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Chatwood Finds Footing in Majors

Tyler Chatwood faced a daunting task when the Angels inserted him into the starting rotation this past April. The 21-year-old entered the year ranked as a top-100 prospect according to Baseball America, but he had all of 6.2 innings of Triple-A pitching under his belt and spent most of the 2010 season between High-A and Double-A. Chatwood's lack of upper-level experience showed in the Spring. But he has improved each month:

April: 0.67 K/BB ratio, 6.23 Fielding Independent Piching (FIP)

May: 1 K/BB, 4.01 FIP

June: 1.62 K/BB, 3.34 FIP

Chatwood's percentage of pitches thrown within the strike zone has increased from 44.7 in April to 47.9 percent in May and 48 percent in June. Consequently, his strike percentage has climbed: 55.4 percent in April, 59.2 percent in May and 60.6 percent in June.

The undersized right-hander relies heavily on a fastball that sits around 93 MPH and tops out at 97, throwing the pitch over three-quarters of the time while mixing in a few upper 70s curveballs and low-80s changeups. Chatwood is doing a better job of hitting his spots with his fastball, getting the pitch to cross the plate at the hitters' knees instead of missing to his armside:

Frequency of Chatwood's fastball location in April

Frequency of Chatwood's fastball location in May

Frequency of Chatwood's fastball location in JuneChatwood placed his fastball in the zone just 47.1 percent of the time during the season's opening month, but that figure bumped up to 47.8 percent in May and sits at 52 percent in June. For comparison, the league average is slightly under 52 percent.

His better-located fastball has been much more successful. Chatwood's heat had a .411 Weighted On-Base Average against in April. In May, that fell to .361. This month, Chatwood's fastball has a .290 wOBA against that bests the .338 league average.

With nascent breaking and off-speed stuff, Chatwood is certainly a work in progress. But at least his fastball has turned into a legitimate weapon with which he can combat big league hitters.



Swisher Surging

Swisher vs. RHP 2011

On May 12th, New York Yankee Nick Swisher hit his third HR of the season from the left side of the plate.  However, prior to that day he was hitting just .153/.298/.235 in 104 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, compared to .400/.444/.467 from the right side (granted in just 36 PA, and with no HR). 

But since mid-May, Swisher has been on a roll against RHP, hitting .269/.383/.516 with 8 doubles and 5 HRs.

Nick Swisher vs. RHP
(Click image to enlarge)

The breakdown: Swisher is crushing the hard stuff, with all 7 of his left-handed HRs coming off fastballs, along with 5 of his 9 doubles....Since May 12th, he has an .825 slugging percentage against fastballs, 4th best in the majors since that date....His 16.0% walk rate ranks 4th in the AL, and his 50 total walks is 8th best in baseball....Swisher's .457 wOBA since the start of June ranks 6th in the AL, and his 28.6% HR/FB rate ranks 4th among all AL left-handed batters in that time (from April through June it was just 5.9%).



Braun Hitting the Straight Stuff

Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers collected three more hits on Thursday afternoon, extending his hit streak to 20 games.  In looking at his previous 19 games, Ryan isn't hitting location as much as he's hitting movement, or lack thereof.

Braun picks up hits on balls in and out of the strike zone:

Ryan Brain, in play average, June 8 through 29, 2011.He's hitting well over .300 on balls in the zone and out of the zone.  He hits balls up, in, out and down.  He sees the most success on fastballs and sinkers.  Note the movement on those pitches during the streak:

Ryan Braun, fastball movement, June 8 through June 29, 2011.The fastballs are basically flat, with a little movement away from Braun.

Ryan Braun, sinker movement, June 8 through June 29, 2011.The sinkers are not sinking much, and I wonder if these are really two-seam fastballs being miss identified. (The sinkers average one MPH slower than the fastballs.)  Both pitches come in fairly straight with little break.  Those are the pitches Ryan likes to hit:

Ryan Braun, hits on fastballs and sinkers, June 8 through June 29, 2011.Braun's pitch is a straight pitch.  The location doesn't matter.  These graphs show where the ball breaks relative to where a ball without spin would go.  Ryan seems to be good at that prediction, and when the pitch shows little movement, he bat ends up on the ball square.