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Entries in David Ortiz (25)

Thursday
Sep052013

Can Boston Handle Nova's Low Heat?

Historically, Red Sox hitters have tagged Ivan Nova. The Yankees righty takes the mound  tonight having allowed a career .298 batting average, a .375 on-base percentage and a .430 slugging percentage against the Sox, essentially turning the average Boston batter into Dustin Pedroia circa 2013.

This time could be different, though. The Red Sox have yet to take on the 2013 version of Nova, who has transformed from one of the most homer-prone starting pitchers in the game last season (1.5 home runs allowed per nine innings in 2012) to one if its stingiest with the long ball. With 0.41 home runs surrendered per nine frames, Nova trails just Francisco Liriano (0.34 HR/9), Matt Harvey (0.35), Jhoulys Chacin (0.37) and Clayton Kershaw (0.39) in homer rate among starters throwing 100-plus innings.

Nova has slashed his home run total by pounding hitters at the knees with his fastball, generating lots of weak grounders rather than majestic souvenirs. Boston, however, thrives against knee-high heaters. Who will prevail tonight when a resurgent Nova takes on Boston's low-ball sluggers?

In 2012, Ivan Nova had about as much success with his fastball as Charlie Brown. He served up 14 home runs and allowed batters to slug .597 against his fastball -- only soft-tossers Chris Capuano, Jake Westbrook, Bronson Arroyo and Bruce Chen got hit harder. This year, though? Nova has allowed only three homers off his fastball, and he has an opponent slugging percentage (.398) that's comfortably below the major league average for starting pitchers (.442) in 2013.

Keeping his fastball low has been key for Nova. Check out his fastball location last year, and then in 2013:

Nova's fastball location, 2012

novafastballloc12

Nova's fastball location, 2013

novafastballloc13

He located about 29 percent of his fastballs to the lower third of the strike zone in 2012, but he has bumped that figure up to 40 percent this year. You might also notice that Nova is throwing many of those low fastballs to his arm side (about 57 percent of his low fastballs have been thrown to his arm side this year, up from just 31 percent in 2012).

Throwing more low, arm-side heat, Nova has increased his ground ball rate with his fastball from a league average 44 percent in 2012 to 54 percent. The only AL starters burning worms more often with their fastball are Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Joe Saunders and Derek Holland.

Nova's new fastball approach will be tested against the Sox, who have collectively cranked 16 home runs against low heat (fourth-most in the majors) and slugged an MLB-best .505. David Ortiz (.726 slugging percentage vs. low fastballs), Mike Napoli (.659), Pedroia (.536) and Daniel Nava (.500) have done the most damage when pitchers throw low gas. Will Big Papi (a career .308/.400/.615 hitter in 15 PA versus Nova) continue to own Nova, or will the new-look Yankee scorch the earth against the Sox? Stay tuned.

Sunday
Jul282013

The facts behind the At Bat that upset Big Papi

Last night, David Ortiz took out his frustration that he felt about the acumen of home plate umpire Tim Timmons on the bullpen phone in the Sox dugout last night, narrowly missing Dustin Pedroia on his backswing.

You can see the video below.

That's the summary, now here are the detes.

Here's what happened

It was the top of the 7th inning in Camden Yards and there was one out and the bases empty in the game that that would eventually end in a 7-3 Boston win over Baltimore.

David Ortiz went to a 3-0 count against the O’s Jairo Asencio and as the pitch was about to be delivered, Papi appeared to step out of the batter’s box, without asking for time. 

Gordon Edes of ESPN.com describes what happened next:

Ortiz was incredulous when Timmons called it a strike, barking at the umpire. He became more agitated when Timmons also called the next pitch, which appeared out of the zone, another strike, and became inconsolable when he swung at the next pitch, which was down and in, to strike out.

After the at bat

As Big Papi left the plate he complained about the call to Timmons:

"When I'm walking away, I'm telling him he was acting like he was right about the call. No, he wasn't. He wasn't right. Don't be giving me that BS. If you miss it, tell me you missed it and I'll walk away. I don't have a problem with that. You're not perfect. You're human, you know what I'm saying. But don't act like you made the right call. It was ball four."

Ortiz continued seething as he returned to the dugout and then headed into the dugout, attacked the bulpen phone, was ejected and then got his money's worth screaming at Timmons.

He burst out of the dugout and started heading towards home plate but was interecepted by manager (and free safety?) John Farrell. Ortiz returned to the dugout, threw some of his protective batting gear onto the field and called it a night.

Ortiz was wrong

It is sacreligious in Red Sox Nation to criticize David Ortiz. But I will take my chances now.

Umpires make bad calls. They sometimes vastly miss balls and strikes. Timmons didn't in this case.

Look at the map of the at bat above and you can see the location of the fourth pitch of this at bat that upset Big Papi so much. It's at the top of the strike zone.

  1. 0-0 - Ball on a 86 MPH Changeup - Outside
  2. 1-0 - Ball on a 87 MPH Changeup - Low
  3. 2-0 - Ball on a 92 MPH Four Seamer - Inside
  4. 3-0 - Strike Looking on a 91 MPH Four Seamer - Over the Plate
  5. 3-1 - Strike Looking on a 86 MPH Changeup - Outside
  6. 3-2 - Strike Out on a 87 MPH Changeup - Low

Now I understand that (unfortunately) umpires don't frequently call high strikes, but as Ortiz backed out of the batters box, Timmons called one.

