Fixing Ben Revere

Ben Revere has had a couple big hits lately — Sunday night’s go-ahead single and Friday’s first-inning triple — but overall, the Phillies’ center fielder has struggled through 20 games. He hit .294 with a paltry .675 OPS with the Twins last year, but those numbers are down to .215 and .494 thus far. Obviously, we’re dealing with a small sample size of 85 plate appearances, so a lot can change over the next five months, and Revere has never exactly been known for his offense.

In looking at Revere’s stats, three things immediately jump out at you:

  • Increased strikeout rate: Revere is your typical “grinder” type of hitter — he sees few pitches, swings and misses rarely, hits a lot of grounders, and doesn’t hit for much power. Think Emilio Bonifacio or Juan Pierre. Revere has struck out at a 14 percent clip this year compared to his rate last year which was below ten percent. In 85 PA, the difference is between three and four strikeouts, but strikeout rate is one of the fastest-stabilizing stats according to Russell Carleton’s research. To be fair, Revere has struck out just once in his last five games, so perhaps it was some early season rust, or something to do with being on a new team and wanting to do too much. Who knows? But still, the elevated strikeout rate stood out.
  • Increased ground ball rate: Revere has put 64 balls in play, 49 of them on the ground. That 77 percent rate is ten percent above his rate last year and nine percent above his career average. The difference accounts for about six balls in play, so it’s nothing huge yet. Ground balls generally go for hits about ten percent more often than fly balls, which leads us to this third item…
  • Lower BABIP: …but Revere is batting just .184 on grounders compared to .258 last year. The difference between the two, with 49 grounders, is 3-4 hits, but an additional four hits instead of outs would bring his overall batting average from .215 to .266. Generally, in such small samples, I discard BABIP variance, but I am not so quick to write it off with Revere since he has so much control over it with his propensity to hit grounders and his speed. His overall BABIP was .325 last year and is just .254 this year. Maybe he’s doing something with his approach…

Last year, Revere had a majority of his success on pitches on the outer-third of the plate as his BABIP was .367. This year, he isn’t having any success on the outer-third as his BABIP is .154. You can see the difference in the following heat maps:

Meanwhile, Revere isn’t having any success on inside pitches unless they’re low and in. His overall BABIP on inside pitches is .313 but his batting average is .217 thanks to seven strikeouts in 24 plate appearances (29 percent). Last year, his overall BABIP on inside pitches was .296 with a .272 average, including 12 strikeouts in 137 PA (nine percent).

Pitchers are approaching him the same way as last year — they challenge him with mostly fastballs over the plate. And Revere is having similar success on fastballs though he is swinging and missing at twice last year’s rate. It’s the soft stuff that is giving Revere fits right now, at least when it comes to putting balls in play. He has an .074 average and .087 BABIP on pitches labeled “soft” compared to .245 and .294 last year. Revere would hit line drives on soft pitches as his rate was 15 percent last year and is only nine percent thus far. Pitchers are also throwing their breaking pitches right over the plate, astonishingly:

Thus, Revere’s two biggest problems are:

  • Swinging and missing too much on fastballs
  • Rolling over on breaking balls for weak grounders, rather than making solid contact and hitting line drives

Identifying the problems are one thing, finding a solution is another. It could be entirely a sample size issue, it could be mechanical, or it could simply be based on Revere’s approach. As the season goes on, Revere’s ability to adjust will tell us if his elite defense and base running are enough to justify keeping his weak bat in the lineup.

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16 comments

  1. max

    April 23, 2013 08:40 AM

    the SO rate and BABIP stood out to me. i hadn’t looked up any numbers but it certainly seemed that when he hit the ball hard it was right at someone, in the air or on the ground. conversely, when he has rolled over on off speed pitches, it also seems as though they end up being hit directly at a fielder, not giving him time to beat the throw. hopefully this will even out and he’ll be the beneficiary of some luck.

    that is, unless, this is a mechanical problem. but that’s why i’m not a hitting coach.

    the SO rate is what worries me a little more. BB referenced some BP research saying that SO rate returns to normal quickly. so maybe i shouldn’t be worried? i’m really hoping it can be attributed to revere just wanting to produce on a new team and is ‘trying too hard’. many people assigned that excuse to hunter pence when he was struggling the first part of last year w/o howard and utley in the lineup. he did end up hitting .271 with the phils and was still the team HR leader for a while after he was traded.

    so who knows. i guess i’m not worried.. ?

  2. NavyJoe

    April 23, 2013 09:02 AM

    Not to be overly negative, but isn’t Revere’s outstanding baserunning pretty much rendered meaningless by his abysmal OBP?

    How many SBs would he need (and at what success rate), in order to justify his continued play at a .258 OBP?

  3. Jay

    April 23, 2013 09:17 AM

    Please don’t confuse speed with “outstanding base running”. His base running just cost the Phillies a game against the Cardinals when he inexplicably remained a fixture at 3rd base when he was the tying run.

    Speed can make up for a lot of things (like his great catch that only happened because he misjudged a fly ball). It can’t make up for a career OPS of .631.

  4. Jonny5

    April 23, 2013 09:18 AM

    Navy Joe. His .258 OBP is NOT representative of his ability over an entire season. Unless there really is a voodoo curse on this team. He’s pressing. New team, new city, new expectations. it all gets into a man’s head. Give him some time and I expect he’ll be well north of .300 OBP.

