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Entries in Blue Jays (3)

Monday
Feb032014

A.J. Burnett Racks up Ks with New Two-Strike Approach

Now that he's committed to pitching in 2014, A.J. Burnett could well alter the playoff landscape -- and prove to be the best free agent value of the offseason. The 37-year-old is still at the peak of his abilities, punching out a major league and career-best 9.8 hitters per nine frames last season, he's looking for a short-term deal, and he won't cost teams a draft pick because the Pirates didn't make him a $14.1 million qualifying offer. Burnett could pitch every bit as well as, say, Masahiro Tanaka in 2014, and clubs won't have to commit the years and dollars that typically lead to free agent pitching deals exploding like cheap ACME bombs. He's basically the NL version of Hiroki Kuroda.

Just how did Burnett manage to post the best strikeout rate ever for a starting pitcher during his age-36 season this side of Randy Johnson (12.6 K/9) and Curt Schilling (10.4 K/9)? He drastically changed his two-strike approach against right-handed hitters, tossing more pitches off the plate and relying on hitters to hack their way back to the dugout.

In 2012, Burnett struck out 21.9 percent of the right-handed hitters that he faced. That was solid, but not all that far above the 20.1 percent major league average in righty-versus-righty confrontations.  Part of the reason for A.J.'s good-not-great K rate was that he threw nearly half (48.5 percent) of his two-strike pitches to righties within the strike zone. Most righty pitchers are less aggressive than Burnett was with two-strikes, looking for chases against same-handed hitters (the average zone rate in two-strike counts is about 42 percent).

Burnett's two-strike pitch location vs. righty hitters, 2012

In 2013, however, Burnett decided to bury more pitches in the dirt when righties had their backs against the wall. Hoping that same-handed hitters would retire themselves, Burnett tossed just 39.9 percent of his two-strike offerings within the strike zone. A lot of those off-the-plate pitches were curveballs, as he relied more on his hook with two strikes this past year (55.3 percent) than in 2012 (48.5 percent).  

Burnett's two-strike pitch location vs. righty hitters, 2013

Burnett's less aggressive two-strike approach paid off: righties chased considerably more pitches outside of the strike zone (41.6 percent, up from 30.5 percent in 2012) and whiffed more often (32.2 percent in 2013, 24.3 percent in '12). By baiting righties, Burnett increased strikeout rate against them to 29.6 percent. Among righty starters, only Yu Darvish (38.5 percent), Justin Masterson (32 percent), and Max Scherzer (31.6 percent) fooled right-handed hitters more frequently.

Possessing a mix of strikeout stuff and ground ball tendencies rarely seen -- the only other starters inducing at least a whiff per inning with a ground ball rate north of 50 were Masterson, Stephen Strasburg and Felix Hernandez -- Burnett could make all the difference for a number of playoff bubble teams. Whether he takes the bump in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philly or elsewhere in 2014, Burnett will have righties breaking out in a cold sweat once they're down to their final strike.

Tuesday
Mar122013

Halladay says he is healthy after rough outing and more

"Roy Halladay insisted Tuesday that he is fine.

But is he really?

He struggled terribly in 2 2/3 innings at Bright House Field against a lineup featuring mostly Detroit Tigers reserves. He allowed six hits, seven runs, four walks, one wild pitch, two home runs and one hit batsman. He lacked tempo and command throughout the start. He also lacked velocity. One scout said his fastball hit just 86-88 mph on the radar gun. Other reports had gun readings clocking his fastball a mile or two less than that.

Halladay's velocity has dropped since his first two Grapefruit League starts, when he sat in the 89-91 mph range. It dropped into the 86-88 mph range in his third start before sitting in about the same area Tuesday.

Halladay appears to be going in the wrong direction with Opening Day just 20 days away.

"The good part is, there's no soreness," Halladay said. "Nothing hurts."

He blamed his troubling performance on lethargy. He said a completely revamped, more intense workout program, plus throwing two bullpen sessions in between starts, contributed to his lackluster performance.

"I think I've always been a lot harder on myself than any of you guys have ever been. I can promise you that," he said. "You also are aware of what's going on, and it's hard to explain sometimes how you're feeling, what you're working on, what you're going through, what you're trying to do. When you know in your head what's going on, it's a lot different."

Source: MLB.com

Lawrie expects to be ready for season opener

"Brett Lawrie insists there’s no reason to worry.

