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What is Edwin Swinging At?

Last week, I basked in my hate of Brandon Phillips and examined his area of weakness at the plate.  This week, I've decided to take a look at player of whom I tend to be a fan: Edwin Encarnacion.

Encarnacion has had a down-then-up-then-down season at the plate this year.  He started out the first week and a half ridiculously cold, but then he went on a tear for about a month before falling into another prolonged slump for most of May.  His overall batting line (.234/.309/.411 - OPS+ of 84) definitely leaves something to be desired.  And while he has stepped up his defense of late, the Reds will need his bat to come around eventually if they are going to be successful this season.

(A quick update on the graphs: The area outlined by the white box is the strike zone.  The ten boxes around that zone represent the area six inches outside of the strike zone.  The four thin boxes outside of that are all other pitches.  Please leave questions or suggestions in the comments.)

More after the jump...

Edwin makes a lot more contact than I expected, especially from the outside corner in.  However, if you stare at the graph on the left long enough, you'll notice that Encarnacion has tough time doing anything with balls out of the strike zone.  Here's a breakdown in tabular format:

Location Pit Swing% Contact% BIP% AVG BABIP SLG
In Zone 322 63% 88% 57% .333 .382 .706
Out of Zone 447 30% 73% 54% .090 .135 .173

So far this season he has put 52 pitches outside of the strike zone into play and all he has to show for it are 5 singles and 2 doubles.  This is a big difference between Encarnacion and Phillips.  Both hitters numbers are similar within the zone, but Phillips is batting .271/.475 outside of the strike zone.  That's good for Phillips since he swings at balls out of the zone about 10% more often than Edwin. 

My first thought when I saw these numbers was that Encarnacion must be swinging at more pitches outside of the zone and that is why he is struggling.  In order to check this theory out, I broke out two sets of graphs.  The first set is for EdE's "bad periods" from 3/31-4/8 and from 5/3-present:

Location Pit Swing% Contact% BIP% AVG BABIP SLG
In Zone 192 60% 86% 55% .227 .273 .455
Out of Zone 278 29% 70% 53% .061 .100 .100


And then I broke out the same reports for the period from 4/10 - 5/2:

Location Pit Swing% Contact% BIP% AVG BABIP SLG
In Zone 131 67% 90% 59% .471 .511 1.000
Out of Zone 168 31% 77% 55% .138 .182 .273

Based on these numbers, it appears that EdE is actually swinging less when he is hitting poorly - by about 9%.  Obviously that's not a bad thing when the ball is out of the zone, but most of his swings are disappearing on pitches in the strike zone.  This explains why he has about 5% more called strikes when he's struggling, which then explains why he seems to be getting disgusted with the umpires more lately.

So what's the deal?  Well, it's hard to say as these data only show half of the picture.  We can't see whether he has a hitch in his swing or if he's pulling his head out or stepping in the bucket.  However, looking at these data, he may be having trouble picking up the ball out of the pitcher's hand or perhaps is having confidence issues with his strike zone judgment.  This would also explain the low numbers when he's making contact as he may not be squaring the ball up well when he does swing.

Any guesses from the gallery?