No, there's no heat map technology that quantifies team stink. Yet. But after yesterday's extra inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs' starter Carlos Zambrano said a few things that may need fact checking.
Zambrano told reporters after the game that Albert Pujols, who hit the walkoff HR to give the Cardinals the win, "wasn't the problem." Instead, he said that the Ryan Theriot AB was the real problem. Of course, he's referring to the game tying double that Theriot hit off Cubs' closer Carlos Marmol. Zambrano went on to say, "We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter. We should know that as a team."
There's just one problem with that statement: Theriot is actually a pretty decent fastball hitter. He's hitting .308 against fastballs this season, and more than half his hits (33 of 63) have been against the fastball heading into yesterday's game. Sure, he's only put up a .346 slugging percentage against the pitch, but his overall SLG% is just .347.
Theriot's game tying hit off Marmol came on a 2-2 changeup. He had fouled off two fastballs to start the AB, so Marmol started throwing his off-speed stuff - a changeup and a slider, both for balls. The final, and fatal changeup came down and in to Theriot who lined it down the left field line for a double. Heading into the game, Theriot was only hitting .143 against the change in 16 plate appearances decided on the pitch (66 total changeups seen). That's the worst average against any pitch for Theriot this season save the splitter, of which he's only seen 6 pitches.
If we go all the way back to the beginning of the 2010 season, Theriot is actually hitting better against fastballs than any other pitch. In fact, at .304, the fastball is the only pitch he's hitting over .300 against since the beginning of last season. And his .346 SLG% since then is the highest for any pitch he's seen with a minimum of 100 pitches. Against the change: .287 average with a .299 SLG%.
So really, Zambrano's statement is a bit unfounded. Theriot isn't exactly crushing fastballs, but he's been no worse against them than any other pitch. The bigger question might be why Marmol threw any changeups at all, since he's thrown a total of 21 since the beginning of 2010. Perhaps the focus shouldn't have been on Theriot's weaknesses, but instead on Marmol's strengths. His slider is his most deadly pitch and he only threw one in that AB. And since 2010, Theriot's contact rate is worse against sliders (77.5%) than all other pitches combined (91.7%). With two strikes, the slider seems like the best bet in that situation for Marmol.
If you're going to get beat, it might as well be on your best pitch. Because getting beat on one you've only thrown 21 times in more than a year, well....stinks.
As Bill notes up above, it actually was a slider that Marmol threw to Theriot on the double. But it hung so much with such little spin, the PitchFX system designated it a changeup. In fact, it registered as having just a -.2 BrkX reading, which is 5 inches less of right to left movement resulting from spin than his average slider this season.