Blue Jays fans, of course, will worry anyway.

The injured third baseman returned to the Jays spring training complex on Tuesday morning to see team doctors and training staff after participating in a non-active role with Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic until the Canadians were eliminated Sunday night."

Source: Thestar.com

Samardzija turns corner as opening day approaches

"Three weeks before he takes the mound on Opening Day in Pittsburgh, Jeff Samardzija moved closer to being ready for the Cubs' first game that counts.

While Samardzija's line -- 4 2/3 innings, 4 earned runs, 4 hits, 2 walks and 2 home runs allowed -- wasn't what he'll look for in 21 days, he was nevertheless encouraged by how he felt after ramping up the intensity for the first time this spring.

"I really thought today was a big turn for me, just how I felt, my pitch execution -- if I missed, I didn't miss by much," Samardzija said. "The adjustments I need to make are pretty simple, I feel like."

Source: CSNchicago.com

Patient appraoch with Ortiz is the right move

"I don't think it requires high levels of cynicism in the bloodstream to have heard the Red Sox' recent explanation for sore-heeled David Ortiz's scheduled five-to-seven-day hiatus and immediately mutter: ''Right. More like five to seven weeks."

I suppose any time the Red Sox' medical team concludes a diagnosis without alienating a player is a victory nowadays. But let's just say Monday's acknowledgement that Ortiz, who was limited to just 90 games last season after suffering a slight tear in his right Achilles' tendon, will probably begin the season on the disabled list hardly comes as a surprise."

Source: Boston.com

Jeter to play shortstop Wednesday

"Derek Jeter says he will play at shortstop Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.

It's the first time in the field for Jeter since ankle surgery last fall. Jeter says Tuesday after working out in Tampa that he'll "be out there" against the Phillies after two games as the designated hitter.

The game Wednesday also marks the spring training debut for Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.

Jeter went 0 for 2 Monday in his second game at DH since breaking his left ankle in October. He had a single in two at-bats Saturday."

Source: NYPost.com

Joe Nathan still building arm strength

"Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan gave up back-to-back triples Monday, but the bigger development was the progress of his slider. After the two triples, which accounted for San Francisco’s second run in a 2-1 victory, he found the Giants committing to and chasing his slider. That led to three consecutive strikeouts.

Nathan said his arm strength is still lacking, but that it has come later during spring training in recent years. He compiled a 10.29 ERA in seven spring games last year and a 9.72 in 2011, his first year back from Tommy John surgery."

Source: Dallasnews.com

Nick Markakis out roughly two weeks

"The cause of Nick Markakis’ neck soreness is more severe than originally thought, but the Orioles hope that some rest will allow the team’s starting right fielder to return to spring training games in the next week or two.

A MRI on Monday revealed a small disk herniation — or slight tear — in the C4-C5 section (neck area) of Markakis’ spine, manager Buck Showalter said."

Source: Baltimoresun.com

Tuesday
Nov092010

Jose Bautista's 2010

Jose Bautista had a career year in 2010. His season was even more impressive when you compare his numbers from just a year ago.

Jose Bautista Overall
AVGOBPSLGwOBA
2009.229.342.395.339
2010.261.379.620.423

Jose Bautista In Play SLG%


Bautista improved significantly against RHP in 2010, and this accounted for much of the jump in his production.

Jose Bautista vs. RHP
AVGOBPSLGwOBA
2009.201.325.335.314
2010.271.390.646.437

In 2010, Bautista had a K Rate of 16.3% against righties, down from 25.1% in 2009. His line drive rate jumped from 11.7% to 14.2% against RHP. Bautista also posted the second best wOBA vs. RHP (.430) of all right handed Major League batters in 2010, behind only Miguel Cabrera (.441).

Bautista also became very efficient in hitting offspeed pitches, particularly sliders.

Jose Bautista vs. Sliders
AVGSLGwOBA
2009.127.182.190
2010.269.581.406


Jose Bautista truly took the league by surprise this year. Having never hit more than 16 HRs in any season, he led the league with 54. At age thirty, Bautista will be entering the 2011 season with increased expectations given his remarkable 2010. It wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect pitchers to make significant adjustments in how they pitch the Blue Jay slugger from here on out. As such, it will be interesting to see how Jose himself adjusts, and whether he can come close to duplicating this remarkable breakout season.