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Entries in David Ortiz (25)

Tuesday
Oct222013

A Tale of Two Lefty-Killers

When the World Series kicks off at Fenway Park on Wednesday, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz should expect to see plenty of Mike Matheny. The Cardinals manager figures to deploy his two lefty-killers, Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist, to neutralize Boston's lead-off and clean-up hitters. Ellsbury (.863 on-base-plus-slugging percentage versus right-handed pitching) and Ortiz (1.092 OPS) crush righties, but struggle to square up same-handed pitching (.641 OPS against lefties for Ellsbury, .733 for Ortiz).

Choate, a 38-year-old slopballer, and Siegrist, a 24-year-old rookie possessing Aroldis Chapman-esque heat, share little common ground. But style differences aside, they both give opposing lefties nightmares.

The Slopballer

If you use the bathroom mid-inning, or grab a sandwich, or blink, you might miss Choate's work for the night. He threw an average of 7.6 pitches per appearance during the regular season, by far the lowest among relievers tossing at least 450 total pitches. That's because Choate is the game's ultimate specialist, facing lefty batters 70.2 percent of the time. Few lefty pitchers in history have smothered same-handed hitters like Choate -- he has the third-lowest opponent OPS ever in southpaw versus southpaw matchups:

Lowest career OPS for lefty pitchers vs. lefty batters (minimum 750 at-bats vs. LHB)

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

Choate has been even better in 2013, holding lefties to a .492 OPS. The side-arm hurler gets such excellent results despite radar gun readings that wouldn't get him pulled over on interstate highways. Choate's sinker has the second-slowest average velocity (85.9 MPH) among relievers, topping only submarine pitcher Darren O'Day (85.6 MPH).

While the pitch lacks zip, Choate's sinker is a ground ball machine -- batters are chopping the offering into the grass 76.3 percent of the time. Fellow Cardinal Seth Maness (77.2 percent) is the only reliever to generate a higher percentage of ground balls with his sinker. Choate peppers the bottom of the strike zone with the pitch, throwing his sinker at lefty hitters' knees 59 percent of the time.

Choate's sinker location vs. lefty hitters, 2013

 

His slider also comes in soft, with the second-lowest average velocity (76.1 MPH) among 'pen arms (Darren Oliver averaged 75.2 MPH). Batters nonetheless whiff half of the time they swung at Choate's breaker, compared to the 35.9 percent major league average.

Chapman-in-Training

Siegrist was in elementary school when Choate started his lefty-killer act, but St. Louis' young southpaw has already made some history of his own. Siegrist posted a 0.45 ERA during the regular season, second-lowest ever for a rookie throwing at least 35 innings. Who bested him? Buck O'Brien (0.38 ERA), a 29-year-old spitballer for the 1911 Red Sox. Hitters quickly figured out O'Brien's spit pitch, and he was out of the game a few years later. Considering his stuff and ability to battle hitters on both sides of the plate (he faced a nearly even amount of lefties and righties), Siegrist won't be vanquished so easily.  

Siegrist has little use for breaking and off-speed pitches, firing his fastball 85.7 percent of the time. And with gas like his, who can blame him? Siegrist's fastball averages 95 MPH, a mark best only by Chapman (98.4 MPH), Jake McGee (96.2 MPH), Jake Diekman (95.6 MPH) and Justin Wilson (95.2 MPH) among lefty relievers.

He pounds the outside corner with the pitch -- no lefty has thrown a higher percentage of heaters to the outer third of the zone (69.6 percent) when they have the platoon advantage. Siegrist's combo of speed and command has helped him limit lefty batters to a .388 OPS, best among left-handed relievers save for Luis Avilan (.383 OPS).

Siegrist's fastball location vs. lefty hitters

Tuesday
Oct152013

David Ortiz, a Man for All Seasons, A Man for All Moments

I'm not uncomfortable in calling David Ortiz, Diva Ortiz, but that is only because most people are not familiar with the male equivalent "divo," a designation reserved in contemporary Italian to denote much-admired celebrities, especially film actresses and actors, and can be translated as "(film) star".

