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Strike Zone Luck

Franklin Guttierez posted a .337 wOBA in 2009, well above his .316 career mark.  He played as a 26 year old that season, so there was a good chance that entering his prime years, the improvement was real.  It turned out not to be the case, as his wOBA fell to .300 in 2010.  What happened.

The difference in the two years came from his hits (he walked more in the same number of at bats in 2010 compared to 2009).  His batting averaged dropped 38 points.  Note his hot zones in 2009:

Franklin Gutierrez, in play average, 2009.Note how his best zones for getting hits lie on the edges of the strike zone.  Normally, when pitches move away from the center of the zone, batters do worse, not better.  Not surprisingly, those edge advantages disappeared in 2010:

Franklin Gutierrez, in play average, 2010.Especially high in the strike zone, the areas where Gutierrez collected hits in 2009 turned into black holes in 2010.  Franklin did hit better in the heart of zone, but that represents an area pitchers tend to avoid:

Franklin Gutierrez, pitch frequency, 2009-2010.The Mariners outfielder got lucky on some bad pitches in 2009, making him look better than his career indicated.  The good news is that Franklin isn't as bad as his 2010 number either.  He does show good plate discipline, and at 28 years old should still be at his peak.  He just needs his luck to swing back to the positive side of the ledger.


Offspeed Contact with Cruz

In 2009, Nelson Cruz made contact on offspeed pitches only 53.7 percent.  Last season, he improved that number to 69.3 percent.  The increased contact resulted in an OPS increase of .079.

Nelson Cruz vs. Offspeed Pitches
(click to enlarge)

Cruz's K-rate dropped 10.5 percent on soft pitches as a result of the increase in contact.  But as the increase in OPS indicates, the additional balls in plays were doing damage to opposing pitchers.  His OBP increased an additional .050 points as well.


The Away Pitcher

Since joining the Twins Carl Pavano uses his off-speed pitches on the outside of the plate to get hitters out.  He moves the fastball in and out, as demonstrated here against left-handed batters:

Carl Pavano, fastball location, with the Twins, 2009-2010.He does a good job of avoiding the middle of the plate, but the pitch is hittable.  Lefties post a .384 wOBA against the pitch.  Pavano only throws it about 40% of the time, however, with his off-speed stuff staying mostly outside:

Carl Pavano, off-speed pitches, with the Twins, 2009-2010.Lefties have only managed a .267 wOBA against these pitches.  One reason for that is Carl splits these off-speed offerings between his change-up and slider, which show different movements:

Carl Pavano, change-up movement, with the Twins, 2009-2010.Carl Pavano, slider movement, with the Twins, 2009-2010.While both pitches dip down about the same, the slider moves in a little more, giving Carl the ability to start it off outside the strike zone and then break in.

The only difference against righties is that Carl tends not to work them inside with the fastball as much.  Otherwise, the location of the pitches is the mirror image as against lefties.