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Entries in Arizona Diamondbacks (25)

Thursday
Aug112011

Another Leadoff HR for Bloomquist

When I saw that Arizona Diamondback Willie Bloomquist hit a leadoff HR against the Astros yesterday, the first thing I thought was that it had to be a pitch up and in.  Back on April 4th, Bloomquist hit a leadoff HR against the Cubs at Wrigley, and I analyzed how the Diamondback outfielder does well on inside high pitches, particularly fastballs.

Well sure enough, Astros' starter Henry Sosa threw Bloomquist a high inside fastball that he promptly deposited into the left center field stands.  Here's his slugging heat map with his HR pitch sequence:

Willie Bloomquist vs. Henry Sosa (Bot. 1st, 8/10/2011)
Heat map data from 2011 season (click image to enlarge)

And here's a look at the location of pitches that Bloomquist has taken deep since the beginning of the 2009 season (11 total HRs):

(click image to enlarge)

It's a wonder opposing pitchers are still throwing him inside; it's really the only area of the zone that he can do significant damage.

Wednesday
Jun292011

Justin Upton's Contact

Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks upped his batting average and OBP to new highs this season, and could be on the way to the best year of his young career.  The change that stands out most for Justin is his reduced strikeout rate.  In his first three full seasons, Justin struck out in between 23 and 29% of his plate appearances.  His three year average of 26% was the sixth highest in the majors.  In 2011, that's down to 17.5%.  That number is not low, but he's now in the middle of the pack rather than near the top.

Justin's strike zone judgment remained the same.  With two strikes, Upton swings at strikes:

Justin Upton, swing rate with two strikes, 2008-2010.Justin Upton, swing rate with two strikes, 2011.The heat maps are nearly identical in terms of inside/outside the zone.  In fact, it looks like Justin swings a bit more frequently this season.  The big difference comes in terms of contact:

Justin Upton, contact rate with two strikes, 2008-2010.Justin Upton, contact rate with two strikes, 2011.In the past, if the pitch was not inside, Justin had trouble hitting it.  He knew to swing, the swings just failed.  Now, he's handling the high and low outside pitches better, and fouling them off or putting the ball in play more.  He's playing this season as a 23 year old, and it appears he's learning to adjust, a good sign as he approaches his peak years.

Tuesday
May242011

Slow and Steady Josh Collmenter

One of the aspects of the game of baseball that I love is that there are myriad ways of succeeding in the sport.  Josh Collmenter (ARI) reminds us that throwing hard is not a prerequisite to pitching success.  He is in fact fooling batters with the slow, straight stuff.

Collmenter attacks batters with two main pitches, a fastball and a change up.  The following charts examine the movement of the pitches across the plate, the color showing the velocity:

Josh Collmenter, movement across the plate by velocity, fastball and change up.The light green at the top of of the blob is his fastball, which tends to come in at around 86-87 MPH.  Here's a look at the pure fastball:

Josh Collmenter, movement across the plate by velocity, fastball.That is not a fast fastball, and if you take the center of blob as the most likely movement for the pitch, there is very little movement at all.  The same is true of the change up:

Josh Collmenter, movement across the plate by velocity, change up.The change dips more than the fastball, but it basically comes in straight.  So he doesn't throw hard, he doesn't throw with movement, how does he get batters out?

The straight movement of his pitches implies a ball thrown with a lot of backspin, and if you watch video of Collmenter, you can see where that comes from.  He is an extreme over the top pitcher, one who needs to get his head out of the way of his arm to deliver a pitch.  Hitters seldom see this arm angle.  His two pitches, the fastball and change may actually be three pitches, as he likely throws a four and two seam fastball.  In first heat map, I believe the two-seam fastball is overlapping with the change up.  He's forcing a batter to look for two speeds and three levels, all looking like the same pitch out of his hand.

Finally, Josh does a great job of locating his pitches:

Josh Collmenter, pitch frequency, fastball and change up.If you break this up by batter hand, you will also see that he works both types of hitters outside.  By changing speeds, changing levels and locating pitches away from batters, Josh is off to a great start. It will be worth revisiting him in a couple of months to see how batters adjusted.