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Marmol's Ups and Downs

Carlos Marmol signed a three-year contract on Monday.  It may be a dangerous contract for the Cubs, as Marmol walks a ton of batters.  He gets away with it, however, due to his very high strikeout rate. In 2010, he struck out 16.0 batters per nine innings while walking six per nine.  He only allowed 40 hits, however, and without the hits, the batters who walk can't advance very far.  Keeping the ball out of play kept runners stranded on base.

Marmol works against batters with two very different pitches.  His 94 MPH stays up in the strike zone with very little drop.  That probably helps keep his home run rate low.  His 84 MPH slider drops a great deal, and moves to the right hand of the catcher (down and in on left-handed batters, away from right-handed batters).

Marmol uses the slider as his out pitch.  Early in the count he tends to use the fastball, as you can see by the movement of the pitches:

Carlos Marmol pitch movement, no strikes on the batter, 2010He does mix in some sliders to keep the batters honest, and with one strike goes to the pitch even more.

Carlos Marmol pitch movement, one strike, 2010It's about a 60-40 split, with the fast ball getting the nod trying for the first strike, the slider dominating the second strike.  For strike three, it's almost all sliders.

Carlos Marmol pitch movement, two strikes, 2010With two strikes, Marmol throws 80% sliders.  With 75 of his Ks coming on the pitch.  It's a great example of a pitcher moving a batter's eye, not letting him get comfortable with a pitch or a location.


White Sox Beckham Looking to Regain Form

The White Sox are very much hoping that Gordon Beckham can bounce back from a below average 2010 and regain the offense from his 2009 season, when he finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune notes that a sore right shoulder probably contributed to his suppressed numbers. Beckham also suffered a bruised right hand at the end of September, essentially ending his sophomore season prematurely. However, fully healthy going into spring training, the White Sox will be eager to see how he starts the 2011 season.

Beckham’s power saw a noticeable dropoff last season, falling from a .442 slugging percentage to .367.

Gordon Beckham, 2009
Gordon Beckham, 2010
Looking at Beckham’s contact rates, we see he had trouble hitting the outside pitch in his second season.
Gordon Beckham, 2009
Gordon Beckham, 2010
As Gonzales notes, Beckham wasn’t getting as many opposite field hits in 2010. In the selected zone above, his contact rate dropped to 73.8%, about 4% less than in 2009. This likely contributed to fewer hits to right last season. If his shoulder and hand injuries are fully behind him, look for Beckham to make better contact on pitches away in 2011, and perhaps boost his power numbers overall.

Damon's Doughnut

Johnny Damon saw a large falloff in his slugging percentage in 2010.  The previous two seasons he posted a .461 mark, but that dropped to .401 last season.  What happened?

Johnny's best slugging areas are a bit doughnut shaped.  The following heat map shows his hot slugging zones for 2008 and 2009 combined:

Johnny Damon slugging, 2008-2009Notice the hole in the top outer quadrant of Damon's strike zone.  He slugs around the hole, with most of his power in the middle of the zone, but some up and outside.  In 2010, that doughnut shifted.

Johnny Damon slugging 2010The doughnut hole moved right into the middle of the strike zone, and the dougnut itself became less dense.  Damon could no longer connect on what should be the easiest pitches to hit.  Note that the move to Comerica Park didn't make the difference, as Johnny's poor slugging came mostly on the road.  The doughnut was in the middle of the plate in both places, however.

I suspect Damon lost some bat speed.  That would make it more difficult to catch up to pitches over the middle of the plate.  He could, however, reach the lower pitches, as he would have a bit more time to get there. 

Through his career, Damon played the role of table setter with some power.  As he ages, he'll be more dependent on his selectivity to get on base, and will need to leave the power hitting to others.