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Don't Lowball Me!

(2011 data through June 7th)

For purposes of this list, we define low ball as any pitch that located below a line 6 inches above the bottom of the PitchFX strike zone, even if it was outside of the actual strike zone (for example, balls in the dirt or pitches way inside are included if they were below the line).

One thing stands out: 9 of the top 25 worst hitters of low pitches this season are catchers.  Is this due to catchers struggling to bend down to hit the low pitch as a result of knee issues?  Hideki Matsui (OAK) also makes the current list and his knee issues are well documented. 

At the end of 2010, only 4 catchers made the list (min. 100 plate appearances decided on a low pitch).  But if we take all data from 2009 to the present with a minimum of 150 plate appearances decided on a low pitch, 10 catchers are in the Top 25.  It's possible that with last season being the "Year of the Pitcher," more non-catchers flooded the top of this list, with offense down across the board.  Or it could simply be that catchers overall tend to be among the weaker hitters in the league.  Or maybe 2010 was just be an outlier.

As much as I'd like to speculate that catchers have trouble hitting low pitches as a result of knee problems, the current 2011 list is most likely a product of a small sample size.  Nonetheless, we'll keep an eye on how the list changes throughout the season.



Resting Lester

In the winter of 2003-2004 I attended a SABR meeting in Rhode Island.  Former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan spoke.  One audience member brought up the Pedro Martinez melt-down in the ALCS, and Morgan provided a very good explanation of why Grady Little should have removed the ace from the game.  Joe pointed out that Pedro lost his change up due to fatigue.  At that point in the game, he was throwing nothing but fastballs.  Morgan understood that the change was Pedro's out pitch.  When he lost that, he was just another pitcher.

Jon Lester of the Red Sox starts against the Yankees tonight on long rest, last pitching on May 30th.  He pitched poorly during a streak of five games, and the Red Sox felt he needed a little extra time off to get back to normal.  That makes sense, since his change up was at fault.

Through May 3rd of 2011, Lester threw his change up for strikes (click graphic for a larger image).

Jon Lester, change up location and spin, 2011 season through May 3rd.Lester threw the change up for strikes.  Batters hit .154 against the pitch with no walks for a .179 wOBA.  Note two, the nice, tight target on the spin graphic.  Lester threw the pitch with a consistent spin.

Since May 10th, however, the pitch missed:

Jon Lester, change up location and spin, 2011 season, May 10 through May 30.The highest density of change ups lies outside the strike zone.  In addition, note the spin density looks more like a weeble than a ball.  He's not throwing the pitch as consistently as he did early in the season in addition to missing the strike zone.  That adds up to a .353 BA against the pitch with a .450 OBP, good for a .395 wOBA.

The Red Sox did the right thing by resting their ace.  Why he should be worn down so early in the season is another matter.  Boston fans should hope rest is enough to cure what ails Jon.


Carlos on Carlos - The Marmol and Theriot facts

After watching Carlos Marmol blow a 9th inning lead to the Cardinals on Sunday, Carlos Zambrano let loose a barrage to the gathered reporters. Marmol, who has blown saves in Zambrano's last two outings, threw a slider to Ryan Theriot with a 2-2 count and the tying run on first. Theriot, who said he was "looking for a slider the whole time", ripped it into the left-field corner for a game-tying double. Albert Pujols won it with a 10th inning walkoff. 

Zambrano said Marmol should have thrown Theriot a fastball, but instead gave him a slider. "We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter, we should know that as a team," Zambrano said. "We stink. That's all I have to say."

Let's look at some facts:

Batters are hitting .219 against Marmol this season. Yes, that is up considerably from his lifetime .177 BAA but still pretty good.

The fastball is a mixed bag for Marmol:

Marmol has thrown 198 fastballs. Batters have swung and missed on 21.9%.Batters are 10-for-21 against the Marmol fastball, a .476 avg.

The slider is Marmol's out pitch.

Marmol has thrown 277 slidersBatters are 8-for-71 against the Marmol slider, a .113 avg.

Next comes Ryan Theriot...

Theriot against the slider:

Theriot has seen 132 sliders this seasonAgainst the slider, Theriot is hitting .478, 11-for-23.

Against the fastball:

Theriot has seen 480 fastballsRyan is  33-for-107, good for a .308 average.

Bottom Line:

Ryan Theriot is a hot hitter. He has a .300 average this season and in his current 19-game hitting streak is hitting .333. Yes, he hits sliders better than fastballs, but the slider is Marmol's best pitch.

Should Marmol have thrown the slider? That's for you to decide.

Should Zambrano have spoken out? That, I have already decided and my answer is, "No."