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Beckett in May

Josh Beckett of the Red Sox finished May with an impressive 1.00 ERA.  One reason for his excellent numbers came from Josh's performance against left-handed batters. They posted a .197/.282/.211 slash line against the right-hander, good for a .239 wOBA.  Notice that he used the whole strike zone against lefties:

Josh Beckett, pitch frequency against LHB, May 2011.Beckett pitched lefties low and inside, a place where left-handed power hitters especially like to drive the ball.  Josh, however, owned the inside edge:

Josh Beckett, in play average by LHB, May 2011.That big blue area came from the effective use of his cut fastball.  Beckett threw his fastball high and more toward the middle of the plate.  That set up the cutter, which he kept inside:

Josh Beckett, pitch frequncey on the cutter against LHB, May 2011.Looking at the break of the fastball and cutter you can really see how it fooled batters.

Josh Beckett, movement on fastball and cutter against LHB, May 2011.The big red circle represents the fastball, the little yellow spot down and inside represents the cutter.  Batters see the fastball, they get used to it coming in and breaking a little bit toward them.  Then Beckett unleashes the cutter at close to the same speed and and direction, but the ball breaks in and down instead of staying up and over the plate.  Beckett got batters to chase 38% of the cutters out of the zone, and received called strikes on 28% of those pitches.  He lefties in and out of the zone, turning an area of strength into a weakness.


David Ortiz Versus Lefties

Today Sean McAdam posted an interesting article on regarding David Ortiz and his success versus LHPs. Here is an excerpt:

The three homers off lefties represent one more than Ortiz hit all of last season against lefthanded pitchers. He's done more damage against lefties in 55 at-bats this season than he did in 185 at-bats through the entire 2010 season.

"I guess everybody was questioning me hitting against lefties,'' said Ortiz. "I've said before, most of the time when you struggle against lefties, you're getting yourself out. You're chasing (pitches) out of the strike zone. That's pretty much what they try to make you do -- chase out of the strike zone. When you force them to stay in the strike zone, you've got to take advantage of it.''

It's a great read so we thought we would follow up with some graphics that help visualize David's success.

A comparison of David Ortiz and his In Play SLG versus lefties during the first half of the 2010 season (left image) as well as his In Play SLG vs. lefties so far in the 2011 season (right).You can follow Sean McAdam on Twitter @Sean_McAdam.


As advertised, Madson Avenue

Madison Avenue in New York is renowned as the advertising capital of the world. Occasionally, when we hear about a pitcher advertised as "having a great pitch," we take it with the same degree of hyperbole that we hear in an ad for a "great" product.

But today, I put the well-advertised change-up of the Phillies hurler, Ryan Madson, to the taste test, which in our case is our heat map.

The Taste Test

Let's start by looking at his fastball because the efficacy of a change-up is measured off the fastball.

Ryan Madson Fastball - In play averageYou can see as you look at the map, that of the 224 fastballs he has thrown, 39 have been put in play, resulting in 15 hits, producing an in play average of .385.

Let's see the change-up, Ryan.

Ryan Madson's change-upLook at all the nice blue. Madson has thrown 110 of these beauties and batters are 2-for-15 off it for an in-play average of .133.

Congratulations, Ryan you have passed the taste test. Your change-up is as good as advertised.