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Entries in Detroit Tigers (64)

Wednesday
Oct092013

3-2 is a Pitcher's Count for Max Scherzer

In yesterday's great Tigers' 8-6 win over the A's yesterday, in relief, Max Scherzer pitched out of a bases loaded no one out jam in the 8th inning without allowing a run, in this case the tying run in a 5-4 game, to score.

What made this Houdini-act even more impressive was the fact that Scherzer went to a 3-2 count on two of the batters.

Perhaps the most impressive feat of abracadabra was how he came back from down 3-1 to strike out Josh Reddick with no one out.

On the first 3-2 pitch to Reddick, Josh fouled off a 95 MPH four seamer that was over the plate. But on the next pitch, Reddick went down swinging on a 85 MPH change that was slightly inside.

Then with two down, on another 3-2 pitch, Alberto Callaspo lined out to center fielder Austin Jackson on an outside 95 MPH four seamer.

Here's how Scherzer addressed 3-2 counts during the postseason


Max Scherzer on 3-2 counts
PAPHBBKPOUTSwng#Miss#ClStk#Chas#AVGSLUGOBP
Postseason4501233112.000.000.250
Fastball2300122011.000.000.000
Change up2201111101.000.000.500

Here's how Scherzer addressed 3-2 counts during the regular season


Max Scherzer on 3-2 counts
PAPHBBKPOUTSwng#Miss#ClStk#Chas#AVGSLUGOBP
Overall114156830407511732832.096.193.342
Fastball619051323427017615.106.170.311
Change up313639919268110.136.364.387
Curve5603222111.000.000.600
Slider17240561219606.000.000.294
Sunday
Oct062013

A Brilliant Sonny Gray as Forecasted

Sonny Gray was brilliant last night for the Oakland A's last night in the Oakland 1-0 win over the Tigers that tied the ALDS at 1-1.

Justin Verlander was brilliant as well, but we have seen that many, many times before, so we are not focusing on him this morning. But most of the world of baseball fans had not seen Gray before in his 10 prior big leagues starts and in one of the best games of this baseball season they got to see a 23-year old righty who would not fit in with the Red Sox because all he seems able to grow is a wisp of a mustache.

Let's take a deep dive into Gray's performance last night

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
IPPP/PAFast#Curv#Slid#HBBKStrk#Strk%AVGOBPSLUG
Sonny Gray8.01113.83822724296558.6%.154.214.154

Look at the speed differential in Gray's pitches

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
PStrk#Strk%VelMxVelZone%Chas%ClStk%Miss%Foul%
Fastball824757.3%93.696.050.0%17.1%27.1%11.8%44.1%
Curveball271763.0%81.082.140.7%43.8%33.3%33.3%41.7%
Slider2150.0%82.783.20.0%50.0%0.0%100.0%0.0%

Gray by count

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
PStrk#Strk%VelMxVelZone%Chas%ClStk%Miss%Foul%
0-0 Count291655.2%91.295.458.6%8.3%48.0%0.0%75.0%
Two strikes261765.4%87.596.038.5%43.8%25.0%42.9%28.6%
Pitcher's Count361952.8%87.496.030.6%32.0%10.5%35.3%35.3%
Hitter's Count311754.8%92.794.951.6%6.7%0.0%5.9%47.1%
Even Count442965.9%91.095.456.8%31.6%51.6%15.4%46.2%

Two graphics speak volumes

You have seen the numbers, but the best way to truly appreciate what Gray did last night is by looking at where his pitchers went and, in the process, see why the Tigers were flailing and flustered

Gray's Fastball
Of the 82 fastballs that Gray threw, 34 were in the upper half of the zone and 64 were in the outer half of the zone.
Gray FB
Gray's Breaking Balls
Of the 29 breaking balls (27 curves, two sliders) that Gray threw, 25 were in the lower half of the zone and 17 were in the outer half of the zone.
Gray BB

FYI
Gray only threw 10 pitches in the middle of the plate to three batters who swung at eight of them, fouled five of them off and went 0-for-3 on the other three.

The forecast is bright for Oakland

I believe it is required to make some kind of meteorological comment when writing about Sonny Gray, consider it done.

Gray was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the first round (18th pick) of the 2011 amateur draft and he is under the A's control until free agency year of 2019. Maybe by then he'll be able to grow a Red Sox beard

But, I leave you with Tigers' manager Jim Leyland's words, who summed it up perfectly:
“Gray was everything as advertised, a live fastball coupled with an electric curve. I have to give him a lot of credit. I mean we’re not swinging the bats the way we’re capable, but you can’t take anything away from that performance."
Tuesday
Aug272013

Verlander's Fastball Losing Favor with Umps

Justin Verlander's fastball has been a hot topic, as the once-untouchable offering has gradually lost some zip (his average fastball velocity had dropped from 95 MPH in 2011 to 94.6 MPH in 2012 and 93.9 MPH in 2013) and been lashed into the gaps more often (batters slugged .358 in '11, .389 in '12 and .442 in '13). One little-discussed aspect of Verlander's fastball woes is that he's not getting as many called strikes on heaters thrown outside of the strike zone. That, in turn, is leading to more free passes for opposing hitters.

A few years ago, umps were quite generous to Verlander when batters took a fastball located off the plate. Verlander's called strike rate on fastballs thrown out of the strike zone was 16.4 percent in 2011, well above the 12 percent major league average for right-handed starting pitchers. Among righty starters, only Livan Hernandez, Doug Fister, Shaun Marcum, Ryan Vogelsong, Dan Haren, Colby Lewis and Roy Halladay got more calls on out-of-zone fastballs.

Since then, Verlander hasn't been so fortunate. His called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs fell to 15.1 percent in 2012, and sits at a league average 11.9 percent so far in 2013. The main difference is on arm-side fastballs -- umps aren't calling as many strikes on pitches thrown well inside to righty batters, or off the outside corner to lefties.

Verlander's called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs, 2011

 

Verlander's called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs, 2012

 

Verlander's called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs, 2013

Verlander's declining called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs is made more puzzling by his decline in velocity. In general, there's an inverse relationship between fastball velocity and called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs -- the slower you throw, the more called strikes you get. Out-of-zone fastballs thrown by righty starting pitchers between 90-92 MPH, for example, have a called strike rate of 12.4 percent over the past three years. That called strike rate dips to 11 percent for fastballs thrown between 93-94 MPH, and just 8.4 percent for fastballs thrown 95 MPH or harder. You'd think that a softer-tossing Verlander would get more called strikes, not fewer.

While the change in Verlander's called strike rate on fastballs thrown off the plate might not seem huge, those extra balls do add up. The difference between his 2011 and 2013 called strike rates on out-of-zone fastballs amounts to 20 additional balls thrown, which partially explains why his walk rate has climbed in recent years (from 5.9 percent of batters faced in 2011 to 6.3 percent in 2012 and 8.3 percent in 2013). When Verlander toes the rubber against the A's tonight, keep an eye on his off-the-plate heat -- the ump's generosity could be the difference between strike three and ball four.