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Entries in Boston Red Sox (105)

Wednesday
Apr252012

David Ortiz Reinvents his Swing

The scouting report on David Ortiz is that he is going to pull the ball, and often times pull it hard. This is the reason so many teams have instituted the over shift when facing the left-handed slugger. For years it worked, but in the winter going into the 2011 season, the Red Sox acquire the left hander with one of the smoothest opposite field strokes in the game, Adrian Gonzalez. Since that acquisition, Ortiz and AGonz have made fast friends, sharing hitting advice, and it is definitely showing. 

From 2008-2010, Ortiz had only 104 hits to the opposite field with only 12 home runs and a .578 slugging percentage. Below is the spread for Ortiz opposite field production over those years (production is indicated in slugging percentage).

Ortiz to the opposite field '08-'10In contrast, Gonzalez crushed pitchers to the opposite side with 160 hits, 48 home runs, and an .809 slugging percentage. Gonzalez could take almost any pitch on the outside half and give it a ride.

Gonzalez to the opposite field '08-'10Since Gonzalez arrived, Ortiz has seen a rebirth to his opposite field hitting ability, which should cause some teams to be wary of the Red Sox slugger. After a full season as teammates, Ortiz is off to the hottest April he has had in years. He is hitting a robust .444 average and .714 slugging percentage while spreading the ball around the whole field. 

Spread of Ortiz's hits so far in 2012

Also, over the course of 2008-2010, Ortiz hit an abysmal .218 versus left handed pitching, mustering up a less than impressive .383 slugging percentage. His ability to put the ball in play was horrible, leading to his removal from games facing lefties and contributing to some of Ortiz's slowest starts in his career.

Ortiz's Average versus left-handers from 2008-10Post-2011, Ortiz has been on a torrid pace, hitting lefites at a .340/.567 clip. Being able to go with the breaking ball and outside pitches to the opposite field has corrected Ortiz's swing and made him a dangerous middle of the order hitter for the Red Sox again.
Ortiz's Average versus lefties since the start of the 2011 season

Saturday
Apr212012

Clay Buchholz's Cutter Location

Yesterday afternoon following the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park, the Yankees knocked around Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz.  Buchholz’s cutter gave him some trouble as the Yankees managed four hits off it (including two home runs), while making just two outs.  He gave up two line drives on the cutter (both singles) and two fly balls (the two home runs).

Take a look at where Buchholz located his cutter last season:

Click to enlargeNow take a look at where he put the pitch yesterday:

Click to enlargeFor the most part, he stayed true to form.  He kept the cutter in on lefties and away from righties.  However, that one cutter on the outside edge of the zone to the lefty was the HR Chavez hit 382 feet.  And the pitch right in the middle of the plate to the righty was the home run Alex Rodriguez hit 393 feet over the green monster. Two mistakes, two home runs.

Thursday
Apr192012

Melancon Down the Middle

Ever wonder what it would be like if Charlie Brown got called up to the majors? Mark Melancon's first two weeks with the Boston Red Sox are a pretty good approximation. The erstwhile Astro, acquired during the winter for shortstop Jed Lowrie and starter Kyle Weiland, coughed up 10 hits, 11 runs and five home runs in just two innings. That's not exactly what the Sox expected from a power arm who posted a 138 ERA+ and served up five homers total in 74.1 frames last season.  Melancon's gopheritis earned him the boot off Bobby Valentine's roster faster than you can say "Pawtucket."

Valentine told MLB.com's Ian Browne that Melancon must work on hitting the corners while in Triple-A:

"Mark just has to be the pitcher that he is," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He struggled with his command. He's a great command pitcher, and thus far, he hasn't had it. We don't feel that he'd have the opportunity really here to work through it. He was anxious to get an opportunity to work more regularly so that he could get back to where he belongs."

Melancon's command certainly did suffer before his demotion. Check out his pitch location in 2011, and then during his homer-prone 2012:

Melancon's pitch location, 2011

Melancon's pitch location, 2012Thirty-seven percent of Melancon's pitches have been thrown to the horizontal middle of the strike zone in 2012. For comparison, Melancon left about 27% of his offerings belt-high last season, and the average for relievers in 2012 is 25%. All five of Melancon's home runs surrendered came on pitches thrown down the middle.

Despite his "AAAARGH!"-worthy start with Boston, Sox fans shouldn't curse the Lowrie trade just yet. Melancon is 27 years old, has five years of team control left and records lots of Ks and grounders with his fastball/cutter/curve repertoire when he throws quality strikes. If he makes a few tweaks with the PawSox, Melancon should get back to giving opposing batters grief instead of his own fans.