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Off Speed Lee

Carlos Lee's (Houston Astros) slugging percentage took a big hit in 2010 compare to 2008 and 2009. He dropped to .417 last season from .522 the previous two years combined.  Graphically, the seasons looked like this:

Carlos Lee, slugging, 2008-2009.He really whacks inside pitches, and does well in the middle of the plate. 

Carlos Lee slugging, 2010The outside half of the plate proved to be a dead zone for Carlos last season.  What changed?  Lee learned to handle the slider, but lost his ability to smash other pitches.


Carlos Lee Slugging2008-20092010
Fastball .556 .441
Slider .302 .479
Change up .606 .432
Curveball .452 .265


The slider was the only pitch that really gave him trouble in the past.  With all the off-speed pitches working against him in 2010, Lee's ability to hit for power was doomed.


Aramis Ramirez's Fastball Woes

What the heck happened to Aramis Ramirez in 2010?  He posted his first sub-100 OPS+ season since 2002 with the Pirates, and his slugging percentage dropped below .500 for the first time since 2003.  At age 32, was it the first drastic sign of decline for the third baseman?

One of the key problems for Ramirez last season was his inability to do anything against fastballs.

Aramis Ramirez vs. Fastballs

(Click to enlarge)

In 2008-09, Ramirez hit .322/.413/.550 on fastballs compared to .218/.283/.325 in 2010.  As you can see from the graphic above, he had a lot of trouble catching up to fastballs away, producing a .524 OPS. 

One possible explanation was that Ramirez was swinging at 7% more fastballs away last season.  This actually reduced his strikeout rate on outside fastballs by nearly 6%.  But it resulted in more weak hits as his SLG% dropped 54 points versus fastballs in that zone.

Ramirez did see a noticeable drop in BABIP versus fastballs last season.  From 2008-09 it was .335, dropping to .246 last season.  However, before we start attributing his troubles to some bad luck, we need to acknowledge that his averages on both line drives and ground balls dropped considerably last season. 

Aramis Ramirez BABIP vs. Fastballs

With an overall decline in average on liners and grounders coming off fastballs, it's probably more indicative of an issue at the plate rather than bad luck on balls put in play.  If Ramirez is going to have a bounce back year as many in Chicago are expecting, improving his numbers on fastballs will be essential.


Chicago's Power Closer

With Matt Thornton signing a new deal with the White Sox, it's likely he'll be the team's closer for the next few years.  Thornton is pure fastball-slider reliever.  He threw a fastball 87.4 percent of the time last season, using his slider mostly when ahead in the count.

Thornton gets a lot of velocity on his fastball, averaging 96.1 MPH last season, tops among all lefties.  But the pitch also moves quite a bit.  In 2010, his fastball averaged 5.7 feet per second of horizontal movement as it crossed the plate, good for 2nd among all lefties.

Thornton's only area of concern may be right handed batters.  While righties only produced a .271 wOBA against Thornton last year, they had a 72.2 percent contact rate against his fastball, about 10% higher than lefties.  Now that the league has seen his premier fastball, Thornton will have to start making adjustments in order to keep batters off their game.  Look for him to start mixing in the slider a bit more in the closer's role this season.