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Entries in fastball (14)

Tuesday
May072013

Batters Stop Chasing Halladay's Stuff, Chase Him Out of Games

Roy Halladay is headed to the disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation, following seven brutal starts in which the two-time Cy Young Award winner surrendered nearly an earned run per inning pitched (8.65 ERA) and posted a walk rate (4.5 BB/9) approaching two and a half times his career average (1.9 BB/9).

Much has been made of Halladay's diminished velocity, as he has lost a tick off his fastball each of the past two seasons (91.5 MPH average in 2011, 90.5 MPH in 2012, 89.7 MPH in 2013). Hitters are taking advantage, slugging .574 against Halladay's not-so-hot heater this season after slugging about .390 in both 2011 and 2012. Halladay's slower fastball is getting crushed when batters swing. But there's another nasty side effect to his lost velocity -- opponents are swinging far less often when Halladay throws a fastball out of the strike zone.

Take a look at hitters' swing rate by pitch location against Halladay's fastball during his glory days in 2011, and during his hellish 2013. The pitch induced a healthy number of chases in 2011, especially on stuff thrown high. This year, he's not having any luck getting hitters to expand their zones against his sub-90 fastball:

Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Halladay's fastball, 2011

   

Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Halladay's fastball, 2013 

           

Back in 2011, Halladay got hitters to chase his fastball 26% of the time. This year? Just 11%. That's less than half of the MLB average for starting pitchers (24%), and ranks dead last among all National League starters.

The difference between 92 MPH and 89 MPH might not seem career-altering at first blush, but it makes a difference to hitters. Since the start of the 2011 season, batters have chased 26% of fastballs thrown at 92 MPH, and have slugged .434. Against 89 MPH "heat," they have chased 24% and slugged .486. Halladay's decline in chases has been far more severe than most. But unless he comes back with his old zip, he shouldn't expect hitters to be as jumpy against his fastball as they used to be.

Saturday
Apr132013

Matt Harvey's High Heat

The Mets are off to a 6-4 start this year, and Matt Harvey is a major reason why. Harvey has surrendered just one run while winning his first two starts, punching out 19 batters in 14 innings pitched. The 24-year-old right-hander with a blistering fastball is challenging hitters with high heat -- and he's winning.

Here is Harvey's fastball location so far in 2013:

Overall, major league starting pitchers have thrown about 35% of their fastballs to the upper third of the strike zone this season. But Harvey? He's going upstairs 53% of the time, highest among National League starters throwing at least 100 pitches. Harvey's high heat is getting results, too. He's getting hitters to swing and miss at his fastball nearly half of the time, putting him in a class all his own among MLB starters:

Highest fastball miss rate among MLB starters (min. 100 thrown)

 

Harvey has thrown his fastball, which screams towards home plate at an average of 94 MPH and has topped out at 98 MPH, about two-thirds of the time. Opponents are hitting .154 (4-for-26) against his heater, with a lone extra-base knock (congrats, Jimmy Rollins!) Eat your heart out, Verlander and Strasburg.

Friday
May042012

Brandon Morrow's Slider

With a 2.38 ERA and .912 WHIP, Brandon Morrow seems to be off to a great start for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012.  However, his 4.33 FIP may indicate he's in line for some regression soon.

What's interesting about Morrow's season so far is that he's been recording the majority of his outs on sliders, while his fastball has been getting hit fairly hard.  Through his first six starts, Morrow's fastball has a .397 wOBA against, and his .681 slugging percentage against is third worst in baseball. All seven of the home runs yielded by Morrow have come off the fastball, as well as eight of ten doubles.

Click image to enlargeBy contrast, Morrow's slider has just a .107 wOBA against.  Batters are only making contact on 60.5% of their swings on his slider, compared to 91.3% on his fastball.

Morrow's slider is hitting the strike zone 41.4% of the time.  Batters are chasing his slider out of the zone 39.0% of the time; eventually, they'll lay off the pitch more and sit on the fastball, which could precipitate that regression.