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Tsuyoshi Nishioka: A Study of Two Hitters

Since July 1, Tsuyoshi Nishioka has turned in a much-improved performance. It's certainly an arbitrary date, yes, but in the month of July he's hit .278/.350/.296. While there's certainly no power (just one double as his only extra-base hit this month), he's 15-for-54 in this period with six walks and just seven strikeouts. From the number eight or nine batter, power isn't a necessary trait, either. It's been great to see him doing better.

One of the things he's still struggling with is hitting left-handed pitching. It was a popular question about Nishioka when he came to Major League Baseball: how he would fare against the best pitchers on the planet while continuing to hit both ways?

The good news is that, not surprisingly, Nishioka has fared better against right-handed pitchers. Batting from the left side he's hit .254/.359/.269 this season, taking 10 walks against 12 strikeouts in 79 plate appearances. Against southpaws, however, it's not good. His batting average and on-base percentage are the same: .208. In 53 plate appearances he hasn't taken a single walk, against 12 strikeouts.

Advanced metrics courtesy of My Inside Edge echo those traditional statistics. The things that make him a good hitter against righties, such as plate discipline (A+ grades in all three sub-categories) and two-strike tendencies (again, A+ in all three sub-categories), and his ability to put together quality at-bats - they completely fall off the boat when he steps in against lefties. Take a look.

vs LHP

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2011

vs RHP

% MLB avg Grade Stat % MLB avg Grade
.214 .338 F On Base Average .359 .338 B+
16 43 D+ Quality AB 46 43 B+
21 17 C+ Early in Count Chase % 8 17 A+
52 36 D- 2 Strike Chase % 31 36 A+
27 18 D+ Non-Competitive Chase % 13 18 A+
43 36 C- % of 2 Strike Counts Ending in K 24 36 A+
.107 .266 F 2 Strike On Base Average .347 .266 A+
13 21 A+ 2 Strike Swing & Miss % 8 21 A+

All of this looks good, but it's only part of the story. The rest of Nishioka's grades against right-handed pitchers aren't the best, while some of the other numbers from Inside Edge insist Nishioka has had some successes against lefties. He's hit fastballs harder against lefties (.091 well-hit average versus .044); off-speed pitches, too (.082 against .016).

Balls-in-play splits only show some minor differences. He hits about the same ratio of line drives, but against left-handed hitters (with the higher well-hit average, apparently) he does hit a few more fly balls. None, absolutely none have been pulled into left.

I don't think much of what I've mentioned here is really a secret. We've known since Nishioka signed that he was stronger as a left-handed hitter, and a lot of numbers support that. The most interesting thing is that, in this small sample size, when he does make contact against his "weaker" side...he hits the ball harder. Even if he can't pull one in the air.