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Cubs' Jeff Baker vs. Lefties

For the first time since 1918, the Chicago Cubs will be playing at Fenway Park in Boston this weekend.  They'll have a tough challenge with the Red Sox sending Jon Lester to the mound tonight.

Cubs' manager Mike Quade has third baseman Jeff Baker batting in the 3 spot in the first game of the series.  Baker has the Cubs highest batting average versus left handed pitching this season (.457), and the second highest wOBA (.461) behind catcher Geovany Soto (.557). 

(Click to enlarge)

Baker likes the ball down in the zone versus lefties, hitting .375 with a .531 SLG% on balls located there since the beginning of last season.  He's also done well on inside pitches from LHP, hitting .365 with a .577 slugging percentage. Lastly, he's done pretty well when keeping the ball on the ground versus southpaws, batting .328 on grounders since 2010.


Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban Missile in Crisis

Do you get the feeling that Aroldis Chapman of the Reds is uncomfortably familiar these days with the old song, “Wild World,” by Cat Stevens?

As I look at Chapman’s stats, Stevens’ lyrics keep resonating in my head,

“Oh, baby, baby it's a wild world
It's hard to get by just upon a smile.”

In Chapman’s case it's hard to get by just upon a 105 mph fastball if you can’t control it.

Over the last month, Chapman is everywhere but home plate. This season, the Cuban Missile, as the lefty is called, has 20 walks, 15 strikeouts and a 6.92 earned-run average over 13 innings. He has walked 12 batters and managed only four outs in his past four appearances, twice leaving before retiring a batter. On Sunday, Chapman walked four of five batters his faced in the 9th inning, leading to a five-run Cardinals comeback. He managed only five strikes in 18 pitches. As a result the Reds put him on the DL, more the Dysfunctional List than anything else.

Take a look at Chapman’s fastball over the last month (April 17 – May 17):

In some respects his slider is even worse, because when it is not in the strike zone it is right down batters’ power alleys.

It is indeed a wild world these days for Chapman and the Reds need to find out why, which is primarily why he is on DL at this time.


Halladay Versus Beltre

Adrian Beltre (TEX) is one batter of many Roy Halladay (PHI) shut down over his career.  The two meet Friday night as the Rangers visit the Phillies.  In his career, Roy held Beltre to a .185/.214/.296 slash line in 28 plate appearances.  Adrian doesn't strike out much against Roy, just five times in his career, but he doesn't get much out of putting the ball in play.

PITCHf/x covers the last eleven battles between the two (2008-2010) and shows us why Roy shuts down Adrian.  First, look at Adrian's hot zones:

Adrian Beltre, in play batting average, 2008-2011.So where does Roy pitch him?

Roy Halladay vs. Adrian Beltre, pitch frequency, 2008-2010.That's a total of 36 pitches.  Notice how nicely Roy fills that green bubble on the inside part of the plate, putting pitches between Adrian's hot zones inside.  Halladay avoids large swaths of the plate altogether, but sometimes tempts Beltre outside.

One big help for Roy appears to be reputation.  Beltre was never known as a selective hitter, and Halladay puts pitches where he wants, so Roy seems to get the calls on taken pitches:

Roy Halladay vs. Adrian Beltre, strike rate on taken pitches, 2008-2010.To Beltre's credit, he's not taking pitches in the strike zone.  Roy holds an unfair advantage inside, where very few calls go Adrian's way.  That puts him in a hole.  Not surprisingly, the only hit Adrian collected in the eleven at bats came on a first pitch.

Roy Halladay vs. Adrian Beltre, in play batting average, 2008-2010.That hit came in Adrian's last at bat against Roy, 5/23/2010.  He might have seen enough first pitch strikes inside to figure it was coming, and smacked the ball to leftfield.  We'll see how each adjusts tonight.