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Jonny Venters' Dominant Slider

Jonny Venters has thrown 191 sliders this season, and opposing hitters have swung at 103 of those sliders.  Yet, of those 103 swings, they have hit nothing but air 70.9% of the time.  That leads all major league pitchers throwing sliders.  Sergei Santos of the Chicago White Sox comes in second with 64.9%, and there are only five other pitchers who have produced a Miss% rate on sliders greater than 50% this season.

(Click image to enlarge)

You can see that he keeps the slider away from lefties, missing the strike zone the majority of the time, while keeping it on the bottom of the zone to righties.  Venters has gotten opposing hitters to swing at his sliders located out of the zone 51.5% of the time.  In fact, Lefties have chased 61% of sliders he's thrown out of the zone, which ranks 3rd best in the league behind Jaime Garcia and Joel Hanrahan.

Last season, Venters was getting hitters to swing and miss at 63.7% of his sliders and chase 41.5%.  While both are still excellent overall (his Miss% also led the league in 2010), his current slider has gone above and beyond.  Lefties are hitting just .115 against, while righties have yet to get a hit in 35 plate appearances decided on a slider.  In fact, in the 61 PA in which a Jonny Venters slider was the deciding pitch, 51 have been strike outs (47 swinging, 4 looking).  The fact that he can throw his slider effectively to both righties and lefties is a major reason he hasn't allowed an earned run since June 29th.


Greinke's Results, Processes Match Up

Milwaukee's Zack Greinke entered July with a 5.63 ERA. After last night's seven inning, one run gem against the Dodgers, the erstwhile Royals ace now has a more palatable 3.92 mark. The simple, lazy narrative would be that the blockbuster trade pickup took time to adjust to his new surroundings and is now settling in.The truth is, Greinke has been dealing all season long.

Take a look at his year through the prism of Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), an ERA estimator that evaluates pitchers by strikeouts, walks and a normalized home run per fly ball rate:

May: 2.06

June: 2.45

July: 2.19

August: 2.59

*Greinke missed April while recovering from fractured ribs suffered during a pick-up basketball game. What, the Bucks don't cause enough grief for Milwaukee's sports fans already?

Greinke's overall 2.31 xFIP is best in baseball among starters with 120-plus innings pitched. The main reason that he had a 5.63 ERA in May-June and a 2.19 ERA since is that his batting average on balls in play has dropped significantly.

Here's the league average BABIP by pitch location:

Nothing earth-shattering here, but pitches thrown down the middle have a much higher BABIP than those thrown around the corners of the strike zone.

Now, take a look at Greinke's BABIP by pitch location by month:






Greinke's BABIP was sky-high even on pitches hugging the corners during his first two months of action, but since July he's mainly giving up hits on pitches put in play that are belt high or catch the fat part of the plate. Here are Greinke's BABIP totals by month: .349 in May, .350 in June, .271 in July and .286 in August.

Greinke has pitched like an ace all year, and with better luck on balls put in play, his ERA is starting to reflect that.



Stanton Killing Them Softly

Mike Stanton launched a home run in his fourth consecutive game last night, giving him 29 for the season and putting him just one behind Albert Pujols for the National League lead. While Stanton creamed an Aaron Cook sinker into the Coors Field stands last night, he has hit for even more power this year than during his rookie season by killing the soft stuff.

Stanton's 13 homers this year against "soft" pitches (breaking balls and changeups) ties Jose Bautista for the second-most in baseball (Carlos Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz both have 14). Stanon misses often on breaking and off-speed stuff -- his 45 percent miss rate places him in the same company as Miguel Olivo, Adam Dunn and Russell Branyan -- but he's pummeling pitches that he does connect on:

Stanton's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location vs. breaking balls and changeups

Overall, he's slugging .534 versus soft stuff, up from .452 in 2010 (.361 league average).

Stanton's 29 bombs tie him with Joe DiMaggio and Frank Robinson for tenth-most among hitters during their age-21 season, according to Baseball-Reference. While he'd have to go on an absolute tear to reach Eddie Matthews' all-time best of 47 homers, Stanton stands a good chance of passing the likes of Jimmie Foxx (33), Miguel Cabrera (33) and Pujols (37) to move into second place. I shudder to think what this guy's peak will look like.