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The Triplers: Drew, Victorino, and Granderson

Stephen Drew of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies and Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees are three of the top triples hitters of the last 3.5 seasons.  They are young, fast, and bat mostly left-handed.  Is there another secret to their ability to hit triples?

First, look at where left-handed batter usually make contact with balls that result in triples:

MLB triples by left-handed batters, pitch frequency, 2008-2011.

Triples take up a good chunk of the strike zone, but the center of the high density area, is a bit down and away.  Our three outstanding triplers refine this further:

Stephen Drew triples, pitch frequency, 2008-2011.Shane Victorino triples as a LHB, pitch frequency, 2008-2011.Curtis Granderson triples, pitch frequency, 2008-2011.With these three hitters, the down and away preference for triples is very clear.  With all three, the triples are split between balls hit down the rightfield line and those hit to deep center, a bit to the rightfield side.  The pitch down and away is a tough one to drive for a homer, but it's a great one to drive over the head of the centerfielder.  Combine that with the speed of the batters and batting from the left side shortening the distance to third, and you can see why they own the triple advantage.


Ubaldo at Home

Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies owns an ERA of 6.24 at home this season.  That's nearly double his home ERA of the three previous seasons, 3.28.  One reason for that change comes from the number of home runs he allowed.  Have gave up a combined 19 at home in the three previous seasons, and seven so far this year.  Most of Ubaldo's home runs come off the fastball and the righty is having problems getting the pitch down at Coors this season:

Ubaldo Jimenez, pitch frequency on fastballs, 2008-2011.During his time, 13 of his fastballs resulted in home runs of 3104 pitches, or a home run every 238 fastballs. In terms of levels, 1251 (40.3%) of these pitches were high, 1009 (32.5%) in the middle, and 844 (27.2%) low.  Ten of the 13 homers on his fastball came on pitches in the middle.

Ubaldo Jimenez, pitch frequency on fastballs, 2011.Four of his home runs came on 403 fastballs his season, one every 100 pitches.  Ubaldo threw 179 (44.4%) up, 132 (32.8%) in the middle, and  92 (22.8%) down.  Batters can concentrate on the upper two-third of the plate, and that's where the home runs come against Jimenez.


Randy Choate: Lefty Killer

With the Florida Marlins double-digit games behind, in both the National League East and NL Wild Card standings, and contending teams always looking for lefty relief help, expect to hear Randy Choate's name come up often in trade rumors this month.

The 35-year-old, signed over the winter to a two-year, $2.5 million deal, is death to all things southpawed. He has limited lefty hitters to a .206 batting average, a .282 on-base percentage and a .284 slugging percentage during the course of his big league career. Choate must be handled judiciously by his manager, lest right-handed hitters clog up the bases against him (.278/.397/.411 career line versus righties), but he's as good of a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) as you're going to find. The Marlins have gone to greath lengths to limit his exposure to right-handers this year, as Choate has enjoyed the platoon advantage against 54 of the 74 batters that he has faced.

Choate pounds lefties inside with a mid-80s sinker that has over 11 inches of tailing action in on the hands, or breaks out an upper-70s slider that darts far in the opposite direction. Here's what his sinker/slider combo looks like to those poor left-handed souls:

Pitch break frequency of Choate's sinker (left side of chart) and sliderOverall, Choate has thrown his sinker about 58 percent of the time and his slider about 42 percent. But he hasn't followed a typical pattern in terms of when he has tossed those pitches. In first-pitch counts, Choate has gone to his slider 65 percent of the time. In two-strike counts, he has thrown his sinker about 60 percent. Breaking balls in a fastball count, and fastballs in situations where most pitches call on the breaking stuff -- talk about messing with lefties' heads.

Choate's inside/outside approach and backwards pitching has produced a 22-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 63 percent ground ball rate against lefties. You'd have to think that teams vying for a division title or a Wild Card spot are salivating at the prospect of getting this LOOGY to shut down their rivals' big lefty bats.