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Justin Masterson's Trouble with Lefties

Cleveland Indians pitcher Justin Masterson is 5-5 this season and it's almost as if his five wins were against a lineup of righties and his five losses were when he faces lefties.

Let's take a look at his issues:


Overall, batters are hitting .266 against MastersonAgainst righties:

Righties hit .214 against MastersonRighties hit:

.253 against Masterson's sinker

.240 against Masterson's fastball

.077 against Masterson's slider

Against lefties:

Lefties are hitting .308 against Masterson

Lefties hit:

.306 against Masterson's sinker

.319 against Masterson's fastball

.273 against Masterson's slider

Bottom line:

The Tigers had six lefties in the lineup last night and Masterson can be expecting more of the same as the progresses.


Jorge Posada's Troubles vs. Lefties

From 2009-2010, Jorge Posada, of the Yankees, batted .273/.349/.485 vs. left-handed pitching.  The switch hitting catcher-turned-DH hit 16 doubles and 13 home runs from the right side of the plate, with a .361 wOBA, compared to a .370 wOBA vs. righties over the same period.  This season, he's hitting .088/.225/.088 vs. lefties in 40 plate appearances.  And while his K-rate vs. lefties from 2009-2010 was a fairly high 27.4%, that number has climbed to 32.5% in 2011, tenth worst in all of baseball.

Jorge Posada vs. LHP
(Click to enlarge)

The Yankees were certainly hoping for a much better start to the season from their DH. One thing that might portend better things to come for Jorge is his current BABIP which sits at .262, 46 points below his 2009-10 average. In fact, his 2011 BABIP vs. LHP is .143 compared to .345 from 2009-10. Posada has already seen a bit of a correction over the last month with a BABIP of .396 in 72 plate appearances. While he probably won't be able to sustain such a high average for the rest of the season, expect to see him hit closer to his career BABIP of .317 as the rest of his numbers continue to climb.


Verlander's Septum

Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers flirted with a no-hitter again on Tuesday night.  With one under his belt this season, he seems capable of shutting down an offense every time out as he holds hitters to a .185 opposition batting average.  This is what his pitch frequency chart looked like from 2008-2010:

Justin Verlande, pitch frequency, 2008-2010.There's nothing special there.  Compare that to 2011.

Justin Verlander, pitch frequency, 2011.Look right in the middle, and you'll see the separation.  A thin line separates the density of Verlander's pitches, left and right.   These should be called Septum Charts.  They seem to appear when pitchers are having particularly good seasons, and is a sign of greatness.  This is the kind of heat map Mariano Rivera produces over multiple seasons.

What changed?  Verlander throws his four pitches more consistently this season.

Justin Verlander, spin by velocity, 2008-2010.The big red blog is his fastball, with the change up underneath and toward the right-handed batter in green.  Note that there is cross over between those two pitches.  The slider is the fuzzy green area in the middle of the grid, with the curve ball below the X axis in blue. 

Justin Verlander, spin by velocity, 2011.The curve ball and slider are much better defined, and the nice circular spots shows Justin throws them with consistent spin.  The fastball and changeup, however, are what really stand out for me.  Justin throws the two pitches with a nine MPH difference in velocity, but his change up is so good there is no separation with the spin of the fastball.  Look again at the three previous seasons.  About half his changes exhibit a different spin than his fastballs.  In 2011, there is almost no difference.  The arm action is the same, the spin is very much the same, but the change comes in at 86 MPH instead of 95, and batters make poor contact.

Justin misses the middle of the plate, shows great control with four pitches, and made his change up look even more like his fastball.  It's no suprise he took his pitching to the next level.