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Better Judgement

Joey Votto won the NL MVP on Monday, partly due to an adjustment he made after the 2008 season.  Joey already produced power, but he upped his OBP in 2009, taking his game to the next level. 

In 2008, Votto tended to go after high pitches.  The following chart shows his strike rate that season.

Joey Votto strike rate, 2008.

Note the dark yellow blob above the middle of the strike zone.  That disappeared over the two years:


Joey Votto strike rate, 2009-2010, regular season.That led to about a 25 point rise in his batting average, and a 40 to 50 point rise in his OBP.  Better plate discipline took Votto from a batter with good power to a complete hitter.


Derek Jeter 2010: Not a Year of Contact

A few weeks ago, we looked at Jeter’s 2010 and how poorly he hit against RHP. In that post, I noted how Jeter’s power zone (up and away) decreased significantly last season. Jeter tends get his extra base hits on balls up and out over the plate. In 2010, his in play SLG% on pitches to that area of the zone dropped greatly, especially against RHP.

Considering that a decrease in bat speed might be at issue, I decided to look at Jeter’s contact percentage last season to see if anything changed from previous years.
Derek Jeter Contact Rate 2010
So Jeter was swinging and missing at a lot of pitches in an area where he typically generates most of his power. The first thought that comes to mind is a drop in bat speed. I can't attest to whether or not Jeter actually lost anything on his swing in 2010, but he certainly whiffed at a greater rate on pitches up and away. Hard pitches up in the zone are usually tougher to get around on for hitters. If Jeter was experiencing a drop in bat speed, this would be an area we would notice it most, especially against righties with fastballs tailing away.

How do Jeter's contact numbers up in the zone compare to his 2009 numbers?

Derek Jeter Contact Rate 2009 (Selected Zone [518 pitches, 378 swings])
vs. LHP45.907.63089.3%
vs. RHP110.642.43485.3%
vs. FB101.765.52086.8%

Derek Jeter Contact Rate 2010 (Selected Zone [421 pitches, 295 Swings])
vs. LHP60.719.47483.9%
vs. RHP78.293.24779.5%
vs. FB71.441.31378.9%

Across the board, Jeter’s contact rate was down 5% in 2010. Against fastballs in his power zone, it was down nearly 8%. And against right handed fastballs in that zone, his contact rate was down more than 10% from 2009 (79.4% to 68.7%). Again, I don't know if this is due to a drop in bat speed, or if his bat speed saw any decline at all from 2009 to 2010. However, Jeter was swinging and missing at a greater rate in an area where he gets most of his big hits.

Given the drastic drop in power, Jeter’s 2010 was likely not all a result of decline due to age. He could simply have had an off year, with his problems only partly a result of age related factors. He had a terrible season against RHP which contributed greatly to his overall power outage. However, his numbers do look similar in many respects to his 2008 season numbers, with 2009 looking like the outlier.

I’m really not sure what to expect out of Jeter in 2011. He probably won’t be as bad as he was in 2010. But unless he can correct his troubles against RHP, I doubt we’ll see him approach anything close to his 2009 production.

Andy Pettitte's Cutter

Andy Pettitte is undecided about returning for another season with the Yankees. All indications are that if he does return, this will be his last season.

Andy has been an effective pitcher for the Yankees since his return to the team in 2007. In fact, he was working on one of his best seasons yet before succumbing to injury in July of this year.

For Andy, it's all about the cutter. The success of every outing is almost entirely determined by how well he's throwing his cut fastball, and he's been very proficient at locating the pitch. This is one of the big reasons he's done so well late in his career.

Andy Pettitte's Cutter vs. LHB 2008-10

Andy Pettitte's Cutter vs. RHB 2008-10

Andy Pettitte's Cutter since 2008
vs. LHB518167.151.233.169
vs. RHB1037293.223.385.299

In 2010, Andy's cutter ranked in the 95th percentile in opponents' AVG, SLG and wOBA, as well as Contact%. One more year of that, or something close to it, would help the Yankees' rotation considerably, and may even be necessary if Lee signs elsewhere.