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Joe, Fast and Slow

Joe Blanton gets very different reactions to his fast and off-speed pitches.  This graph shows Joe's results by different speeds in 2010.

Joe Blanton pitch speed, 2010.Joe's fastball is hittable.  When batters swing, they make contact.  They don't swing at it that often, however, and when they do make contact, their BABIP tends to be lower.

Batters like to swing at the off-speed pitches, but their contact rate goes way down.  Less contact, means more swing and misses.  Blanton gets a 30.7% strikeout rate on the soft stuff, 8.5% on his fastball.  So while batters hit .345 when they put a Blanton fastball in play versus .383 on the softstuff, the higher strikeout rate means opponets hit just .261 on the off-speed pitches but .313 on the fastball.  That makes Blanton's slow stuff all or nothing pitches.


Adrian Gonzalez: Home Sweet Home?

Nick Carfardo's recent Boston Globe article "It's all in place" focuses on the history of left-handed hitters benefiting (or not benefiting) from Fenway Park's dimensions.  Much of the article centers on how Adrian Gonzalez will fit in and whether he can use the left field wall to his advantage, as did many successful left-handed Red Sox batters before him.

A while back, David Pinto noted in a post how Adrian Gonzalez can hit for power to all fields.  Petco park most definitely suppressed his offense, unsurprisingly, as it is one of the best pitching parks in the league.  At Fenway, Gonzalez should see a decent boost in his power numbers.  In Cafardo's article, he notes that pitcher's will likely try to bust Gonzalez in this year at home in order to limit his use of the wall in left.  Gonzalez's response: "They’ve been doing that to me for years anyway. I’ve always been able to inside-out it the other way.’’

On pitches inside (anything from the inside 3.5" of the plate and in) Gonzalez has actually hit very few balls to left field.  In fact, since 2008, he's hit no HRs to left, one HR to left center, and 19 HRs to right or right center on pitches inside.

Adrian Gonzalez vs. Inside Pitches - 2008-2010
(Click to enlarge)

In the 689 plate appearances represented in the graphic above, Gonzalez produced a .740 OPS on 154 hits, with 29 doubles and 20 HRs.  However, all but 8 of those extra base hits fell right of dead center field.  His 105 singles over that period were fairly spread out across all fields, however the majority fell in what would be well short of the wall in left, as did his 119 fly ball outs.

Of course, Gonzalez will be successful regardless of whether or not he's banging balls off the wall in left.  Even if pitcher's come in on him, a .740 OPS over the past 3 years is nothing to scoff at. Considering that Gonzalez's expected OBP on pitches inside since 2008 is .388, he's likely to be successful even if pitchers try to jam him.


Swinging for the Count

Sometimes when looking at the data provided by In-Depth Baseball, a fact pops out about a player that's surprising.  Alex Rodriguez hits home runs on different parts of the plate depending on the count.  For example, when the count is even, Alex hits home runs on pitches on the outer half of the plate:

Alex Rodriguez, home runs on an even count, 2008-2010.Most of these are pulled as well.  When Alex is in a hitter's count, he looks for an inside pitch:

Alex Rodriguez, home runs on a hitter's count, 2008-2010.I understand this.  Rodriguez can really pull an inside pitch, and with the count in his favor he can allow a pitch on the outer half of the plate to go for a strike.  I'm not sure why if he's so hot to hit the inside pitch ahead in the count, why he doesn't do that more often even.  The majority of those home runs are on 0-0 and 1-1 counts, where he can still afford to take a strike.  The only thing I see is that pitchers tend ever so slightly to pitch him away even, so maybe that's just where Alex looks.

With the count in the pitcher's favor, Alex's home runs pop up all over the strike zone:

Alex Rodriguez, home runs on a pitcher's count, 2008-2010.This makes sense, of course, since the pitcher is in control.  The interesting thing here is that Alex gets few pitches down the middle in these counts, but kills the mistakes.

So Alex looks outside in neutral counts, inside when he's in control, and for a mistake down the middle when the pitcher holds the advantage.  He's strong enough to pull pitches anywhere over the plate for home runs, which makes him such a dangerous hitter.