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Entries in Detroit Tigers (64)

Thursday
Oct062011

Swisher's Postseason Struggles

Nick Swisher has been a valuable hitter for the Yankees since joining the team in 2009. He's averaged a 123 OPS+ in that time, hitting 81 home runs over his three seasons in pinstripes. However, he hasn't yet been able to carry that success into the postseason.

Nick Swisher, 2009-2011
AVGOBPSLGwOBA
REG.267.368.486.368
Playoff.156.257.333.262

His slugging percentage heat maps suggests that the switch-hitting right fielder has been unable to duplicate his success on pitches in the zone in the postseason.

Nick Swisher
(Click image to enlarge)

During the regular season, Swisher did quite well on pitches up in the zone (.491 SLG%). However, through 110 postseason plate appearances as a Yankee, his numbers have fallen short, as he's slugged just .296 on pitches in the upper portion of the zone.

One interesting note: since joining the Yankees in 2009, Swisher has a .302 batting average on balls in play during the regular season. In the playoffs, that number is down to .169. He's seen his fly ball percentage jump slightly from 34.3% in the regular season to 38.6% in the postseason, while his line drive rate has dropped from 19.5% to 14.3%. However, in the regular season, Swisher has produced a .798 batting average on his liners. Yet in the playoffs (SSS caveat), only six of his ten line drives have translated into hits. In addition, his ground ball batting average dropped from .238 in the regular season to .185 in the postseason.

It's possible Swisher has been somewhat unlucky as a Yankee so far in the postseason, while he's probably also not hitting the ball as well either. Although, it's also important to note that teams generally face better pitching come October. So combined with an overall small sample size of data, it's not uncommon for hitters to see a decline in their numbers this time of year.

Thursday
Oct062011

Can Fister Expand the Zone vs. the Yankees?

Doug Fister surely hopes that his second ALDS appearance goes more smoothly than the first. Fister, making a quasi-start after Game One resumed on September 30, gave up six runs in 4.2 innings while striking out six and walking a pair of batters. He has his bullpen to thank for that run total, but Fister did jam the bases in the sixth inning before Al Alburquerque served up a grand slam to Robinson Cano. Part of the problem, MLB.com's Barry Bloom notes, is that the Yankees stopped chasing so much in the sixth:

This is what happened when Game 1 was resumed: After a rough start, Fister had the Yankees jumping at breaking pitches out of the strike zone, and he recorded five quick whiffs by the time the end of the fourth inning came around.

The Yankees then stopped hacking and made Fister put his pitches in the zone. That resulted in a couple of walks and a big crooked No. 6 on the scoreboard in the sixth inning. Had Robinson Cano's shot that hit the top of the left-field fence in the fifth inning and hopped into the stands instead of back on the field for a double, matters would have been even worse.

Through the fifth inning, Fister got Yankees hitters to go after 13 of 34 pitches (38 percent) that he threw out of the strike zone. In that ill-fated sixth, they chased just four of 19 pitches (21 percent) that Fister tossed off the plate. Whether Fister can entice New York to swing at those would-be balls may well determine which team goes to the ALCS.

No pitcher in the American League is more adept than Fister at getting hitters to chase pitches. Opponents have gone fishing 36 percent of the time that Fister has thrown a ball off the dish, compared to the 29 percent average. In particular, he gets lefties to lunge off the outside corner and righties to take awkward hacks at pitches in on the hands:

 Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Fister

The Yankees, however, are among the game's most disciplined teams in terms of laying off these pitches. Aside from Cano, who swings at anything between the Bronx and Hoboken, New York's projected starting lineup tonight knows the zone well:

If Fister can get swings on junk pitches, he could pitch the Tigers into the ALCS for the first time since 2006. If not, he could be in for another long night -- and a short start.

 

Thursday
Oct062011

Nova's Super Slider

With a trip to the ALCS up for grabs, Ivan Nova starts for the Yankees tonight. The 24-year-old righty, who was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $80,000 in 2004, took four seasons to escape A-ball and was briefly lost to the Padres in the 2008 Rule V Draft, played a crucial role in New York's rotation while racking up nearly three Wins Above Replacement.

Nova tinkered with a slider in spring training, but he mainly stuck to his fastball, curveball and changeup early on in the 2011 season. Starting in June, however, Nova began to mix in the sharp, mid-to-upper-80s pitch more frequently. For a guy who was criticized as a prospect for lacking a true "out pitch," Nova's slider is quickly turning into just that.

Depending upon the count, Nova either hits the outer portion of the strike zone or tries to get hitters to lunge at the slider off the plate:

Pitch location of Nova's slider

And opponents have obliged by going after lots of those out-of-zone sliders. Check out hitters' swing rate by pitch location against Nova's slider, compared to the league average:

 Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Nova's slider

 League average swing rate vs. sliders

Batters have chased 40 percent of Nova's sliders out of the zone, well above the 34 percent average. While pitching in "relief" of CC Sabathia in rain-interrupted Game One of the ALDS, Nova struck out Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson swinging on sliders buried in the dirt:

Location of Nova's Ks with his slider vs. Detroit, 9/30/2011

Overall, Nova's slider has limited hitters to a .188 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA). Many Tigers have been susceptible to the slider this season, with Delmon Young (.153 wOBA vs. sliders), Ramon Santiago (.196), Jackson (.204), Alex Avila (.235) and Don Kelly (.251) all posting wOBAs way below the .262 league average against the pitch. Expect to see Nova's super slider early and often in Game Five.