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Entries in Alex Rodriguez (16)

Monday
Sep262011

Curveball Key for Shields vs. Yankees

James Shields needs to live up to his "Big Game" billing tonight, as the Rays (one game behind Boston in the Wild Card standings) open a three-game set with the Yankees. Shields has shut down New York this year, posting a 27/7 K/BB ratio in 30 innings pitched while holding Bombers batters to a collective .222/.270/.343 line. A big reason for Shields' success against the majors' second-most potent offense is that he's using his curveball, a pitch that makes some Yankees look Cerrano-like, more often.

Shields has increased his curveball usage from 13 percent in 2010 to 21 percent this year. The bender,  dropping a couple more inches compared to last season, is holding hitters to a .199 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), well below the .253 league average. The Yankees, meanwhile, haven't hit curveballs well this season. It's the only pitch against which the club has a below-average team wOBA:

2011 Yankees Team wOBA by Pitch Type (league average in parentheses)

Fastball: .382 (.340)

Sinker: .345 (.343)

Cutter: .323 (.311)

Slider: .302 (.263)

Changeup: .299 (.290)

Splitter: .289 (.279)

Curveball: .248 (.253)

Here are the Yankee hitters who are scuffling against curveballs in 2011:

Brett Gardner, .117

Mark Teixeira, .190

Nick Swisher, .239

Curtis Granderson, .251

Alex Rodriguez, .256

Rodriguez (.344 wOBA vs. curves from 2008-2011) typically crushes curveballs, but that hasn't been the case this season. Gardner (.216), Teixeira (.263), Swisher (.226) and Granderson (.241) have long been jelly-legged against curves.  

Shields has tossed his curveball for a strike nearly 70 percent of the time against the Yankees, giving up just one extra-base hit in the process. Look for the pitch to play a prominent role tonight as Tampa continues its late-season playoff pursuit.

Tuesday
Aug162011

Eduardo Nunez Lacking Line Drive Luck

When Alex Rodriguez went on the DL for knee surgery back in July, the Yankees had to make due with Eduardo Nunez.  Nunez has had fielding issues and his hitting has been just slightly above replacement level since filling in for A-Rod. 

But it appears he's also been the victim of some bad luck.  Nunez has hit 40 line drives this season and only 20 have fallen in for hits. Of all hit types, line drives translate to hits more than any other. Nunez's .500 line drive BAbip is third worst among all qualified hitters. 

Line Drive Pitch Location
(Click image to enlarge)

Granted, not all line drives are equal, and it's possible that Nunez has simply hit more soft, or looping line drives than normal, which would make it easier for opposing fielders to make a play.  But for the most part, line drives to the outfield, even weak ones, tend to fall in more often than not.  And of the 20 outs that Nunez has made on line drives this season, 14 of them have been recorded in the outfield.

Statistically speaking, it is quite rare for a hitter to maintain a below .500 BABIP on line drives over the course of an entire season (no batter since 2008 has hit below .500 on line drives in play).  More than likely, Nunez could see some correction in this area over the final two months of play.  However, with A-Rod likely to return to the lineup soon, Nunez's line drive troubles probably won't matter much for the Yankees down the stretch. 

Friday
Jul082011

Home Run Slump: Is It A-Rod or the Pitchers?

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is mired in a home run slump.  He last homered on June 11 and in the last 22 games he hit well, but just did not deliver a long ball.  Given that he's collecting a good number of base hits, it doesn't seem like there is anything wrong with his swing.

As a prolific home run hitter, PITCHf/x provides a nice sample of where A-Rod likes the ball in the the strike zone in order to take it deep:

Alex Rodriguez, pitch frequency, home runs, 2008-2011.The black box gives you an idea of where he likes pitches, down in the strike zone so he can get a solid upper cut swing at the pitch.  Lately, pitchers avoided that area of the zone:

Alex Rodriguez, pitch frequence June 12, 2011 through July 7, 2011.Rodriguez had a few pitches he might have hit out, but in general the approach against him was very good.  Notice this is what I call a septum heat map, where there is a nice separation between inside and outside pitches.  If I saw this for a single pitcher, my guess would be that he had a successful streak. In that light, Alex's hitting might be considered impressive.  He's taken what pitchers have given him and produced a high BA and high OBP.  If pitches start making mistakes against Alex, we should see him driving the ball again.