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Entries in Cincinnati Reds (36)

Monday
Apr302012

Latos' Lack of Punch Outs

When Cincinnati emptied its farm system to get Mat Latos from the Padres this past offseason, the Reds figured they had acquired a power pitcher years away from free agency with the potential to anchor the rotation. But Latos, who struck out 8.5 batters per nine innings pitched and posted a 107 ERA+ with San Diego from 2009-11, has just 5.7 whiffs per nine and a 63 ERA+ in 28.2 frames with his new club.

For whatever reason, the 24-year-old righty has moved away from the approach that made him successful with the Padres. Rather than racking up whiffs with high fastballs and low-and-away sliders, Latos is staying low in the zone with his heater and going to a cutter that hitters almost connect with.

With San Diego, Latos was mainly a four-seam fastball/slider pitcher. In Cincinnati, he's using his typically go-to offerings less often in favor of a cut fastball:

Latos' Pitch Selection

YearFastball Pct.Slider Pct.Cutter Pct.Changeup Pct.Curveball Pct.
2009-11 59 26   10 5
2012 49 19 13 11 8

 

Latos isn't just using his fastball less, he's using it differently. Take a look at his fastball location from 2009-11, and then in 2012 with the Reds:

Latos' fastball location with Padres, 2009-11

Latos' fastball location with Reds, 2012In San Diego, Latos threw 43 percent of his fastballs high in the strike zone. In Cincy, he's tossing his heater high just 31 percent of the time. And, as Latos' contact rate by pitch location shows, he's not missing bats on those lower fastballs:

Latos' fastball contact rate by pitch location, 2012

Latos has an 18 percent miss rate on high fastballs, a nine percent miss rate on middle fastballs and a four percent miss rate on low fastballs. It's no surprise, then, that Latos' overall miss rate with his fastball has dipped greatly with him pitching lower in the zone. He had an overall fastball miss rate of 16 percent with the Padres, compared to 11 percent in Cincy (the average for starters is about 14 percent).

In addition to going high in the zone less often with his fastball, Latos' decision to cut his slider usage and mix in cutters hasn't worked out to this point. Latos' slider is one of the best in the game, getting whiffs about 39 percent of the time this season. Clayton Kershaw, Francisco Liriano and Jon Lester are the only starters with a higher slider miss rate since 2009. But Latos' cutter? Not so much. In fact, he's got the lowest miss rate among starters throwing at least 50 cutters this year:

Lowest Cutter Miss Rates, 2012 (Min. 50 Pitches)

PitcherMiss%
Mat Latos 3.6%
Jaime Garcia 5.9%
Barry Zito 8.7%
Jon Niese 9.6%
Vance Worley 10.7%
MLB Avg. 22.2%

 

Perhaps Latos' change in fastball approach is a result of moving out of PETCO Park. Without such spacious confines, it's possible that he's trying to generate more grounders by throwing more offerings at hitters' knees. But he's actually getting far fewer grounders with his fastball this year (43 percent from 2009-11,  33 percent in 2012) while costing himself whiffs. And his decision to use a cutter in place of more bat-missing sliders has further cut into his K rate.

Right now, Mat Latos is pitching like someone else and getting pummeled. Cincy didn't surrender Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez for the type of pitcher that has been on display this April. Getting back to what worked so well in San Diego -- high heat, and sliders aplenty -- would be in both his and the Reds' best interest.

Friday
Apr272012

Best Hitters of Pitches on the Black

Pitches on the Black over the last Year

The above shows the hitters with the most hits on pitches located on the black of the plate over the last year.  These can be either pitches thrown to the inside or outside black. 

Borderline pitches can be difficult to hit.  The most successful pitchers are able to throw to the black consistently. The above list shows hitters that have produced more hits on these pitches than the rest of the league.

Some hitters do better on the inside pitch on the black, while others are more successful on the outside edge.  Fifteen of Joey Votto's 23 hits on the black were on the outside edge of the plate. That includes all four of his home runs and one of his doubles.  This makes sense as Votto can extend better on those pitches and generate more power.

However, Michael Young leads all hitters with hits on inside pitches on the black with 12. Young stands off the plate a bit with a slightly open stance, so it makes sense that he has racked up so many hits on these pitches over the last year.

Monday
Apr162012

Aroldis Chapman on Target

Right now, Aroldis Chapman is scary. And not scary in the "might decapitate some dude in the third row" way that he was last season. The lefty with the turbo fastball has stepped up with Ryan Madson out following Tommy John surgery, striking out fifteen batters in eight innings pitched. Perhaps more importantly, Chapman hasn't given up a single walk after issuing 7.4 BB/9 in 2011.

Chapman has made grown men with immaculate reflexes look like late-inning beer league softball players by pounding the strike zone with his fastball. His velocity is "down" a tick, but he's hitting his spots and inducing swings and misses like no other reliever in the game:

Aroldis Chapman's fastball

YearFastball Zone Pct.Fastball Miss Pct.Velocity
2011 45.3 31.2 98.1
2012 67.9 47.6 97.1
Avg. RP 51.9 18.2 91.6 (for LHP)

 

Chapman's fastball zone percentage is fourth-highest among MLB relievers, behind just Javy Guerra, Fernando Salas and Greg Holland. And no other 'pen arm comes close to Chapman in whiffs: Kelvin Herrera (36%) is a distant second in fastball miss percentage.  

In 2011, Chapman often missed to his glove side and high out of the zone with his fastball...

Chapman's fastball location, 2011

Early on in 2012, however, Chapman has pelted hitters with high fastballs catching the plate: 

Chapman's fastball location, 2012

Opponents are a combined 2-for-20 against Chapman's fastball in 2012. Props to Jose Reyes, the only batter to get an extra-base hit on a Chapman heater (he tripled back on April 8).

Chapman's game revolves around his fastball, which he has thrown nearly three-quarters of the time. But he has also done a better job of locating his slider and changeup in 2012 (65 Zone%) than in 2011 (37%). It's only mid-April. But there might not be a harder late-inning assignment right now than squaring up Chapman.

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