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Entries in ALDS (6)


Swisher's Postseason Struggles

Nick Swisher has been a valuable hitter for the Yankees since joining the team in 2009. He's averaged a 123 OPS+ in that time, hitting 81 home runs over his three seasons in pinstripes. However, he hasn't yet been able to carry that success into the postseason.

Nick Swisher, 2009-2011

His slugging percentage heat maps suggests that the switch-hitting right fielder has been unable to duplicate his success on pitches in the zone in the postseason.

Nick Swisher
(Click image to enlarge)

During the regular season, Swisher did quite well on pitches up in the zone (.491 SLG%). However, through 110 postseason plate appearances as a Yankee, his numbers have fallen short, as he's slugged just .296 on pitches in the upper portion of the zone.

One interesting note: since joining the Yankees in 2009, Swisher has a .302 batting average on balls in play during the regular season. In the playoffs, that number is down to .169. He's seen his fly ball percentage jump slightly from 34.3% in the regular season to 38.6% in the postseason, while his line drive rate has dropped from 19.5% to 14.3%. However, in the regular season, Swisher has produced a .798 batting average on his liners. Yet in the playoffs (SSS caveat), only six of his ten line drives have translated into hits. In addition, his ground ball batting average dropped from .238 in the regular season to .185 in the postseason.

It's possible Swisher has been somewhat unlucky as a Yankee so far in the postseason, while he's probably also not hitting the ball as well either. Although, it's also important to note that teams generally face better pitching come October. So combined with an overall small sample size of data, it's not uncommon for hitters to see a decline in their numbers this time of year.


Matt Harrison Limits the Rays

Perhaps lost in yesterday’s HR explosion from Texas Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre was just how well Matt Harrison pitched.  In fact, his 9 strikeout performance against the Tampa Bay Rays gives him a 34.6% strikeout per plate appearance rate for the playoffs, leading all pitchers through Tuesday's games.

Harrison held the Rays to five hits and two walks through five innings on Tuesday, allowing two earned runs.  He struck out seven of the 16 right handed hitters he faced.

During the regular season, Harrison actually did slightly better against righties than lefties, holding them to a .293 wOBA, 23 points lower than opposing lefties.  When he did get hit by RHB, it was mostly on pitches in, as you can see from the following heat map:

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

Yesterday, Harrison made sure to keep the ball away and as a result he was able to not only limit damage from RHB, but also strike out nine batters in all matching his 2011 game high set against the Mariners on September 18th.


Comparing strike zones for Sabathia and Verlander

During last night's ALDS Game Three between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, Yankee manager Joe Girardi mentioned during his in-game interview that he thought CC Sabathia wasn't getting some borderline calls from home plate umpire Gerry Davis.  He also brought it up in the post-game interview saying of CC, “I actually thought he made a lot of good pitches tonight and I thought the zone was a small zone.”

So was CC getting squeezed? Was Justin Verlander getting a better strike zone to work with?  Or both?

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers and heat maps.

(Click image to enlarge)

The most noticeable difference here is the strikes Gerry Davis was calling for Verlander off the outside edge to lefty hitters.  Verlander also benefitted from a few strikes that were a bit high.  However, it's tough to say whether CC would have gotten any similar calls in that area since he didn't throw anything there that was taken by any Detroit hitters. The up and away strike to RHB also seems to have tipped in Verlander's favor, while CC was getting the low and away area.

So what do the numbers say?

Game 3 - Gerry Davis Strike Zone
Strike Zone Called BallsOut of Strike Zone Called Strikes
Called Strike% In Strike ZoneCalled Strike% Out of Strike Zone

So what does this tell us? Essentially, CC and Verlander missed out on about the same number of called strikes in the strike zone. However, Verlander greatly benefited from an expanded zone, getting more than three times as many called strikes on pitches outside of the PitchFX defined strike zone. Most of those pitches are likely the outside strikes to lefties you see in the above heat maps.

As for the percentages, CC was getting fewer strikes called overall in the strike zone. A 62.5% strike zone called strike rate is pretty low. During the regular season, Gerry Davis correctly called 76.8% of strikes in the strike zone, and 78.9% for left-handed pitchers. For whatever reason, he simply was not giving CC much of a zone to work with yesterday.

Granted, we are talking about a total of just 16 taken pitches in the strike zone for CC and 17 for Verlander. If CC was throwing to some borderline spots that Gerry Davis does not normally call while Verlander was not, it could explain the disproportionate results.

However, for strikes called out of the strike zone, it is pretty clear that Verlander was the big beneficiary in last night's game. Three of his strikes called on pitches out of the zone were deciding strike three pitches.