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Entries in Boston Red Sox (105)


Cutters and Hit By Pitches

Jon Lester of the Red Sox explained why the cut fastball is a tough pitch to avoid after he hit Mark Teixeira of the Yankees in the knee Tuesday night.

“The Teixeira ball was obviously a terrible pitch,” Lester said. “It’s what comes with that pitch, sometimes it gets away from you. That’s the bad thing about it. A lot of guys don’t move because of that pitch. It looks like a fastball and breaks in and they don’t have time to react by the time it gets there. It’s tough to hit a guy like that and see him go off the field.”

It sounds like a good explanation, but does it hold water?  The following table shows the most common pitches as percent of the total since 2008, and the HBP for each of those pitches:


Pitch Type% Pitches% HBP
Fastball 47.3 48.5
Change up 11.5 5.5
Curveball 9.3 11.9
Slider 15.4 13.3
Cutter 5.2 7.6
Sinker 9.6 11.4


Pitches that move a lot, or are fast, appear to be tougher to avoid.  The cutter is both.  There is about a 50% increase from the percent of cutters thrown to the percent of cutters that hit batters.  For Lester, change is even more pronounced:


Pitch Type% Pitches% HBP
Fastball 37.4 11.1
Change up 10.7 0
Curveball 13.8 22.2
Cutter 24.9 55.6
Sinker 12.5 0


Lester hits a lot of batters with his curve ball compared to all pitches thrown, but you can see why he thinks his cutter does damage.  Over half the batters he hit since 2008 came on his cut fastball.  Of course, that means his cutter is a good pitch.  It moves a lot, and that makes it tougher to hit.


Resting Lester

In the winter of 2003-2004 I attended a SABR meeting in Rhode Island.  Former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan spoke.  One audience member brought up the Pedro Martinez melt-down in the ALCS, and Morgan provided a very good explanation of why Grady Little should have removed the ace from the game.  Joe pointed out that Pedro lost his change up due to fatigue.  At that point in the game, he was throwing nothing but fastballs.  Morgan understood that the change was Pedro's out pitch.  When he lost that, he was just another pitcher.

Jon Lester of the Red Sox starts against the Yankees tonight on long rest, last pitching on May 30th.  He pitched poorly during a streak of five games, and the Red Sox felt he needed a little extra time off to get back to normal.  That makes sense, since his change up was at fault.

Through May 3rd of 2011, Lester threw his change up for strikes (click graphic for a larger image).

Jon Lester, change up location and spin, 2011 season through May 3rd.Lester threw the change up for strikes.  Batters hit .154 against the pitch with no walks for a .179 wOBA.  Note two, the nice, tight target on the spin graphic.  Lester threw the pitch with a consistent spin.

Since May 10th, however, the pitch missed:

Jon Lester, change up location and spin, 2011 season, May 10 through May 30.The highest density of change ups lies outside the strike zone.  In addition, note the spin density looks more like a weeble than a ball.  He's not throwing the pitch as consistently as he did early in the season in addition to missing the strike zone.  That adds up to a .353 BA against the pitch with a .450 OBP, good for a .395 wOBA.

The Red Sox did the right thing by resting their ace.  Why he should be worn down so early in the season is another matter.  Boston fans should hope rest is enough to cure what ails Jon.


Arguing the Strike Zone in the A's-Red Sox game

Last night, both Jason Varitek (BOS) and Jonathan Papelbon (BOS) were ejected in the top of the ninth inning for arguing the strike zone with home plate umpire Tony Randazzo.  Varitek was ejected first after a Cliff Pennington (OAK) double that cut the Red Sox lead over the A's to two runs.

First, let's look at all the called balls Papelbon had from the game:

10 Pitches (Click image to enlarge)

And here's Papelbon's called ball rate heat map from that ninth inning which incorporates all the pitches he threw:

28 pitches (Click image to enlarge)

Other than that one spot middle-down, Randazzo really didn't miss any called strikes.  And as for that missed strike call?  Well, it was the third pitch of Landon Powell's plate appearance.  Papelbon had him 0-2 and that should have ended the atbat.  But it did little to effect the inning because he eventually struck Powell out swinging on the 7th pitch.

Kevin Youkilis also gave Randazzo a hard time after the ump rang the Red Sox third baseman up on a Brad Ziegler (Oak) curveball in the 8th inning.

(Click image to enlarge)

Ziegler started him out with two sinkers, and finished with two curveballs which both caught the outside of the plate, the last well within the pitchFX defined strike zone.

Ironically, one of the biggest missed strikes from last night came while Youkilis batted in the 4th inning.  Oakland starter Trevor Cahill threw him a 3-2 curveball that seemed to land right in the middle of the plate, yet was called ball four.

(Click image to enlarge)

Cahill's sixth, and last pitch of the AB looks to have caught more than enough of the plate, but Randazzo didn't see it that way.  The first pitch, a changeup, was also called a ball by Randazzo, but appears to have caught the corner.  Cahill would get David Ortiz (BOS) to hit into an inning ending double play two pitches after walking Youkilis, however.  So much like the missed called strike to Powell in the ninth, no harm done.