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Entries in Baltimore Orioles (38)

Wednesday
Sep072011

Phil hughes' Location

Phil Hughes pitched fairly well against the Baltimore Orioles last night at a rain-soaked Yankee Stadium, allowing 5 hits in 6 innings while striking out 6 and walking just one.

Here's his pitch location prior to yesterday's start compared to last night:

The most noticeable change from last night was how he kept the ball down against lefties, even when throwing inside.

Wednesday
Aug312011

Rangers Add Mike Gonzalez

With an eye toward a potential playoff matchup with either the lefty-laden Yankees or Red Sox, the Rangers acquired left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez from the Orioles for a player to be named later. Because Texas added Gonzo before September 1, he'll be eligible for the postseason roster.

Over the past three seasons, Gonzalez has allowed right-handed hitters to reach base at a .343 clip. But lefties? They have just a .273 OBP. The 33-year-old puts away same-handed hitters with a low-to-mid-80s slider that he spots on the outer third of the plate:

Location of Gonzalez's slider vs. left-handers, 2009-2011

Lefties swing through many of those sliders, and they're just about helpless when he keeps the pitch at their knees. Check out Gonzalez's opponent contact rate with his slider, compared to the league average for left-handed pitchers vs. lefty hitters:

Left-handed hitters' contact rate vs. Gonzalez's slider, 2009-2011

League average contact rate for lefty hitters vs. lefty sliders, 2009-2011

Gonzalez's miss rate with his slider over the past three years is 42 percent, easily besting the 35 percent league average for lefty sliders against lefty hitters.

With Gonzalez joining Neftali Feliz and July trade pickups Mike Adams and Koji Uehara on the roster, the Rangers now boast one of the more talented bullpens in the game. Somewhere, GM John Daniels and manager Ron Washington are picturing Gonzalez snapping off a slider that flummoxes the likes of David Ortiz and Curtis Granderson.

Wednesday
Aug312011

Wieters Going Chuck Norris On Lefties

Baltimore's Matt Wieters seemingly hasn't got much attention as prospect watchers fix their gaze upon the next "Next Big Thing." Considering that he was billed as a switch-hitting Joe Mauer with power and inspired his own Chuck Norris-style facts page, Wieters' .265 average, .329 OBP and .431 slugging percentage in 2011 look tame.

Yet, that assessment doesn't take into account the fact that run scoring has taken a nosedive in recent years (from over 4.8 per AL team when Wieters debuted in 2009 to 4.4 this season) and that finding a catcher with an offensive pulse is easier said than done. Wieters is enjoying one of the best seasons of any player at his position this season, posting an adjusted OPS that is eight percent better than average and ranking third among MLB backstops with 3.2 Wins Above Replacement.

The 25-year-old's breakout season is due to his giving left-handed pitchers a collective round-house kick. Wieters slugged .344 versus lefties during his first two years in the majors, rarely driving pitches unless they were down the middle or belt-high:

Wieters' in-play slugging percentage vs. lefties, 2009-2010

In 2011, however, he's killing it from the right side of the plate:

Wieters' in-play slugging percentage vs. lefties, 2011

Wieters is slugging .631 against lefties this year. After punching a Brett Cecil changeup over the fence last night, he has now hit seven homers versus left-handers. He hit five combined in '09-'10 in about 2.5 times as many at-bats.

Small sample size issues abound with platoon stats, but Wieters seems to have a fundamentally better approach against left-handers these days. Chasing fewer pitches and making more contact, Wieters has walked in about 13 percent of his plate appearances versus left-handers and struck out 23 percent of the time after walking six percent and whiffing 27 percent the two previous years.

His production might not match up with the mythic status bestowed upon him as a prospect, but the real Matt Wieters is pretty darned good in his own right. Most teams would kill for a mid-twenties catcher who can hurt pitchers from both sides of the plate.

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