  5. Jonny5

    April 23, 2013 09:21 AM

    Jay, that WAS NOT a misjudged fly ball. He was off and running in a straight line from the crack of the bat. It wasn’t even a fly ball!! That thing was on a rope the whole way!! Get a grip on reality will you?

  6. NavyJoe

    April 23, 2013 09:50 AM

    Jonny5,

    I realize that his current OBP is not reflective of his historical average, but I believe that the article presented some evidence that his OBP may not improve dramatically (e.g., KO rate stabilzation).

    As to his base running, objectively it is very good, at least according to Fangraphs.

  7. Jay

    April 23, 2013 10:13 AM

    Jonny5,

    I am not disputing it was a tremendous athletic play. It will no doubt receive “play of the year” votes at the end of the year….but there is no disputing his first step was going forward before breaking back to make the catch. Don’t believe me? Why don’t you listen to Scott Franzke’s call of the catch.

  8. Phillie697

    April 23, 2013 11:05 AM

    @Jay,

    Who cares about one play. People who focus on one play is just looking for anecdotal evidence to back up a flawed thinking. Regardless of whether he misread that ball or really did make an amazing catch, the important thing is he CAUGHT it.

    @NavyJoe,

    You’re right, his superior base running doesn’t really help the team much if he can’t get on base. No matter how good his defense is, if he keeps hitting with a .494 OPS, he can be the second-coming of Andruw Jones in his prime at CF defense and it won’t matter.

  9. Jonny5

    April 23, 2013 11:16 AM

    NavyJoe, I don’t think it will raise dramatically, but it will raise enough. Nobody expected Revere to gain any new OBP skills when the trade happened. I expect him to remain at Jimmy rollins level of production when it comes to OBP. Which I think is not too good for a lead off batter. Right around 100th best in MLB for OBP as your leadoff man is not good by any means. J-roll had ranked 112th in OBP last season and is the lead off hitter of the Phillies right now. And they wonder why they have trouble scoring runs? The best OBP guy on the team is Just not any good at getting on base. Not one player in the top 100 for OBP. Not one.

  10. Steve

    April 24, 2013 06:20 AM

    I thought one of his “strengths” was the ability to bunt for a hit but, from what I see, the fielders have no fear of him hitting a ball hard enough to hurt them as they are almost on top of the plate when he is batting. Rendering the ability to bunt a moot point. Last night, I would have rather seen them do a bunt then have him swing away and have Mayberrry dead at the plate. So far, I see a bad trade by RAJ as he looked at the two CF’s the Twins were trading and chose the weakest of the two. I do not dispute May and Woorley have not produced but I think you could have gotten a better piece for the two if the Phillies Front Office evaluated talent better.

  11. Jeff T

    April 24, 2013 09:29 AM

    I think I meantioned this a week ago, but I for one, am not worried about Revere. I have liked his overall approach as he seems to see a lot of pitches. His babip is ridiculously low while he has a 76% GB rate. I truly feel that his slow start is more a matter of SSS than anything else. Also, I think his minor league history could suggest more OBP talent than we have seen form him in his ML career. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him achieve a 6.5% walk rate at the apex of his career. I truly believe we will feel a lot better about Revere at the 150 PA mark on the season.

  12. Phillie697

    April 24, 2013 09:49 AM

    This is the first time ever I’ve read anywhere where someone considered a 6.5% walk rate a “talent”…

  13. Scott G

    April 24, 2013 10:14 AM

    Scott Franzke is an authority on something? I don’t trust any of the Phillies announcers (despite the fact that I love LA). They constantly make incorrect statements, watch the replays, and repeat the same mistake because they’re too arrogant (or dumb) to acknowledge that it was a mistake.

  14. Steve

    April 24, 2013 11:44 AM

    @Jeff T A good article on Ben @Phils Baseball Blog. I think your eyes deceive you regarding his plate discipline. “Even more alarming is that his approach at the plate is unchanged. Revere talked openly about drawing more walks and seeing more pitches. Well, his walk rate is the same as his already low career rate of 5.4% and his 3.54 pitches per plate appearance is actually lower than his career rate of 3.57. In fact, of the 10 Phillies with at least 30 plate appearances, Revere ranks dead last in pitches per plate appearance.”

  15. Kevin

    April 24, 2013 12:20 PM

    Try steroids? I don’t know. Show his spray chart from last year. I don’t see how this guy has any success unless he is flying under the radar as a part time player. It seems as if opponents can easily pitch and position for him and he is no threat to clear the outfielders even though they play him very shallow. I’d label him a .260-.270 hitter with .300 or lower OBP (why would anyone be afraid to throw him strikes?) and absolutely zero power. I just don’t see much worth there.

  16. Steve

    April 24, 2013 02:29 PM

    At least Mini Mart had a little pop, Hell, JP had more then this guy. I hear they are trying to get him to use his legs and lower body instead of just his arms but do you perform a major change to someones hitting style at the Major League level. I don’t want Ruf at the ML Level yet, let him get a little more time but I still would rather see an outfield of FG, JM, DB and Nix as the forth and see what FG can do with regular playing time before DY is brought up. It is a sad set of choices we have.

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