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When it Rains, it Pours

The 2010 season proved to be a triple whammy from Charlie Morton.  A low strikeout pitcher, Morton needs the help of his defense with all the balls he allows to be put in play.  Pittsburgh went from a good defensive team in 2009 to the worst in 2010, according to FanGraphs.  So Charlie saw his BABIP so from .315 in 2009 to a high .353 in 2010.

Of course, Morton doesn't pitch in a way that helps himself.  Batters hammered his fastball for a .378 BABIP, and slugged .571 on the pitch.  Why?

Charlie Morton fastballs, 2010.Charlie throws a 92-93 MPH fastball down the middle of the plate with little movement.  The major movement is slightly down, putting the ball at a good angle for an uppercut home run.  Serving up meatballs like that, batters smacked line drives on over 23% of the balls they put in play.  So a combination of balls that were easy to hit and poor defense behind him left Morton with a 7.57 ERA in 2010, three runs higher than the previous year.

When someone allows a BABIP that high, there's often bad luck involved.  While the bad defense was out of Charlie's control, putting fastballs over the heart of the plate wasn't.  Unless he can hit the corners more often, even an improved Pirates defense won't help him much.


Josh Johnson adds a sinker?

Josh Johnson has apparently been working on a sinker this Spring Training.  He claims he picked it up while playing catch with fellow Marlins starter Chris Volstad.

Adding a sinker to his arsenal could prove to be even more deadly for opposing hitters this season.  Johnson went 11-6 with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, throwing a fastball averaging 94.7 MPH, a slider, and a changeup. 

Josh Johnson 2010
Change Up.273.293.330.277.34320.7%3.3%0.0%


Volstad is not a bad guy to learn a sinker from, as his has some of the best downward movement in the game. Last year, his sinker ranked 7th in all of baseball in movement with an average of 14.8 feet per second of downward velocity. However, he got into trouble leaving his sinker up in the zone too often, and batters hit .283 and slugged .442 on it.

It remains to be seen if Josh Johnson will effectively utilize the sinker this season. He's been able to induce some groundballs with it in limited use this spring, but until the real games begin, there's no way of knowing how confident he'll be throwing it. With men on base and less than 2 outs, a sinker can be a pitcher's best friend. If Johnson can master the pitch, he'll have yet another weapon to keep batters off their game.


Too Much Pull?

Curtis Granderson over the last three seasons posted a weak .223/.280/.334 slash line against left handed pitching.  The reason may be is that he is hitting against the way pitchers work him.

Curtis Granderson against LHP, regular season, 2008-2010. (Click for a larger image.)Left-handed pitcher work Granderson away in two dimensions.  They locate the ball on the outside of the plate, plus the movement he most often sees has the pitch moving away as well.  If you look at his hit chart, however, it's clear Granderson tries to pull pitches.  In general, pulling the ball works well.  A batter generates more power, and probably hits the ball harder when he pulls.  It's not working for Curtis, however.  Often times he just grounds out to the second baseman.  Although it may be difficult at this point in his career, learning to smack the ball the other way against lefties might not only raise his averages, it may make the southpaws more honest so they pitch inside a little more often where Granderson can do some real damage.