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Entries in curveball (11)

Friday
May242013

Jesus (Montero) Can't Hit a Curveball

In January of 2012, the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees consummated the rarest of baseball transactions: a challenge trade of young, potential franchise players. Jesus Montero, a hulking catcher with Piazza-like career possibilities, was dealt from New York to Seattle for Michael Pineda, a mountain of a man possessing upper 90s gas and a wicked slider. The swap had no service time considerations, no financial motive. It was simply, "Your cleanup hitter for my ace."

Or so we thought. Pineda's waistline expanded, his velocity shrunk and he underwent surgery for a torn labrum. He has yet to throw a regular-season pitch in pinstripes. And Montero? His 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame has produced just a .377 slugging percentage in Seattle, and he just got booted off the M's roster.

With all due respect to Eddie Harris from Major League, I'm just gonna say it: Jesus can't hit a curveball. The 23-year-old Montero's big league career is being held back by serious pitch recognition issues against the breaker. Check out Montero's swing rate by pitch location against curveballs during his short career, and then the MLB average:

Montero's swing rate vs. curveballs, 2012-13

 

Swing rate vs. curveballs for MLB hitters

Two things immediately stand out, and neither is good: Montero swings at fewer in-zone curveballs (44%) than the average big league hitter (55%), and he chases more curves out of the zone (39% for Montero, 28% MLB average). On a related note, Jesus has been one of the worst curveballs hitters in the majors over the past two years. His slugging percentage against curves during the 2012-13 seasons is more than 200 points below the MLB average:

Lowest slugging percentage vs. curveballs, 2012-13

We knew that Montero would struggle to hit the curve, but his bat figured to make him a stud nonetheless. But, now that he can't hit the curve, it might be time for Jesus to make an offering to Jobu.

Friday
May032013

A.J. Burnett's Curveball Racking up Ks

A.J. Burnett takes the mound tonight against Washington boasting the top strikeout rate (12.3 per nine innings pitched) among National League starters. His hook is the reason why. Burnett's sinister knuckle-curveball has already felled 29 batters this season, which is the highest total for any breaking or off-speed pitch in the majors aside from Yu Darvish's slider. Here are three reasons why Burnett's curveball is so effective, in honor of the many punch outs that the pitch has produced.

  • A.J. almost never hangs his curveball high in the strike zone. He has thrown just four percent of his breakers in the upper-third of the zone this season. That's lowest among all starters who have tossed at least 100 curves in 2013.
  • He's not just keeping the ball down -- he's also avoiding the heart of the plate. Burnett has placed 19% of his curveballs over the horizontal middle of the strike zone, well below the 24% average for MLB starters.

Burnett's curveball location in 2013

  • Batters have swung and missed 47% of the time against Burnett's curve, tops among starters. The MLB average is a comparatively puny 27%. Almost all of Burnett's strikeouts with his curveball have been of the swinging variety (27 of 29, or 93%).
Friday
Oct192012

Adam Wainwright's Wicked Curve

Adam Wainwright has both tested his reconstructed elbow and tortured hitters with his curveball this postseason. Wainwright, who stretched the Cardinals' NLCS lead over the Giants to 3-1 last night, has struck out 20 hitters overall. Seventeen of those whiffs have been on curveballs. Simply put, Wainwright has left a curveball high in the strike zone about as often as TBS has run a Bruce Springsteen-less commercial break.

The 31-year-old righty has unleashed 75 curveballs this postseason. Just four of those curves, or about five percent, were located in the upper third of the strike zone. For comparison's sake, starting pitchers threw 18% of their curves high in the zone during the regular season, and they have done so about 14% during the playoffs.

Against righties, Wainwright is placing his curve low and away:

Wainwright's curveball location vs. righties

 

He's mixing it up more against lefties, throwing low-and-away curves for strikes but also burying pitches in the dirt:

Wainwright's curveball location vs. lefties

Those earth-bound breaking balls have produced most of Wainwright's strikeouts:

Location of Wainwright's strikeouts with his curveball

Hitters have gone just 2-for-26 against Wainwright's hammer this postseason. If the Cardinals do finish off the Giants, Wainwright's curve could be in for a challenge against the Tigers. Detroit has a collective .427 slugging percentage against curveballs thrown by righty pitchers this season, far above the .335 major league average. Just don't expect Wainwright to hang one, Miggy and Prince.