John Mayberry had a frustrating, bad, awful first half. Well, almost every Phillie did it seemed, but Mayberry was particularly perplexing given the Phillies’ outfield situation and their justified decision to give him regular playing time following a fantastic 2011 showing. The right-hander finished the end of April with a .449 OPS and while he got slightly better in the coming months, he finished the first half with a disappointing .646 OPS. Once considered a potential starter, Mayberry was never the reliable, go-to bench bat throughout most of the first half. Due to the team’s poor performance in 2012 overall, entering July in last place and 11 games behind first place in the NL East, the Phillies decided to trade away center fielder Shane Victorino and right fielder Hunter Pence. And like that, Mayberry was back in the fold.
The second half has been a different story altogether. Since returning from the All-Star break, Mayberry’s OPS sits at .795 and he has had a number of big hits, including this go-ahead three-run home run that broke broadcaster Tom McCarthy’s throat:
The difference is fairly obvious: Mayberry’s mastery of the strike zone improved tremendously. In the first half, he struck out six times more often than he walked (61 to 10); in the second half, he is striking out less than twice for every walk (41 to 21). Mayberry’s ratio last year was similar at 55 to 26.
The second-half Mayberry has become a more dynamic hitter as well. In the first half, he was a dead-pull hitter. While still pulling frequently, he has gone to center and the opposite field much more often in the second half, as you can see in the following hit charts:
Mayberry hasn’t improved tremendously on pulled balls in play, sporting a .436 wOBA on batted balls hit to left field in the first half, and .447 in the second half. Similarly, his .312 first-half wOBA on balls hit to center is similar to his .335 second-half mark. On balls hit to the opposite field, however, his wOBA has jumped from .261 to .328. The pitch frequency heat maps hilariously show the difference in pitch selection:
It may simply be coincidental, but it does appear as if the All-Star break allowed Mayberry, and those who actively work with him on a daily basis, to pinpoint his issues whether judgmental or mechanical. He struck out at least once in nine consecutive games between June 20-30, and had 15 strikeouts with one unintentional walk from the 20th through the end of the first half. From his return to the end of July, he struck out only eight times in 39 at-bats. The walks have come in bunches recently, drawing 10 of his 29 unintentional walks between September 4-15, including three multi-walk games.
The Phillies are expected to be in hot pursuit of a center fielder during the upcoming off-season, particularly with big names like Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn. GM Ruben Amaro may also choose to spend extravagantly on a third baseman, at least one reliever, and a starting pitcher. Depending on how active the Phillies are and assuming Domonic Brown gets sole possession of left field for 2013, right field will be open for audition with the likes of Laynce Nix, Nate Schierholtz, and Juan Pierre (if he is retained). Once considered persona non grata, Mayberry has played himself back into a potential starting job or at the least a role as a platoon player. In fact, a Schierholtz/Mayberry platoon in right field might be the most logical solution for the Phillies going forward.