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The Selective Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler (COL) leads the National League in strikeouts with 41, but also comes in second in walks.  To rank high in both of those categories, batters need to be fairly selective about what pitches to chase.  They not only take pitches outside the strike zone, but also ones inside the zone that they may not handle well.

The Rockies outfielder is a switch hitter, so the following graphs will show him against right-handed pitchers, since he sees those the most.  The first heat map shows the general approach pitchers take against Fowler:

Dexter Fowler, pitch frequency against RHP, 2011.Opponents try to work him down and away, and with very good reason:

Dexter Fpwler, in play average vs. RHP, 2011.The place where opponents concentrate their pitches is a black hole for Dexter in terms of getting hits.  His pounding the ball on the inside plate gives them good reason to avoid that area as well.  Those pitches down and away are in the strike zone, and which means Dexter is often obliged to swing at them:

Dexter Flower, swings against RHP, 2011.Now compare that to where he takes pitches:

Dexter Fowler, taken pitches against RHP, 2011.Dexter will often take the low and away pitches, mostly because he can't hit them.  That helps contribute to his strikeouts.  He seldom takes the pitch inside, however, because that's where he does damage.  Note two that Dexter is extremely good at recognizing the border between a strike and a ball (the solid line represents the rule book strike zone.)

So Dexter is selective in that he is very good at recognizing balls from strikes, but also recognizing pitches he can hit well versus those he can't.  The final proof of this is in his .400 BABIP against RHP.  When he puts the ball in play, he makes solid contact, and the result is good well beyond the league average.


Most Squeezed Pitchers

Most Called Balls within Strike Zone
(Data through May 8th)

C.J Wilson (TEX) has had a tough time with close pitches this season. According to PitchFX data, 59 pitches thrown by Wilson could have been called strikes but were not. Four of these pitches came with three balls, resulting in a walk.

Wilson's heat map indicates that the majority of these called balls were on pitches low in the zone.

C.J. Wilson Called Balls in Strike Zone 2011
(Click to enlarge)

Umpires tend to have a tougher time consistently calling pitches on the top and bottom of the zone due to the fact that player height slightly alters the zone. Wilson typically locates the majority of his pitches low in the zone, so it's not that surprising to find him near the top of this list.

It's one thing to lose a strike in the middle of a count. However, it hurts a bit more when the missed call comes with two strikes. Here are the leaders for missed called strikes with two strikes on the batter.

Called Balls in Strike Zone w/ Two Strikes
(Data through May 8th)

Basically, these pitchers missed a chance at notching a strike out looking. Of course, they could have still gotten the K later in the AB. However, the walk column shows how many times they missed a K with a full count. Instead of gaining an out, the missed call resulted in a free base for the opposing team. And in case you're wondering, two players did so with a bases loaded full count this season resulting in a run: Joakim Soria (KC) and Jim Johnson (BAL) walked in one run each due to a pitch called a ball within the strike zone.


Tigers and Twins and Short Fly Balls

At Baseball Musings, I noted the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers remain the only teams without a three-run or better homer in 2011.  The Baseball Analytics heat maps provide a good indication of why.  The Twins rank last in the AL in home runs with 15, and they just don't get very much distance on their fly balls.

Twins fly ball distance, 2011.The Tigers, with 28 home runs, rank 10th in the AL and don't put much sock on the ball either.

Tigers fly ball distance, 2011.Note that the Twins are at least hitting balls in the middle of the plate well.  The Tigers only seem to be getting distance on the edges.

Compare these teams to the Yankees.  They lead the league with 54 homers:

Yankees fly ball distance, 2011.The Yankees light up the strike zone with much brighter greens and even a little yellow.  If you think the New Stadium has something to do with it, the Yankees are actually hitting the ball further on the road this season.

Injuries and age hurt the Twins and Tigers long ball ability this sesaon.  Until the big bats come back or are replaced, the teams need to concentrate on other ways to score runs besides waiting for the three-run homer.