Watching Jered Weaver (LAA) battle Nelson Cruz (TEX) in the second inning Wednesday night, it stuck me that the plate appearance was a classic battle between a good hitter and a great pitcher. Here is a graphic representation of the pitch sequence:
The diagram on the left shows the location of the pitches in the strike zone. On the right the break of the pitch, how much it deviates from a straight line. Weaver threw five straight fastballs to Curz. The first three tried to get Nelson to go fishing outside the strike zone. Jered started him with a pitch in the dirt, then tempted him outside. Cruz did not buy the pitches, and put himself in an excellent position for the rest of the at bat, up 3-0 in the count.
Cruz knew he would get a strike on 3-0, and Weaver put the pitch up and in, and Cruz swung through it. Weaver then took five miles off his fastball, dropping it from 90 to 85, and got another swinging strike.
Jered had now shown Cruz five straight fastballs. He had changed location and speed, but each exhibited the same break. Weaver, if you will, had trained Cruz to follow the ball a certain way. As I watched the final pitch, Weaver gave him the fastball motion, but snapped his wrist as he released the ball. It was clear from the centerfield camera that the pitch was going to do something different. You can see the difference in the break above, but it also was different in another dimension:
The last pitch came in at 79 MPH, taking a totally different patch to the same spot as the fifth pitch. Cruz swung and missed, and Jered made a comeback from a poor start to another strikeout.
The pitch was classified as a slider, and Jered's slider has been his best K pitch this season. He gets a 32.4% strikeout rate with his slider, the highest of any of his pitches. He's struck out more batters with his fastball (15 to 13), but he used the fastball to end more PA 63 to 38 for slider. He doesn't throw it as often, but when it comes after a number of fastballs, it's a very effective pitch.