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Entries in home runs (14)

Tuesday
Aug062013

CC Sabathia's HR Woes

Yankees starter CC Sabathia has coughed up a career-high 24 home runs during the 2013 season. That's tied with R.A. Dickey and Joe Blanton for second-most among all starting pitchers. While the 33-year-old has bested fellow $20 million-plus-a-year veterans Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira by at least staying on the field, Sabathia also has the eighth-worst adjusted ERA (85 ERA+) among qualified American League starters.

The 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star has usually been one of the game's best at preventing big flys, allowing just 0.8 home runs nine innings from his rookie year in 2001 through 2012. Why has Sabathia (1.4 HR/9 in 2013) seemingly morphed into a left-handed Phil Hughes? Here's a closer look at how hitters are taking CC deep.

  • Sabathia's no-longer-fast fastball is the main culprit, as hitters have homered 15 times against the pitch in 2013. Only A.J. Griffin (20) has given up more home runs with the fastball. As Sabathia's velocity diminishes, hitters are increasingly ripping his fastball down the lines and into the seats. He has lost about three ticks since 2011, and opponents are now pulling well over 40 percent of his fastballs:

Sabathia's slowing fastball

Ten of the 15 fastball home runs Sabathia has given up this year have been pulled. Back in 2011, CC trailed just David Price and Derek Holland in average fastball velocity among lefty starters. This year, he places a middling 21st out of 44 lefty starters who have thrown at least 500 fastballs.

  • Sabathia is leaving more pitches over the middle of the strike zone this season (27%) than in 2012 (24%), and he's paying for it. Eleven of the 24 homers he has allowed have caught the fat part of the plate, already surpassing his 2012 total (eight).
  • He's also generating fewer ground balls in 2013 (46% of balls put in play) than in 2012 (49%). Opponents aren't just putting the ball in the air more frequently against Sabathia, though -- they're driving those fly balls farther. Fly balls hit off CC are traveling an average of 272 feet this year, up from 259 feet last season and the 266 foot average for starting pitchers.
  • Sabathia is getting scorched more often when the hitter's back is against the wall, allowing more two-strike home runs in 2013 (eight) than in 2011 and 2012 combined (six). CC's newfound aggression with two strikes may be part of the problem -- he's throwing pitches over the plate 48% of the time in two-strike counts this year, compared to 38% in 2012. Six of the eight homers he has given up in two-strike counts have come on in-zone pitches.
Saturday
Jul132013

Raul Ibanez Destined for Old Dude HR History

When the Seattle Mariners originally drafted Raul Ibanez, Bill Clinton was the sax-playing governor of Arkansas, Sir-Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" topped the charts and cell phones were bigger than Jose Altuve. Much has changed since 1992, but Ibanez is still slugging. The 41-year-old has already clubbed 24 home runs this season, a mark bested by only Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzalez among MLB hitters.

Ibanez's power display is impressive for a batter at any age, but it's nearly unprecedented for a guy who's closer to AARP eligibility than the beginning of his career. Even if he cools off in the second half, Ibanez looks primed to break the single-season home run record for a player in his forties:

Highest single-season HR totals for 40+ year-old hitters

 Source: Baseball-Reference.com

Ibanez's plate approach at this advanced stage of his career can be summed up as, "swing hard in case you hit it." Here's a closer look at how Ibanez is on pace for forty-plus homers in his forties.

He's whiffing often...

Ibanez is coming up empty about 26% that he swings, up from 23% last season and well north of the 21% big league average. That, in turn, has led to a career-high 24.3% punch out rate.

But when he connects...

He's ripping the ball down the right field line. Ibanez has pulled about 48% of pitches put in play, compared to 43% in 2012 and the 33% average for left-handed hitters. No one has been more pull-happy than Ibanez, who trails just Domonic Brown among lefties in pull-side homers (18) and ranks seventh in slugging percentage (1.042) on balls hit to right field.

Ibanez's HR in 2013

 

He can still handle the heat, too

While he might lose a foot race to manager and fellow forty-something Eric Wedge, Ibanez has plenty of bat speed left. He has 15 home runs against "hard" pitches, meaning fastballs, cutters and splitters. Ibanez's fresh-faced, flame-throwing victims include Justin Wilson (96 MPH), Garrett Richards and Jarrod Parker (95 MPH).

Friday
Jul052013

How Chris Davis is Crushing the Record Books

Chris Davis has crushed a major league-leading 32 home runs already this season, leaving him just one clout shy of matching his 2012 total and putting him in prime position to break the Orioles' single-season home run record, set by Brady Anderson (50 HR) in 1996. Somewhere, Earl Weaver is smiling. How has the Rangers castoff maintained a homer pace that would make him the first batter to go deep 60 times in a season since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in 2001? Here's a breakdown of how Davis is breaking down opposing pitchers.

  • Davis wastes little time once he's in the batter's box, swinging at far more first-pitch offerings (39%) than the major league average (26%). That aggressive approach is paying off, as he's tied with Miguel Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion for the most first-pitch homers this season (8).
  • When he does get behind in the count, Davis is no longer an automatic out -- he has 13 homers in two-strike counts. That leads the majors, and it's not even close (Cabrera is a distant second, with eight HR in two-strike situations). Davis' 13 HR in two-strike counts already tops his ten hit in 2012 and nearly matches his combined total from 2008-11 (14).
  • Hard stuff, soft stuff -- it matters little to Davis, who's crushing every pitch type known to man. He has 17 homers against fastballs and sinkers, six against sliders, four versus curveballs, three on changeups, and one apiece on a splitter and a knuckleball. Has anyone tried throwing him an eeuphus pitch?
  • Davis also doesn't seem to care whether he has the platoon advantage, as he's tied with Jay Bruce and Carlos Gonzalez for the most home runs hit by lefty hitters against lefty pitching (seven). That matches his HR output against left-handers in 2012.
  • Davis has been an all-fields slugger, actually hitting more combined home runs to left field (8) and center (10) than to right field (14). We're barely halfway through the 2013 season, yet Davis has nearly cranked double-digit home runs in every direction. To put that into perspective, the only player with ten or more homers to left, center and right field in 2012 was Cabrera.

Davis' home run spray chart

 

  • On a related note, Davis has done most of his damage on pitches thrown to the middle (14 HR) or outer third (15 HR) of the plate. If the 6-foot-3, 230 pound behemoth has a weakness, it might be on inside pitches that require him to extend his arms. He has three homers and is slugging .347 on inside stuff, compared to an .829 slugging percentage on middle pitches and a .794 mark on outer-third offerings.

Davis' slugging percentage by pitch location