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This site utilizes the MLB analytics platform powered by TruMedia Networks

Thursday
Jun232011

The Change in Lincecum

Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants pitched poorly so far in June. He continues to strike out a ton of batters, but it's not leading to a low batting average allowed.  The difference between Tim now and the Lincecum of March through May is the location of his change up.

Tim Lincecum, change up location, March through May 2011.Notice that Tim threw the pitch out of the strike zone.  Coming in eight miles an hour slower than his fastball, hitters expected a pitch in the zone and would swing and miss.

Tim Lincecum, contact rate against the change up, March-May 2011.Batters could not square up the pitch as they went 0 for 31 against the change through the end of May with 15 strikeouts.

Once June came around, Lincecum started leaving the pitch relatively up:

Tim Lincecum, change up location, June 2011Tim appears to be throwing the pitch the same way, as an examination of the spin showed no obvious changes.  With the pitch up in the strike zone, however, batters are making contact.

Tim Lincecum, contact rate against the changeup, June 2011.Batters are recognizing this pitch better, and the ball more likely ends up in a better spot to hit.  Hitters are now 5 for 14 against the pitch, .357 with four strikeouts.  Lincecum is no longer fooling batters with the pitch.

Thursday
Jun232011

Batters Can't Resist Beachy's High Heat, Slider

Yesterday afternoon, Braves starter Brandon Beachy returned from a DL stint for an oblique injury in grand fashion. Beachy struck out a career-high 11 Blue Jays batters in six innings, surrendering four hits and one run. He clipped the Jays primarily with his fastball and slider, registering six Ks with his heat and four with the slider:

 

Location of Beachy's Ks with his fastball (left) and slider (right) against Toronto on June 22, 2011

Those two pitches have been deadly for the former non-drafted free agent from Indiana Wesleyan: opponents are hitting .216/.263/.341 against Beachy's heater, compared to the .271/.352/.423 major league average. Beachy's slider is holding hitters to a .139/.205/.278 triple-slash, while the big league average is .213/.254/.326.

Toronto couldn't lay off Beachy's high heat or the sliders that he buried in the dirt. Few hitters have been able to resist chasing those pitches. Check out hitters' swing rate on fastballs thrown by Beachy out of the strike zone, compared to the MLB average:

 Opponents' swing rate on Beachy's outside fastballs (left), compared to the MLB average (right)

Hitters have chased 31.4 percent of Beachy's out-of-zone fastballs, well above the 25 percent MLB average.

Now, Beachy's slider:

 Opponents' swing rate on Beachy's outside sliders (left), compared to the MLB average (right)

Opponents have lunged after 37 percent of Beachy's sliders located off the plate. The MLB average is 33 percent.

Beachy's deceptive delivery and ability to go high and low on hitters has allowed him to strike out more than a batter per inning in 2011. Fantasy baseball players should grab him now: the Rodney Dangerfield of young pitchers is still available in nearly 60 percent of ESPN leagues.

Thursday
Jun232011

Hardy Hammering High Pitches

While the Baltimore Orioles' offense ranks toward the bottom of the AL again this season, no one can blame J.J. Hardy. The 28-year-old shortstop, picked up from the Twins this past offseason for a pair of relievers, is hitting .301/.366/.530. That blows away the collective .260/.316/.373 line that MLB shortstops have posted this season. Hardy is enjoying an offensive resurgence by hammering the high stuff.

First, here's the average in-play slugging percentage for MLB hitters on pitches located in the upper third of the zone:

The overall MLB slugging percentage on high pitches (including balls not put in play) is .378. Now, here's how Hardy is faring against the high stuff:

Hardy's overall slugging percentage on high pitches is .826 in 2011. Only Toronto's Adam Lind has done more damage when a pitcher places one high in the zone. For comparison, Hardy slugged .367 on high pitches last season with Minnesota.

A major reason for Hardy's power surge this year is that he has cut his percentage of ground balls hit, especially on high pitches. Hardy hit a worm-burner 41 percent of the time against high stuff in 2010. This year, he has chopped the ball into the ground on high pitches around 23 percent of the time (the MLB average is about 35 percent).

The free agent deals handed out to Derek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero haven't work out for the O's, and trade acquisition Mark Reynolds has slugged at the plate but stumbled in the field. Hardy, however, has shined in his new digs during his walk year. If Baltimore decides to make him available, expect Hardy to be a hot commodity on the trade market.