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Pitchers Respecting 'Cutch's Power

No player better embodies the Pittsburgh Pirates' new brand of dynamic, youthful baseball than center fielder Andrew McCutchen. The first-time All-Star is a legitimate MVP candidate, trailing just Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes among position players in Wins Above Replacement. Still just 24 years old, 'Cutch is turning in his best season yet by adding home run power to his game. And that ability to clear the fence has pitchers treading more cautiously.

McCutchen is slugging .505 and has popped 14 home runs this year, leaving him just two shy of tying his career-best HR mark set in 2010. While the Pirates' first-round pick in the '05 draft is listed at 5-10, 190 pounds, McCutchen uses arguably the quickest wrists this side of Gary Sheffield to produce surprising pop. In particular, he's crushing high pitches and stuff thrown low-and-inside:

McCutchen's in-play slugging percentage by location in 2011

The biggest reason for McCutchen's power surge is his improvement against high pitches. He slugged .327 and hit two home runs versus high offerings last year, but he's got a .581 slugging percentage and seven homers against high stuff in 2011.

Pitchers have responded to McCutchen's increased thump by giving him fewer pitches to hit within the strike zone. His percentage of in-zone pitches seen has decreased sharply as the season has progressed:

McCutchen's 2011 Zone%, by month

April: 53.5%

May: 52.9%

June: 49.3%

July: 47.6%

For reference, the league average for pitches seen within the zone is 48-49 percent for non-pitchers. McCutchen isn't the sort of antsy hitter who goes after those off-the-plate pitches, either: his 21 percent chase rate is one of the 15 lowest marks among qualified big league batters.

Patience, speed and now power -- Pittsburgh hasn't seen a player as well-rounded as Andrew McCutchen since Barry Bonds left town nearly two decades ago.



Chasing a Halladay Changeup

Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies starts Tuesday's All-Star game for the National League.  There is no pitcher in 2011 better at getting batters to swing out of the zone at a change up:


PitcherTeamChange UpsChas%
Roy Halladay PHI 339 0.573
Felix Hernandez SEA 482 0.486
Carl Pavano MIN 370 0.481
James Shields TB 572 0.479
Kyle Lohse STL 337 0.468
Chris Capuano NYM 451 0.459
Anibal Sanchez FLA 335 0.452
Justin Verlander DET 415 0.447
Ricky Romero TOR 370 0.444
Dillon Gee NYM 384 0.441
Shaun Marcum MIL 582 0.435
Cole Hamels PHI 430 0.434
Roy Oswalt PHI 229 0.429
Max Scherzer DET 381 0.426
Bronson Arroyo CIN 228 0.416


Roy puts a large gap between himself and #2 Felix Hernandez.  Halladay achieves this by getting more sink on his change up than most right-handed pitchers:

RHP change up movement, 2011.Roy Halladay, change up movement, 2011.With the extra drop, batters go fishing down:

Roy Halladay, swing rate on change up, 2011.Even if batters make contact with these pitches, they're so low they'll probably wind up with a ground ball.  Keep your eye on Roy's change up Tuesday night, and see how many AL batters chase it.


Baseball-All-Starlytics: Inside story on Matt Kemp

Last season, at the All-Star break, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers was doing whatever players do who have not been selected to the All-Star team (and are not subsitituting for the players who are selected). This year at the break, he's batting third in Bruce Bochy's lineup in the All-Star Game.

How did Kemp go from a .261 hitter with 16 homers  at this point last year to a .313 hitter with 22 homers this year?

The answer is quickness inside.

Compare 2010 and 2011 on inside fastballs

It is really something to see the difference in Matt Kemp.

Here is 2010:

Kemp at the 2010 breakHere is 2011:

Kemp at the 2011 breakVisually the difference is stunning and the pictures are backed up by the numbers. 

  • 2010: 245 fastballs on the inside, 60 plate appearances, 50 at bats
  • 2011: 225 fastballs on the inside, 66 plate appearances, 59 at bats 
  • 2010: 14 hits, 2 homers, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts
  • 2011: 25 hits, 4 homers, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts  
  • 2010: .280 avg., .350 OBP, .440 slug., .790 OPS
  • 2011: .424 avg., .470 OBP, .729 slug., 1.199 OPS 

You have to admit, that is a pretty stunning turn-around.

And now, you have the inside story on Matt Kemp.