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Top Curveballs by Contact

(Min. 50 curveballs thrown in 2011)

Prior to the beginning of this season, we took a look at the change in Zack Greinke's (MIL) curveball between 2009 and 2010.  Getting his curveball back on track is important for Greinke this year, especially if he is going to get back to his Cy Young form from two years ago.

So far this season, batters are swinging and missing at his curve at a higher rate than against any other pitchers' curve.  He's yielded only one hit off the pitch, a ground ball single to Jose Tabata (PIT) on May 15th.

In 2009, Greinke had an average BrkZ (vertical inches of break from spin) reading on his curveball of -4.2.  In 2010, that number was cut in half to -2.0 inches of downward break - and as noted in the previous post on Greinke, batters were teeing off on it.  This season, his curve has a BrkZ reading of -6.8.  While his overall numbers haven't been great through his first 4 starts, a working curveball is a good sign for the 2009 Cy Young winner.


The struggles of Ubaldo Jimenez

At this point last season, Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies, was being compared to Bob Gibson. On May 23, 201, Ubaldo was 8-1 with 0.99 ERA. He finished the first half of the season 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA. His fastball was electric and his splitter could only be described as "nasty."

What a fifference a year makes. Following yesterday's loss to the Brewers, Jimenez is now 0-4 with a 5.44 ERA and we can graphically show you why. Control is clearly the issue for Ubaldo who had thrown 63.1 innings last season at this time and had walked 23 while this season he has 28 walks, but in just 44.2 innings. Equally as important is his absence of control in the strike zone.

Let's look at the fastball first.

Here is the fastball in the first half of 2010:

Look at his control and location. He clearly was nailing it, time and again.

Now let's look at the fastball from this season:

You can see the ball is drifting all over the place.

Now, look at Jimenez's splitter.

Look at the nastiness of the splitter in the first half of 2010:

That pitch, that looks like a fastball as it approaches the batter, drops off the table as it enters the zone resulting in swings and misses (34.3%).

Now look at the splitter this season:

Swings and misses are down to 21.7% because those higher pitches are much easier to hit and ptch is much easier to read.

The Rockies are now just a game over .500 and if they truly want to control in this division, Jimenez has got to get his control first.


Wakefield Throwing Strikes

Tim Wakefield's (BOS) success as a knuckleball pitcher came from his ability to throw the pitch for a strike.  Sunday night's game against the Cubs showed off that ability well.

Tim Wakefield, pitch frequency on the knuckleball, May 22, 2011.That's pretty amazing that a pitch with an unknown movement can be so accurate.  One reason may be that Wakefield can throw the pitch a bit more predictably than you might imagine:

Tim Wakefield, pitch movement of the knuckleball, May 22, 2011.A high number of these pitches had a nice dip, down, in to left-handed batters, in to right-handed batters.  Note that there are many that have no relation to that movement, but that core is the movement on which Tim hits the strike zone.  Note that many of the pitches in the zone are high, so with that movement, the ball is falling into the zone, looking like it might be out of the zone at first.  Because of that, Tim induced swings at balls above the strike zone, and taken pitches high in the strike zone.

The movement graph also demonstrates that Tim can control the ball fairly well.  If he can get a consistent spin on the ball, it should really do the same thing.  He's not just tossing it hoping it will find the strike zone.  He's replicating the motion well enough that 38 of his 68 knuckleballs ended up in the strike zone, most of those with the movement you see in the concentrated area on the lower chart.  That's impressive control of a tough pitch.