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This site utilizes the MLB analytics platform powered by TruMedia Networks

Tuesday
Aug022011

Jered Weaver Head Hunting

Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim received a six game suspension on Tuesday for throwing at Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers.  Note that Weaver is not afraid to pitch inside to left-handed batters.

Jered Weaver, pitching inside to lefties out of the strike zone, 2011.Compare that to the league average:

MLB, RHP inside to LHB, 2011.Weaver tends to come farther inside than most righties, and up and down a bit more.  His high pitches usually end up over the plate, not near the batter's head.

Look where he threw the pitch to Avila:

Jered Weaver pitch to Alex Avila, July 31, 2011 (pitch labeled 1).That is not where Jered normally pitches when he misses.  It's off the chart.

Monday
Aug012011

Verlander's Effective Fastball

Major league batters can hit a fastball.  Study opposition batting on pitch type, and most pitchers give up the most offense on the fastball.  For example the MLB wOBA on the fastball in 2011 is .339.  On the change up that drops to .286, the curveball .252.  The same holds for Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, except that his fastball is also tough to hit.  His fastball delivers a .260 wOBA, his change comes in at .256 and his curve results a .153 wOBA.

Verlander throws a high speed fastball.  In 2011, the pitch averages 95.1 miles per hour, putting him in the 93rd percentile.  That gives batters problems.  There is a speed limit above which the fastball gives hitters trouble.  The following graph shows swing data by the speed of Verlander's fastball:

Justin Verlander, Fastball, 2011.

Notice what happens as Verlander's velocity increases.  The swing rate goes up, and the contact rate goes down.  More swings and misses, which is an excellent result for the pitcher.  Strike zone judgment decreases as well.  The higher velocity gives batters less time to recognize the pitch as a ball or a strike, and they chase more pitches out of the strike zone.  Even if batters make contact on what should be balls, the probability of a good result goes down.

Verlander can consistently hit between 95 and 97 MPH with his fastball.  At that speed, he holds the advantage, giving him a fastball wOBA in the 94th percentile in the majors, and helping him finish and flirt with no-hitters.

Monday
Aug012011

Derrek Lee: Dangerous Inside, But Elsewhere..

Growing tired of Lyle Overbay's punchless hitting, the Pirates picked up Derrek Lee from the Orioles on Saturday for minor league first baseman Aaron Baker. While Lee is in the midst of his worst offensive season since he was in his early twenties (.246/.302/.404), he's still an upgrade on Overbay (.227/.300/.349) and ZiPS, a major league projection system, suggests that Lee could improve the Pirates' offense by three to five runs the rest of the way. It's hardly a division-altering move, but the price was low and every little bit of offensive improvement helps.

One reason that Lee has struggled in 2011 is that he's flailing at the plate unless he gets something thrown inside. First, look at where pitchers are spotting their stuff versus Lee:

Opponent pitch frequency by location vs. Lee, 2011

Pitches have thrown to the outside corner about 45 percent of the time against Lee, and about 26 percent down the middle. Now, look at Lee's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location:

Lee's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, 2011

He's killing inside pitches, but he's ice-cold for the most part on middle and away stuff. Lee's Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) versus inside pitches is .416, way above the .339 league average. But his wOBA on middle pitches is .241 (.337 average), and he's got a .278 wOBA against pitches on the outer third (.286 average).

If the expectation is that Lee will be better than Overbay, then the Pirates won't be disappointed. But to make a real difference, the soon-to-be-36-year-old needs to start making pitchers pay when they leave a cookie over the plate or throw outside.