players in their later 30’s.
As far as we know he hasn’t been hobbled by a nagging injury and he hasn’t spent any time on the disabled list this year.
He is walking and striking out at relatively the same clip as his career rates.
Overall, he is still hitting the same amount of fly balls as he normally does the question is why aren’t they leaving the park?
A hitting coach is often blamed for things out of his control as it is ultimately up to the player to apply the adjustments.
After hitting 60 home runs in his previous 1555 plate appearances heading into last seasons All-Star break, a healthy Joyce has hit just seven in his 432 plate appearances since.
We don’t know if Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton has provided the mechanical adjustment to him and he just can’t apply it at the plate but there has to be a way to unlock that power he once exhibited.
He still has value with his ability to get on-base and provide higher than league average all around production with the bat as shown by his 106 wRC+ (6% better than league average) so he still has value to the Rays and to other teams.
He is currently making $3.7MM and has one year left until he is a free agent. He stands to make around $5MM in 2015 but if he is unable to provide power he becomes a duplicate of David DeJesus who is set to make $5MM himself.
It will be interesting to see if the Rays try to move Joyce at the trade deadline this year or over the winter and if they do track whether or not a new environment (hitting coach) can unlock the secret to the disappearing power.