Bartolo Colon threw 87 pitches yesterday, and while he didn't get the win, he held the Orioles to 3 hits over 8 innings. He threw mostly fastballs (90.8%), a few sliders, and one changeup according to PitchFX data. His fastball averaged a -5.8 BrkX (horizontal movement from spin) reading and 8.5 BrkZ (vertical movement from spin) reading, both slightly better than league average. He yielded 10 ground balls, 5 line drives, and 4 fly balls, while striking out 7. And as you can see, he located his pitches extremely well, avoiding the middle of the plate while jamming lefties up and in. He also threw to the outside edge of the plate to righties and lefties, recording 5 of his strikeouts on pitches away, 4 of them looking.
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Matt Vensel in the Baltimore Sun praises Vladimir Guerrero's (BAL) free swinging ways.
Guerrero might not wear down starters with epic at-bats, but at least he’s getting on base. Just to be safe, though, Orioles manager Buck Showalter should make the team's younger hitters wear blindfolds in the dugout during Vlad’s at-bats.
Unfortunately, despite a .298 batting average, Vlad is not getting on base that much. His BA is high, 82nd percentile, but his OBP is low at .325, 48% percentile. He's also not driving the ball, with a .429 slugging percentage that ranks at the 64th percentile. Put it all together and Guerrero's wOBA comes in at .329, 58th percentile. That's above average, but given that he's a designated hitter, he should be blasting the ball out of the park.
Vlad really does go outside the strike zone often.
He likes to swing at inside pitches and high pitches. He's a little better on pitches outside and pitches down.
Pitchers know Guerrero will swing out of the strike zone, but that doesn't mean they're afraid to put the ball in the zone.
The work him away, but mostly on the outer half of the plate. Why do they throw in the zone so often? Vlad is good at making contact when he swings the lumber:
The above heat map looks very much like his swing heat map, so he's putting the bat on the ball. Here, however, is where we start to see the problem with his swinging so much:
Vlad is making contact, but many of those balls are going foul, especially the pitches inside and up, pitches that would be balls otherwise. Guerrero is turning mistakes into strikes.
Finally, Vlad is just not doing a good job when he puts pitches in the strike zone in play:
Look at the big blue rift in the middle of the strike zone. That's where Guerrero should be killing the ball, but pitchers get him on change ups right in the heart of the plate. He doesn't walk because he turns balls in fouls. His power abandoned him, so even if he gets a hit, it will probably just be a single. Guerrero no longer gives pitchers a reason to fear him, so they go after him. More often than not they get the out or hits that do little damage.
Over the last three season, Jorge del la Rosa (COL) cut both his batting average allowed and his on-base percentage allowed by over 10 points per season. His .262 BA allowed in 2008 is down to .221 in 2011. His OBP dropped from .349 to .302 in the same time period. The slugging percentage against him was sticky, however. From 2008 through 2010, it stayed between .410 and .413. Even though batters were collecting hits less frequently, the hits they were producing tended to be longer. So far in 2011, however, de la Rosa's slugging percentage allowed is a mere .343. The drop is tied to the perfection of his change up.
Jorge uses three main pitches, a fastball, slider and change up. In 2008, the change wasn't used very much, and it was tough to distinguish it from the slider.
The red area denotes his fastball, the green the slider and change up. This graph shows the maximum deflection from a straight line of the pitches. The center of mass of the slider is closest to the center of the graph, while the change up tends to be underneath the fastball.
In 2009, the slider and the change up start to differentiate, but de la Rosa is throwing the slider more than twice as often as the change.
In 2010, he shifts away from the slider to the change up as his main off speed pitch, but he's still throwing his fast ball the majority of the time.
This season, the slider is an after thought, and the change is thrown almost on par with the fastball. Here's why:
|Pitch type||SLUG 2008||SLUG 2009||SLUG 2010||SLUG 2011|
Hitters smash Jorge's fastball. In 2009, they started hitting the slider better, but as de la Rosa improved the change up, hitters rewarded him with less power. His change up made the slider better as well, as he can pick and choose his spots to use the pitch. Jorge presents a nice example of developing a pitch, then changing his patterns to use it as a new weapon.