If Ortiz wanted to complain about a call, it should be on the fifth pitch of the at bat, but after showing up Timmons on the previous pitch, Ascensio could have thrown the pitch into the press box and gotten a called strike. In fact, if there was any bad judgement shown it was on the swing and miss by Oritz on the sixth pitch of the at bat, but once again Ortiz would have swung at any pitch there short of it being thrown in the dugout.

Just so you know, according to the rule book, Timmons could have called the pitchin question a ball even though Ortiz was stepping out the batter's box. 

Rule 6.02
(a) The batter shall take his position in the batter’s box promptly when it is his time at bat.
(b) The batter shall not leave his position in the batter’s box after the pitcher comes to
Set Position, or starts his windup.
PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call “Ball” or “Strike,” as the
case may be.
Rule 6.02(b) Comment: The batter leaves the batter’s box at the risk of having a strike delivered and called, unless he requests the umpire to call “Time.” The batter is not at liberty to step in and
out of the batter’s box at will.

What should happen next? 

What happens next is anyone's guess. My feeling is that MLB should suspend Ortiz for a couple of games and the Red Sox should fine Ortiz for the cost of repairs and at least a little more.

If that's all that happen, the Red Sox should consider themselves lucky.

The bat and shards of wood came dangerously close to Pedroia, if he had been in any way injured the Sox postseason chances would have been put in jeopardy.

As for Ortiz, a couple of days in the clubhouse would do him good.

He has no problems in showing up pitchers as he preens after a home run so he's in no position to speak about being disrespected on the ball field.

Ortiz was quoted as saying:

“I want to hear what the argument’s going to be [in favor of a suspension]. I want to hear that because I have a good one,” said Ortiz. “When situations like that happens, I think MLB should do something because that was horrible. We’re not playing this game for fun, we’re playing to win and if you walk, I walk, I’ve got no problem with that. But you’re not going to take my at-bat away from me. I hit that’s what I do. And I work really hard to be who I am at the plate. That might be the worse call of the year right there. That was bad. Definitely.’’

When Papi says, "That was bad. Definitely.’’ I can only presume he's referring to his over-reaction.

Ortiz was wrong, not wronged.

Monday
Jun172013

B. Chuck: The Offensive Red Sox Season

With all the talk about the effect that John Farrell's return to the Red Sox would have on the Boston pitching staff, so far it's been highly over-rated.

The Sox are seventh in the league with a team ERA of 3.84. Their starters are fourth in the league with a 3.79 ERA and their bullpen is 11th in the AL with a 3.94 ERA.

The key to the success of the Red Sox this season have been their bats and credit for that certainly needs to go to hitting coach Gregg Colbrunn and his assistant, Victor Rodriguez (and very high marks to GM Ben Cherington who has put together a terrific assortment of "chemists").

Serious Offense

  • The Red Sox lead the majors 363 runs scored.
  • They are tied with the Orioles with 155 doubles, the most in the majors.
  • They are tied with the Rays and Indians with 80 homers, the sixth most in the majors.
  • They are second to the A's, 277 to 273 walks.
  • They are second to the Padres, 61 to 57 steals.
  • They are second to the Cards, 205 to 184 hits with runners in scoring position.
  • They are tied for second in the AL with the A's with bases loaded hits, but lead the majors with 66 bases loaded RBI.
  • The Sox are tied with the Tigers for the league lead with a .285 June batting average.
  • They lead the AL 156 June hits, 13 more than the A's who are in second place.
  • They lead the AL with 23 June homers
  • They lead the AL with 88 RBI, 28 more than the Jays who are second with 60 ribbies.

The Individual Plusses

One of the other keys to the Red Sox offensive success is the variety of players who have been hot at different times throughout the season.

 

  • For example, while the Sox and the Phillies only have four homers each from the number three slot in the batting order, the fewest in baseball, the Sox have Dustin Pedroia who's hitting .319, the best of any #3 in the AL not named Miguel Cabrera.
  • And they have David Ortiz who has driven home 14 runs in June, the most in the AL, despite a .220 batting average.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, in his walk year, has been running. He's tied with Everth Cabrera for the MLB lead with 31 steals and tied with Mike Trout for the AL lead in triples with six.
  • Mike Napoli has been an RBI machine providing clutch hits, particularly in the early going.
  • Don't forget the great fielding Jose Iglesias who has a 17-game hitting streak, the longest for any rookie this season, and is hitting .438 in 99 PA this season.
  • Daniel Nava is one of the great "who's thats?" of this season, but is deserving of some AL All-Star write-in votes. Nava is hitting .288 on the season and his 44 RBI are third on the team to Ortiz' and Napoli's 49, but 24 of the RBI have come from the 7th inning on and Nava leads the majors in that category. His 38 RBI as an outfielder puts him eight among all MLB outfielders. And, his .378 OBP ranks 10th among all outfielders (he has a .383 OBP overall).
  • Mike Carp has hit eight homers in 105 AB and is slugging .686 to go with his .324 BA.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia is hitting .271 overall and improving behind the plate and the switch-hitter is hitting .303 as a lefty.

 

So, through an assortment of pieces the Red Sox have put together three strong first months of the season.

But is that enough to get them through the year?

Tomorrow, I look at the minuses of the Boston ball club, starting with the starting pitching.