I also comfortably admit that I am not a fan of Divo Ortiz' preening at the plate after hitting a long ball, elongated home run trot around the bases, or his exaggerated arrival at the plate which I refer to his "Purple Haze" moment referring to the Jimi Hendrix lyrics, "Excuse me, while I kiss the sky."

Having said that, you can't be a diva or a divo without the goods to back up the ego. And there is no question, that Ortiz has the talent and delivers it regularly and consistently to the delight of his team and to Red Sox Nation, both in the regular season and in the postseason.

Ortiz consistently delivers

Take a look at Big Papi's 2013 numbers and appreciate the divo:
2013 David Ortiz - A Man for all Moments
GPAABHHRRBIBBKAVGSLUGOBPOPS
1. Reg Season137600518160301037688.309.564.395.959
2. Reg Season vs Righties12638432210923676054.339.652.4401.092
3. Reg Season vs Lefties97216196517361634.260.418.315.733
4. Reg Season Men On1323282648715885849.330.568.4451.013
5. Reg Season RISP104192146468724139.315.555.4531.008
6. Reg Season RISP less than 2 outs7911590326522029.356.633.4521.086
7. Reg Season RISP w/2 outs597756142202110.250.429.455.883
8. Reg Season 0-0 count13768672062000.299.672.294.966
9. Reg Season 0-0 count men on13237361341800.361.778.3511.129
10. Reg Season 0-0 count RISP10018171031600.5881.294.5561.850
11. Postseason6262063766.300.800.4621.262
12. Postseason Men On6141231526.250.583.357.940
13. Postseason RISP611921525.222.556.364.919
14. Postseason Bases Loaded111114001.0004.0001.0005.000

He's no Johnny-Come-Lately

Ortiz has appeared in all 63 of Boston’s postseason games since 2003 and is the club’s all-time leader in postseason runs (44), hits (67), doubles (16), home runs (15), RBI (50), walks (47), and XBH (33).
Saturday
Oct122013

Sanchez Shouldn't Count on Sox Chasing Soft Stuff

Anibal Sanchez might not have the fastball zip or name recognition of fellow Tigers starters Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, but he has arguably been manager Jim Leyland's best option in 2013. The 29-year-old Venezuelan has a better park-and-league adjusted ERA (163 ERA+) than 2011 Cy Young Award winner Verlander (121 ERA+) or the possibly soon-to-be Cy Scherzer (145 ERA+).

Sanchez has emerged as an ace due in large part to the quality of his "soft" stuff -- his slider, changeup and curveball. He throws breaking and off-speed pitches nearly as often (48.4%) as his fastball, and he has enticed hitters into chasing his soft stuff off the plate at one of the highest clips among starting pitchers in the Junior Circuit. With a 36.1 percent chase rate on breaking and off-speed pitches, Sanchez trails just Mark Buehrle, Ryan Dempster and Ervin Santana in 2013.

Highest chase rate on soft pitches, 2013

By inducing so many hacks on soft pitches thrown out of the zone, Sanchez has limited hard contact. His .298 opponent slugging percentage on sliders, curves and changeups is sixth-lowest in the AL, behind Chris Sale (.294), Scherzer (.286), C.J. Wilson (.284), Yu Darvish (.243) and Justin Masterson (.181).

Sanchez's winning strategy -- expand the zone with breaking and off-speed stuff -- might not play as well against the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 the ALCS. Collectively, Boston hitters have chased the fourth-lowest percentage of breaking and off-speed pitches in the majors.

Lowest team chase rate on soft pitches

David Ortiz has shown an especially sharp eye against soft pitches, chasing out of the zone only 19 percent of the time this season. Mike Napoli (23.1 percent), Stephen Drew (26 percent), Jonny Gomes (27.8 percent) and Dustin Pedroia (28.4 percent) also resist the urge to go fishing and sliders, curves and changeups.

The Sox do a good deal of damage against soft pitches -- they're slugging .386, fourth-highest in the bigs -- but the real value in their patient approach may be how it puts them in favorable counts and allows them to sit on fastballs. Boston is slugging an MLB-best .484 versus fastballs this season, with Ortiz (.633) and Napoli (.569) leading the way. If Sox hitters lay off Sanchez's soft stuff, he may be forced to challenge Boston with more fastballs. That could lead to some shiny new dents on the Green Monster.