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Entries in Chicago Cubs (33)


Most Squeezed Pitchers to Date

(2011 data through June 15th - Min. 150 pitches thrown within the strike zone)Brandon League of the Mariners remains near the top of the list.  However, Cubs' righthander Marcos Mateo has taken over the top spot.

And here's the flip side of the coin, pitchers with the highest percentage of strikes called on balls within the pitchFX defined strike zone:

(2011 data through June 15th - Min. 150 pitches thrown within the strike zone)Apparently, pitching in relief for the reigning World Series Champions helps umpires correctly identify strikes. 



Carlos Zambrano: "We stink."

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.


Wakefield Throwing Strikes

Tim Wakefield's (BOS) success as a knuckleball pitcher came from his ability to throw the pitch for a strike.  Sunday night's game against the Cubs showed off that ability well.

Tim Wakefield, pitch frequency on the knuckleball, May 22, 2011.That's pretty amazing that a pitch with an unknown movement can be so accurate.  One reason may be that Wakefield can throw the pitch a bit more predictably than you might imagine:

Tim Wakefield, pitch movement of the knuckleball, May 22, 2011.A high number of these pitches had a nice dip, down, in to left-handed batters, in to right-handed batters.  Note that there are many that have no relation to that movement, but that core is the movement on which Tim hits the strike zone.  Note that many of the pitches in the zone are high, so with that movement, the ball is falling into the zone, looking like it might be out of the zone at first.  Because of that, Tim induced swings at balls above the strike zone, and taken pitches high in the strike zone.

The movement graph also demonstrates that Tim can control the ball fairly well.  If he can get a consistent spin on the ball, it should really do the same thing.  He's not just tossing it hoping it will find the strike zone.  He's replicating the motion well enough that 38 of his 68 knuckleballs ended up in the strike zone, most of those with the movement you see in the concentrated area on the lower chart.  That's impressive control of a tough pitch.

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