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Entries in Boston Red Sox (105)


Jon Lester's 43 Pitch First Inning vs. The Yankees

After last night's game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, NESN broadcasters Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo discussed Jon Lester's 43 pitch first inning.  Remy said that it looked like Lester wasn't getting some calls from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez that looked to be strikes.

Here's Lester's heat map from that first inning:

Jon Lester's First Inning vs. The Yankees (9/1/11)
43 Pitches, 26 strikes

Of all the pitches he threw in that first inning, there was only one that was called a ball yet was located inside the strike zone - a 0-0 pitch to Nick Swisher, who eventually struck out swinging.

Jon Lester - Called Balls within the Strike Zone (1st inning)

The only other pitch Marquez called incorrectly was a 2-1 strike to Mark Teixeira that was located off the outside edge of the zone.

Jon Lester - Called Strikes Outside the Strike Zone (1st inning)

There was a lot of talk about the strike zone throughout the game, but overall Marquez was fairly consistent.  And Lester's long first inning was likely not the result of any squeezing on Marquez's part.


Beckett Leans to the Left

Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox showed great success against the Yankees this season, particularly against the New York left-handed batters.  The lefties combined for a .156/.239/.219 slash line, striking out 31% of the 71 batters he faced.  What is the secret of his success?

First, Beckett stays in the strike zone:

Josh Beckett, pitch frequency vs. Yankees LHB, 2011.More importantly, he's throwing different speeds to different parts of the strike zone.

Josh Beckett, release velocity vs. Yankees LHB, 2011.He works his fastball higher in the strike zone, and often out of the strike zone.  He's showing fastball where lefties don't like to swing, and the off-speed pitches where they like to chase.  That's resulting the Yankees hitters not swinging at many good pitches:

Josh Beckett, swing rate by Yankees LHB, 2011.The Yankees lefties are giving Beckett the inside part of the plate.  They are also chasing pitches down and away, pitches that likely don't result in good outcomes.  His location, change of speeds and pitch types keep these batters totally off balance.  It's a text book case of how to pitch to batters who have the platoon advantage.


Grounding Youkilis

From 2008 through 2010, Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox saw 35% of his balls in play end up as grounders.  While he hit .393 on balls in play in that time frame, he only managed a .260 average on the grounders.  In 2011, his ground ball percentage rose to 41.4%, with a .270 BA on his grounders.  Over all this season, when he puts the ball in play, he's hitting .347.

The change in ground balls rates comes from changes in both the pitches Kevin sees, and his approach at the plate.  In the three previous seasons, pitchers worked him away, but used the entired vertical part of the strike zone:

Kevin Youkilis, pitch frequency, 2008-2010.In 2011, this shifted down a bit:

KevinYoukilis, pitch frequency, 2011.Pitchers are using the top of the strike zone less, and are not afraid to go out of the zone on the lower edge.

In the 2008-2010 time period, Kevin liked to swing at inside pitches, but he also used the whole vertical part of the inside of the plate:

Kevin Youkilis, swing rate, 2008-2010.Especially at Fenway Park, high pitches could result in fly balls that scrape the Green Monster for hits.  This season, he's looking lower:

Kevin Youkilis, swing rate, 2011.Pitchers work Kevin lower in 2011. He appears to be looking lower, swinging lower, and hitting more ground balls. That's hurting his batting average overall.