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Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies Rocket Launcher

Fly balls are a mixed bag for batters.  A high fly gives an outfielder plenty of time to get under the ball and record the out.  On the other hand, batters that get the launch angle right see those balls come down in the seats instead.  Here are the top 25 batters at turning home runs into fly balls in 2011, minimum 75 fly balls:

HitterTeamPlate App.HR/FB
Jose Bautista TOR 83 0.313
Mark Teixeira NYY 88 0.25
Curtis Granderson NYY 98 0.245
Mark Reynolds BAL 78 0.244
Matt Kemp LAD 93 0.237
Paul Konerko CWS 90 0.233
Ryan Howard PHI 81 0.222
Prince Fielder MIL 83 0.217
Jay Bruce CIN 96 0.198
Adrian Gonzalez BOS 86 0.198
Danny Espinosa WSH 76 0.197
David Ortiz BOS 88 0.193
Troy Tulowitzki COL 83 0.193
Kelly Johnson ARI 81 0.185
Alfonso Soriano CHC 82 0.171
Brian McCann ATL 85 0.165
Carlos Quentin CWS 87 0.161
Chris Young ARI 96 0.156
Alex Rodriguez NYY 77 0.156
Kevin Youkilis BOS 79 0.152
Albert Pujols STL 87 0.149
Andrew McCutchen PIT 88 0.148
Adrian Beltre TEX 109 0.147
Mitch Moreland TEX 75 0.147


Notice that the list is littered with all-stars and all-star snubs.  About in the middle, ranked 13th, is Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies.  While he's joined by middle infielders Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals and Kelly Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks, long term Troy dominates the shortstop position.


HR/FB, 2008-2011, shortstops. Minimum 250 fly balls
ShortstopTeamPlate App.HR/FB
Troy Tulowitzki COL 422 0.190
Hanley Ramirez FLA 413 0.157
Alexei Ramirez CWS 434 0.129
J. J. Hardy BAL 377 0.125
Jhonny Peralta DET 510 0.110
Alex Gonzalez ATL 366 0.098
Derek Jeter NYY 358 0.095
Stephen Drew ARI 560 0.089
Miguel Tejada SF 484 0.089
Yunel Escobar TOR 395 0.084
Jerry Hairston WSH 296 0.084
Jimmy Rollins PHI 484 0.083
Ronny Cedeno PIT 250 0.080
Asdrubal Cabrera CLE 368 0.073
Jose Reyes NYM 397 0.071
Yuniesky Betancourt MIL 506 0.063
Marco Scutaro BOS 525 0.059
Jed Lowrie BOS 250 0.056
Edgar Renteria CIN 294 0.054
Jason Bartlett SD 382 0.045
Erick Aybar LAA 375 0.045
Cliff Pennington OAK 265 0.042
Jamey Carroll LAD 252 0.012
Cesar Izturis BAL 267 0.011


The average among this group is just 0.085 HR/FB.  Troy more than doubles that, giving the Rockies a great offensive weapon at a position known for defense.  In case you want to blame Coors Field for his high rate, over the same period his rage on the road is 0.180, still the best in the majors among shortstops.  His power is for real.


Who is getting Squeezed?

Time to check in on which pitchers aren't getting the close calls from umpires:

(ClStk%=called strikes/pitches taken; Data based on PitchFX strike zone.)C.J. Wilson (TEX) ranks number one in terms of the most pitches called balls in the strike zone with 124.  But this is due to volume; Wilson has thrown the second most pitches within the strike zone in the majors this season behind only Cliff Lee (PHI)

Doug Fister (SEA) and Cliff Lee rank second and third in most missed strikes with 114 and 108 respectively.  Chad Billingsley (LAD) comes in 4th with 107 missed strikes - combine that with his overall 17th ranking in lowest called strike percentage in the zone, and he's a good candidate for the most squeezed pitcher in baseball this season.


Home Run Slump: Is It A-Rod or the Pitchers?

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is mired in a home run slump.  He last homered on June 11 and in the last 22 games he hit well, but just did not deliver a long ball.  Given that he's collecting a good number of base hits, it doesn't seem like there is anything wrong with his swing.

As a prolific home run hitter, PITCHf/x provides a nice sample of where A-Rod likes the ball in the the strike zone in order to take it deep:

Alex Rodriguez, pitch frequency, home runs, 2008-2011.The black box gives you an idea of where he likes pitches, down in the strike zone so he can get a solid upper cut swing at the pitch.  Lately, pitchers avoided that area of the zone:

Alex Rodriguez, pitch frequence June 12, 2011 through July 7, 2011.Rodriguez had a few pitches he might have hit out, but in general the approach against him was very good.  Notice this is what I call a septum heat map, where there is a nice separation between inside and outside pitches.  If I saw this for a single pitcher, my guess would be that he had a successful streak. In that light, Alex's hitting might be considered impressive.  He's taken what pitchers have given him and produced a high BA and high OBP.  If pitches start making mistakes against Alex, we should see him driving the ball again.