Jake Lamb’s Ugly Second Half

I’m a big fan of Jake Lamb. This is likely well known throughout the land at this point. And in the first half of the season, boy, did Lamb justify every bit of praise that was showered upon him. He was making contact at a high rate, using his ability to generate hard contact to further develop his power, and reaching base at an obscene rate. Lamb’s first half performance was a rare bright spot for an Arizona Diamondbacks club that has suffered greatly throughout the season, save for a few individual offensive performances. As the club has slipped deeper into its misery, though, Jake Lamb’s performance has tailed off considerably, appearing to leave more questions than answers at the plate as we approach the end of 2016.

Feast your eyes upon Lamb’s glorious first half figures:

AVG OBP OPS ISO BABIP K% BB% wRC+
First Half .291 .371 .983 .322 .337 24.6 10.6 151

He was everything you could’ve hoped he’d be coming into 2016, to the point where he could easily be classified as an All-Star snub. The lingering effects of a foot injury certainly sapped his power in 2015, so the combination of health and a refined swing (that created more leverage) led him to the production you see before you. That swing involved Lamb dropping his hands in his stance in order for him to create some lift upon contact, as well as generating harder contact overall. As such, there are some other figures we could add in here as well, like his 41.9% hard hit rate. Or his 20.5% linedrive rate. Or his HR/FB rate that came in at 28.2%. Hard contact allowed him to maintain that BABIP illustrated above. Those were all among the game’s elite at the hot corner in the first half of the season.

And then the second half happened.

Whatever All-Star caliber play Lamb had demonstrated in the first half appears to have escaped him here in the second half of the year. Since Part 2 of the 2016 campaign got underway, we’ve seen him firmly aboard the strugglebus, outside of a few individual plate appearances. Here are those numbers from the second half:

AVG OBP OPS ISO BABIP K% BB% wRC+
First Half .291 .371 .983 .322 .337 24.6 10.6 151
Second Half .193 .270 .651 .188 .238 29.2 9.7 63

That’s a pretty steep decline across the board. Certainly not helping his case is the fact that his LD% has dropped six percent (down to 14.5%) and his Hard% has dropped almost five full percent (37.0). That six percent lost in the linedrive game appears to have resurfaced in his flyballs, which have coincidentally risen more than five percent percent, from 33.8% to 39.1 across the two halves. Given the decrease in hard contact, it’s no wonder that his HR/FB ratio has been sliced in half, currently residing at a 14.8% figure. He’s become a well-below average offensive player in the second half, by virtue of wRC+ alone.

Additionally, not helping his case is the fact that he’s hitting .173 against left-handed pitching this season. The sample size is significantly smaller than that against righties, given that Chip Hale has left him extremely sheltered against the southpaws. Nonetheless, he’s gone for that low average, reaching base at a .287 clip, and going for a wRC+ of only 70. That’s not necessarily the source of his struggles, because the lefty thing has been lingering all season, but it’s at least worth noting that it isn’t exactly a contributor in a positive way.

As far as the actually origin of his struggles, it’s difficult to pinpoint. His overall pitch selection isn’t necessarily a factor because it’s fluctuated all year, with the only real notable trend being that he’s increased his swing percentage against offspeed stuff in each of the last three months. At the same time, there isn’t enough evidence in the number of whiffs to declare it a real issue. From July to August, he actually cut down on his swing-and-misses against offspeed, despite the increase. The pitch selection itself might not indicate a real problem, but pitch location might finally reveal the source of our query:

The is Jake Lamb’s Swing%, in terms of the zone, in the first half of the season:

lamb1sthalf

A lot of what you expect. The areas which he attacked allowed for good, level, hard, linedrive contact. And that’s what leads us into the trend from the second half:

lamb1sthalf

The most significant trend is on that high-and-inside spot. He’s become far more susceptible to swinging at pitches in that part of the zone, to the point where he’s chasing pitches that extend outside of the strike zone. And for a lefty hitter, that has the ability to lead to an influx of flyballs, which is exactly what we’ve seen from Lamb. He’s taking those offspeed or breaking pitches that he’s demonstrated a penchant for swinging, failing to generate hard contact, and lifting those pitches into outs. It’s not a particularly egregious trend on the part of Lamb, but could certainly indicate a source of his issues to this point.

One wonders if fatigue might be another factor in this instance. The 141 games and 555 plate appearances that Jake Lamb has made thus far this season represent easy career highs, especially coming off of a season in which he was able to appear in only 107 games and was still somewhat limited in certain aspects. But that element is more difficult to quantify. Instead, we’ll go with his selection as a source of the struggles. Regardless, one hopes that he’s able to right the ship, at least to some extent, within the next couple weeks. If not, a fresh start in 2017, supplemented with a new history of success that he managed to demonstrate in the first half, should allow Lamb to discover the formula to sustained success over a full season.





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Trey Baughn
6 years ago

Great timing on two Jake Lamb articles today
http://community.ottoneu.com/t/ryon-healy-or-jake-lamb/563