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Entries in Colorado Rockies (29)

Tuesday
May102011

The Selective Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler (COL) leads the National League in strikeouts with 41, but also comes in second in walks.  To rank high in both of those categories, batters need to be fairly selective about what pitches to chase.  They not only take pitches outside the strike zone, but also ones inside the zone that they may not handle well.

The Rockies outfielder is a switch hitter, so the following graphs will show him against right-handed pitchers, since he sees those the most.  The first heat map shows the general approach pitchers take against Fowler:

Dexter Fowler, pitch frequency against RHP, 2011.Opponents try to work him down and away, and with very good reason:

Dexter Fpwler, in play average vs. RHP, 2011.The place where opponents concentrate their pitches is a black hole for Dexter in terms of getting hits.  His pounding the ball on the inside plate gives them good reason to avoid that area as well.  Those pitches down and away are in the strike zone, and which means Dexter is often obliged to swing at them:

Dexter Flower, swings against RHP, 2011.Now compare that to where he takes pitches:

Dexter Fowler, taken pitches against RHP, 2011.Dexter will often take the low and away pitches, mostly because he can't hit them.  That helps contribute to his strikeouts.  He seldom takes the pitch inside, however, because that's where he does damage.  Note two that Dexter is extremely good at recognizing the border between a strike and a ball (the solid line represents the rule book strike zone.)

So Dexter is selective in that he is very good at recognizing balls from strikes, but also recognizing pitches he can hit well versus those he can't.  The final proof of this is in his .400 BABIP against RHP.  When he puts the ball in play, he makes solid contact, and the result is good well beyond the league average.

Tuesday
Apr192011

Did Carlos Gonzalez Lose Bat Speed?

In 2010, Carlos Gonzalez contended for the NL triple crown and the MVP award.  His .336 batting average led the NL.  He hit fastballs and off-speed pitches well:

Carlos Gonzalez, in play average on off-speed pitches, 2010.Carlos Gonzalez, in play average on fastballs, 2010.Notice that huge hole in the middle of the strike zone on fastballs.  Carlos handled down fine, he handled up and away fine, but throw a fastball down the middle and it gave him problems.  Pitchers have changed their approach to him early in 2011.  In 2010, they concentrated fastballs up and away:

Carlos Gonzalez, fastball location, 2010.In 2011, the concentration of pitches is more toward the middle of the plate and down:

Carlos Gonzalez, fastball location, 2011.Look at that big gob of red smack in the middle of the strike zone.  Major league hitters are supposed to pound that pitch, but Carlos is not doing well with it:

Carlos Gonzalez, in play average on fastballs, 2011.Compare that to how he smacks off-speed pitches:

Carlos Gonzalez, in play average on off-speed pitches, 2011.Gonzalez doesn't strike out much on the fastball compare to the change up and slider, but teams will take him putting fastballs in play for a low average all day long.

So is this a real weakness?  The good news for Rockies fans is that Carlos showed big swings against the fastball in 2010:

Carlos Gonzalez, in play average on fastballs, 2010 timeline.The physical adjustment from going from high altitude to low altitude parks may take a toll on Gonzalez during a season.  This poor start on fastballs may just mean he needs to make an adjustment.  If he flipped this graph in 2011, he would end up doing quite well.

Thursday
Apr142011

How Not to Pitch Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki hit two home runs Thursday afternoon, bringing his season total to seven.  That number puts him halfway to the April record halfway through the month.  In addition, ten of his sixteen hits went for extra bases.

While Troy slugs well for any position on the field, his start would put him among the great sluggers of all time over a full season.  Why the sudden power surge?

During the pevious three season, Troy tended to show the most power on pitches up in the strike zone:

Troy Tulowitzki, in play slugging, 2008-2010Not surprisingly, pitchers tended to work him down and away:

Troy Tulowitzki, pitch frequency, 2008-2010.On the slugging map, a donut hole exists down and in, a blue spot near the lower corner near Troy's knees.  In fact, that hole is the lowest slugging area within the strike zone.  So far in 2011, pitchers decided that would be a good place to throw the ball:

Troy Tulowitzki, pitch frequency, 2011.The pitchers tried to take advantage of a weak spot, but the strategy didn't work:

Troy Tulowitzki, in play slugging, 2011.Troy hammered the pitch down and in.  Both home runs Thursday were on the inside edge of the plate as well.  It turns out the right strategy for pitching to Troy was the old one, work him away.