With new RF Nomar Mazara, Tigers working to unlock his launch rate

Detroit News

Chris McCosky | The Detroit News

Bradenton, Fla. — The good baseball folks at FanGraphs have made a keen observation about new Tigers’ right fielder Nomar Mazara.

How does a guy have a hard-hit rate that’s in the top 10 percentile in baseball last season, an exit velocity that’s in the top 18 percentile and come out of it with a career-low .228 average and just one home run? This from a guy who hit 79 home runs over four years with Texas.

Well, if you use FanGraphs data to research this, they answer the question for you. He hits the ball on the ground too much. His career ground-ball rate is 49.4%, with a 20% line drive rate and 30.6% fly ball rate.

“Ground balls suck,” former Tiger J.D. Martinez once famously proclaimed. “They are worthless.”

Beating balls into the ground is not conducive to home runs or a high slugging percentage, for sure.

Tigers manager AJ Hinch, while still waiting or Mazara to be cleared to begin camp, said there’s more to it than just getting the ball in the air more often.

“Getting the ball in the air doesn’t have to mean a fly ball,” he said. “There is a fine line between a fly ball and a pop up. It’s more about the elevation of the ball in the first 90 feet or 100 feet. The line drive rate, getting the ball off the ground is key.

“He’s got a lot of power. By getting him on plane, his damage will go up and his consistency should go up, and the soft contact on the ground should go down.”

Mazara played for the White Sox last season, where his assistant hitting coach, Scott Coolbaugh, is now his hitting coach in Detroit. Though Mazara never quite got on track in the 149 plate appearances he got last year, he did go 3 for 6 with a double and two RBIs in the wild-card series.

“Maybe they can build off that going forward here,” Hinch said. “We’re going to give him a lot of at-bats this spring. The more at-bats he gets with a — I’m not going to say an altered approach — but with a narrowed focus on getting the ball in the air.

“When you get the ball in the air, the exit velocity goes up, the ball can carry, especially with the strength he has.”

Mazara, like Renato Nunez and Victor Reyes, are in Lakeland. Their visa issues were worked out. Now they are waiting to complete their COVID-19 intake testing before they can start participating in camp. They have been working out on their own in the afternoons, after the rest of the players have cleared out.

“Especially against right-handed pitching, we really do need him” Hinch said of Mazara. “We want him to be a factor for us.”

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop and non-roster pitcher Wily Peralta are still not in country, so their delay will be longer.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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