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Cano Versus Halladay

One potential match-up to watch this evening pits Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees versus Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the PITCHf/x era, 2008-2011, Cano posted a slash line of .303/.346/.494, good for a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .361.  Cano collects hits through a wide swath of the strike zone.

Robinson Cano, hits, 2008-2011.Cano doesn't hit location as much as he hits movement, or lack thereof:

Robinson Cano, movement on hits, 2008-2011.Balls that pass near the intersection of the major axes indicate that the ball traveled as expected; there was no extra spin to deflect the ball left, right, up or down.

Halladay held Robinson to a .158/.179/.184 slash line and a .166 wOBA in 39 PA during this period.  Roy tends to work him inside:

Robinson Cano vs. Roy Halladay, pitch frequency, 2008-2011.Roy does a decent job of avoiding the middle of the plate.  Most of his pitches are inside or outside, and as we see from above, Cano does not get hits on inside pitches.  Where Halladay really beats, however, is on movement.

Robinson Cano vs. Roy Halladay, pitch movement, 2008-2011.Very few of Roy's pitches come in straight. Almost all of them dip, move in on Cano, or both.  Halladay's mastery of movement and location make Cano and easy target for outs.


The Beard Experiments With His Fastball

Brian Wilson, San Francisco's bushy-bearded, mohawked stopper, will get the call for Bruce Bochy's National League All-Stars tonight if a save chance arises. There has been some concern about The Beard lately, as he has coughed up five runs in five innings this month. Henry Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle explains

Before Saturday's game, pitching coach Dave Righetti conferred with Bochy and the decision was made to sit Wilson, who has not been sharp lately. In his past five appearances, he has allowed nine hits and five runs (four earned) in five innings, with two blown saves and a loss.

Wilson's fastball velocity is down some, though part of that can be traced to throwing more two-seam fastballs. which are slower but move more.

"He feels great. He's healthy," Bochy said. "We've talked to him about it. We're not concerned about it at all."

Wilson's fastball velocity is down this season, as he's averaging 94.2 MPH with the pitch after sitting at 95.9 MPH in 2010 and 96.5 MPH in 2009. And, as Schulman noted, Wilson is throwing somewhat slower fastballs with more tailing action, particularly since the beginning of June. Look at the movement on Wilson's fastball in April and May, compared to June and July:

Brian Wilson's fastball movement, April-May 2011

Brian Wilson's fastball movement, June-July 2011

Since June, Wilson's fastball has added about two inches of armside run and has had one less inch of vertical break. Compared to 2010, Wilson's June-July 2011 fastball has four to five inches more tailing action and sits two inches lower in the zone. 

The result of Wilson's fastball experimentation so far has been a sharp drop in hitter misses -- 15 percent this season, compared to 25 percent in 2010 -- but an increase in ground ball rate from 36 percent last year to 53 percent in 2011. Perhaps Wilson is still adjusting to the extra run on his fastball, as his strike percentage with the offering has fallen from 64-65 percent in years past to 59 percent this season.

Overall, batters have a .307 Weighted On-Base Average against Wilson's fastball this season, compared to .275 last year. It will be interesting to see whether Wilson continues to throw his fastball with added movement and less velocity, sacrificing some whiffs for grounders, or he returns to the more powerful approach employed in past seasons. If he gets in the game tonight, keep a close eye on The Beard's heat.


Robinson Cano and the Long Ball

New York Yankee Robinson Cano put on quite a show last night as he outdueled Adrian Gonzalez (BOS) in the final round of the HR Derby, winning it with 32 total HRs.  His 12 homers in the final round set a record for the derby.

Playing for the Yankees, a team that has big sluggers like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Cano's power sometimes gets short shrift.  But after last night, it will be hard for anyone to ignore his long ball proclivity.

Cano seemed more than comfortable having his father, Jose Cano, throw to him last night.  While BP pitchers usually soft toss fastballs one after another, one wonders if Cano could have produced even more HRs last night if he was facing sliders.

Since 2009, Robinson Cano has hit more HRs off sliders than any AL batter with 21, and second behind fellow HR Derby contestant and former derby winner Prince Fielder (MIL), who has 23.  Those 21 homers tie the number he has hit off fastballs in that same span of time.  His 8.0 HR% on sliders (highest among any pitches he has seen since 2009) ranks 5th in baseball behind Jason Giambi (9.1%), Russell Branyan (9.0%), Prince Fielder (8.3%), and Hideki Matsui (8.3%).

Since the 2010 All-Star Break, Cano has hit 11 HRs off sliders, best in the league.  He has a 27.5% HR/FB rate on sliders, ranking him in the top 4% of the league.    And his 11.0 HR% on sliders in that time is best among all major league hitters, even Jose Bautista (10.4 HR%).

If Cano is looking to top last night's performance in next year's home run derby, perhaps Jose will break out the slider in Kansas City.