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Tuesday
Jun282011

Kemp Killing Fastballs, Sliders

Last night, Matt Kemp went 4-for-5 and hit his National League-leading 22nd home run of the season as the Dodgers pummeled the Twins 15-0. Kemp doubled and notched a pair of singles on fastballs, and hit a 449 foot bomb on a slider. Following another big game, Kemp has a .336/.422/.636 line and ranks behind just a pair of Joses (Bautista and Reyes) in Wins Above Replacement.

L.A.'s center fielder has put himself in MVP contention by throttling fastballs and sliders. Look at his in-play slugging percentage on fastballs, compared to the league average:

    Kemp's in-play slugging percentage vs. fastballs

           

  League average in-play slugging percentage vs. fastballs                     

Look at all that red! Kemp's overall slugging percentage against fastballs is .780. That makes a mockery of the .439 league average, and is way above Kemp's .500 slugging percentage last season. Twelve of Kemp's homers have come against fastballs. Only Curtis Granderson has hit more home runs against heaters.

Here's Kemp's in-play slugging percentage versus sliders:

Kemp's in-play slugging percentage vs. sliders

 

League average in-play slugging percentage vs. sliders          

Kemp is slugging .631 against sliders, compared to the .341 league average and his .446 mark in 2010. He has cracked seven homers on sliders, the highest total among MLB hitters.

Kemp's percentage of fastballs seen hasn't changed much over the course of the season, but pitchers seemingly got the scouting report on the slider and are throwing it less often. Kemp got a slider about 26 percent of the time in April, but that figure dropped to 20 percent in May and is slightly under 19 percent in June.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Tuesday
Jun282011

Vogelsong Mixing Pitches, Getting Chases

When Ryan Vogelsong replaced an injured Barry Zito in the Giants' starting rotation, it seemed to indicate that San Francisco's staff, while exceptionally talented, was paper thin behind the likes of Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner. After all, Vogelsong was a prospect who didn't make good upon being traded to the Pirates in the July 2001 Jason Schmidt deal. He toiled in Japan for three years, pitching mostly out of the bullpen, and drifted by the Triple-A affiliates of the Phillies and Angels last year before signing a minor league deal over the winter with the club that originally drafted him.

But, instead of continuing to disappoint, Vogelsong has dominated in 2011. The soon-to-be 34-year-old righty has struck out three batters for every one that he has walked, and his fielding independent ERA is south of three. Vogelsong has revived his career by showing a deeper repertoire and getting hitters to chase pitches off the plate.

When Vogelsong was a Pirate, he threw his low-90s fastball more than 70 percent of the time while flipping in occasional curveballs, sliders and changeups. In 2011, he has thrown each of those secondary pitches more than 10 percent of the time. His fastball and mid-70s curveball have been particularly dominant. Check out his chase and miss rates with the heater and the hammer, compared to the league averages:

 

 Vogelsong is pounding the outside corner with his fastball against lefties:

Frequency of Vogelsong's fastball location vs. left-handers (top), compared to the league average (bottom)

 Against right-handers, his fastball is basically two pitches. He tails the ball in on righties' hands at times, then peppers the outside part of the plate at other points:

  

   Frequency of Vogelsong's fastball location vs. right-handers (top), compared to the league average (bottom)

Vogelsong is getting lefties to chase those fastballs on the outside corner...

 

Left-handed hitters' chase rate on Vogelsong's fastballs located on the outside corner (top), compared to the league average (bottom)

And righty batters just can't resist inside fastballs:

 Right-handed hitters' chase rate on Vogelsong's fastballs located on the inside corner (top), compared to the league average (bottom)

Overall, Vogelsong's fastball has been one of the most effective pitches in the game. He's holding hitters to a .294 slugging percentage with the fastball, which ranks fourth among starting pitchers.

Vogelsong's curve has been sharp, too, limiting batters to a .200 slugging percentage that ranks in the top 20 among starters. He's throwing his curveball a bit less than 20 percent of the time to batters of both hands, spotting the pitch on the outside corner against both lefties and righties and getting outside swings:

 

Left-handed hitters' chase rate on Vogelsong's curveball (top), compared to the league average (bottom)

 

 Right-handed hitters' chase rate on Vogelsong's curveball (top), compared to the league average (bottom)

Vogelsong's fastball and curveball have been the biggest reasons for his success. But keep in mind that lefty hitters thinking about moving over in the box and covering that outside corner of the plate also have to contend with a slider in on the hands. And if they gear up for the fastball on the outside half, Vogelsong can call on his changeup. Righties  tempted to stand near the outer bounds of the batter's box to deal with inside fastballs have to battle breaking stuff on the outside corner. In other words, Vogelsong's four-pitch mix makes hitters of both hands squirm.

Monday
Jun272011

Boone Logan vs. Lefties

Boone Logan is the New York Yankees' only lefty reliever in the pen.  Pedro Feliciano is not likely to return very soon, if at all this season. And while Damaso Marte plans to be back after the All-Star break, he too could be gone for the whole season. So Logan is a pretty important part of that bullpen, especially against lefty-heavy lineups like the Red Sox.

Logan had a rough start to the season.  Through his first 14 appearances, he gave up 9 hits to lefties in 29 plate appearances, including two doubles and one home run.  However, he's turned things around as of late, yielding just 4 hits to left-handed batters in his last 26 faced.  Location seems to be a big part of his turnaround.

(Click image to enlarge)

The big difference has been Logan's ability to throw outside to lefties.  Earlier in the season, you can see that he was leaving the ball over the heart of the plate. But since May 15th, he's been able to keep the ball away, and the results have been much improved.

2011 Boone Logan vs. LHB
PPAAVGBABIPK%wOBA
First 14 Games10629.360.3646.9%.413
Last 14 Games10726.269.28634.6%.236

Logan has struck out 11 lefty batters this season, 9 of which have come since mid-May. Since tightening up his location, Lefties have been swinging and missing more against him. Prior to May 15th, opposing LHB were making contact on 81.4% of their swings against Logan. But in the past 6 weeks, that number has dropped to 70.2%.

Opposing batters are also swinging at more of Logan's pitches out of the zone (25.6% to 31.3%). This is one of the many benefits that come with locating on the edges. Batters can not sit on pitches over the middle if Logan constantly locates to the outside of the plate. Instead, they are forced to swing more at those borderline pitches so as to avoid getting caught looking.