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Entries in Arizona Diamondbacks (25)

Wednesday
Sep282011

Jarrod Parker's MLB Debut

Jarrod Parker might not pitch in October for the D-Backs, but he showed why he's a strong Rookie of the Year candidate in 2012 against the Dodgers on Tuesday. The ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft returned from Tommy John surgery this season to post a 112/55 K/BB ratio in 130.2 innings pitched at Double-A Mobile, and he limited L.A. to four hits in 5.2 scoreless frames in his MLB debut. As MLB.com's AJ Cassavell noted, Parker featured a diverse, deceptive mix of pitches:

Parker's fastball was consistently in the mid-90s, but he was most effective using it to set up his offspeed pitches, specifically his changeup. Dodgers hitters were constantly out in front of his changeup and slider, flailing at the pitches to produce weak contact.

Fifty of Parker's 73 pitches were fastballs, which averaged 92.7 mph and went as high as 96 on the gun. Part of the reason that L.A. hitters were out in front against Parker is that his fastball and changeup had similar horizontal movement (5-6 inches away from lefties), but the low-80s changeup dropped a half-foot more than the fastball. Parker had the same effect going on with his breaking pitches. His low-80s slider and high-70s curve both broke away from righties about six inches, but the curve broke down five more inches than the slider:

 Release velocity and movement of Parker's pitches, 9/27/2011

While I'm not suggesting that Parker will soon have a pair of Cy Youngs on his mantle, he and Tim Lincecum share some similarities that go beyond being smallish right-handers. Both have fastball/change and slider/curve combos that have similar horizontal movement, but a big difference in downward bite:

Release velocity and movement of Tim Lincecum's pitches, 2011

With Parker's fastball/changeup and slider/curve showing the same amount of horizontal break, hitters could have an awfully hard time differentiating between those pitches. Until the pitch darts down or not, that is. And by then, it's too late.

Saturday
Sep242011

Goldschmidt Defines his Strikezone

Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks hit down the stretch as he helped the team to the NL West title.  Goldschmidt's strength is his power.  His hits and walks are low enough, however, that is OBP has room for improvement.  Luckily for Goldschmidt, there's a path to improving his ability to get on base.

Goldschmidt likes to swing at inside pitches, which shows up in his ball rate:

Paul Goldschmidt, called ball rate, all pitches, 2011.Where there should be yellows and reds inside, there are only blues and greens.  Look what happens when he takes those pitches:

Paul Goldschmidt, called ball rate, taken pitches, 2011.You can see how he's not getting the calls well off the plate inside.  Those are pitches that should be going his way.  He needs to re-teach umpires by starting to take those pitches rather than swing at them.  That will lead to more favorable counts, and more balls in the strike zone that he can crush.

Tuesday
Sep202011

Kennedy's fastball-first approach

Ian Kennedy joined Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Brandon Webb in the Diamondback 20-win club last night, punching out 12 Pirates in eight scoreless innings. Kennedy's 20-W season doesn't quite call to mind those tour de force years that The Big Unit and Schilling had in 2001 and 2002, but the former Yankees prospect has clearly blossomed in 2011.

Kennedy has blown by the 200-inning mark while lowering his fielding independent ERA from 4.33 last year to 3.22. The biggest reason for that stellar FIP is that Kennedy has cut his walk rate from 3.3 batters per nine innings to 2.2. And for that, he can credit his fastball.

The 26-year-old righty has increased his fastball usage from 55 percent of his pitches in 2010 to 66 percent in 2011. No matter the count, the catcher is putting down one finger more often with Kennedy on the mound:

Kennedy's fastball percentage by count, 2010-2011

First Pitch: 60% in 2010, 72% in 2011

Even Counts: 59% in 2010, 69% in 2011

Hitter's Counts: 60% in 2010, 70% in 2011

Pitcher's Counts: 47% in 2010, 60% in 2011

His average fastball velocity is up a tick this year (from 89 mph to 90), and he's sitting closer to 91 this September. Interestingly, Kennedy seems to reach back for a little extra when he smells a strikeout: he averages 91.4 mph when throwing a fastball with two strikes, maxing out at 94.8 mph.

Kennedy isn't nibbling with his fastball, either. He's going right after hitters, placing 58 percent of his heaters in the strike zone. Among starting pitchers, only R.A. Dickey, Ted Lilly, Jeff Karstens, Cliff Lee, Randy Wolf and James Shields have put their fastballs over the plate more often.

That aggressiveness has paid off, as hitters have a paltry .225 average, .285 on-base percentage and a .350 slugging percentage versus Kennedy's fastball (the league averages for a fastball are .270/.345/.424).

Considered a reclamation project at the time of the three-team Granderson/Jackson/Scherzer swap in December of 2009, Kennedy is now a key reason why the D-Backs are postseason-bound for the first time since 2007.

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