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Friday
Mar182011

Lester's Fastball Issues

As we saw in the last entry, Lester's cutter has been very valuable over the last few seasons.  His fastball, however, has been giving him trouble recently.  Compare batters' performance off it the last three seasons:

Jon Lester's Fastball
PAVGOBPSLGK%BB%wOBA
20082108.264.334.37914.7%8.9%.316
20091893.270.346.43519.8%10.5%.342
20101301.300.411.48822.6%15.9%.393

(Click to enlarge)
Opponents hit better against Lester's fastball each year since 2008.  But it was left-handed batters that have really begun to zero in on the pitch. As a result, Lester has begun to utilize the fastball less. In 2008 it represented 63.7 percent of his pitches thrown (69.7 to LHB). This dropped to 55.7 and 38.8 percent in 2009 and 2010 respectively (67.1 and 40.7 to LHB).

Last year represented a noticeable change in his repertoire. As Lester has shied away from the throwing the fastball as much, he's leaned more on his superior cutter. In 2010, he threw the cutter for 21.7 percent of his pitches, and 22.5 percent to LHB. This is up 9.8 percent over his previous two year rate to all batters, and 14.8 percent to LHB.

Given how successful he's been with the cutter, expect him to continue favoring it over the fastball this season, particularly against lefties.

Thursday
Mar172011

Singles Versus Power

Atlanta's Brian McCann shows different hot zones for getting hits as opposed to hitting for power.  His hot spots, as represented by his in-play batting average looks like this:

Brian McCann, in play batting average, 2008-2010.Note how many of his hits are concentrated in the lower, outside half of the plate.  Now compare that to his slugging percentage:

Brian McCann, in play slugging percentage, 2008-2010.Brian is hotter higher on the outside part of the plate and in the middle.  It turns out over the seasons pitcher worked Brian more and more down and away.  McCann is very good at turning those pitches into line drives.

Brian McCann line drives, 2008-2010.Line drives are an excellent way to produce hits.  Since 2008, McCann hits .773 on line drives (including the post season), but only 48 of his 187 hits have gone for extra bases, nearly all of them doubles.  Pitchers have adjusted to the spot where McCann still hurts them, but with the least amount of damage.

Thursday
Mar172011

Cutting it with Jon Lester

Jon Lester's cutter is his most valuable pitch.  Fangraphs has it at 17.9 runs above average in 2010.

Jon Lester's 2010 Cutter
(Click to enlarge)
He keeps it away from lefties and in on righties.  Lester only gets into trouble when occasionally leaving one up in the zone. His cutter was almost equally effective against both righties and lefties, although he obviously faces far more RHB as a left-handed starter.

Jon Lester's 2010 Cutter
PAVGOBPSLGK%BB%wOBA
vs. Left187.179.191.20936.2%1.4%.177
vs. Right541.188.270.24831.1%7.4%.244
Total728.185.245.23532.7%5.5%.223
Expected-.203.296.29132.9%10.7%.274

The cutter slightly outperformed it's expected value last season, but the inflated xBB% is probably more an indication of how good his cutter really is as an out pitch.

Lester's fastball has begun to give him trouble over the last couple years, and we'll dive into that in a future post.