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Entries in Houston Astros (16)

Thursday
Mar102011

Jose Valverde: Pitching to Contact

In 2009 with the Houston Astros, Jose Valverde held opposing batters to a 72.5% contact rate on his fastball with a K-rate of 20.4%.  In 2010 pitching for the Detroit Tigers, batters made contact on the pitch 83% of the time, and struck out only 12.9%.  So his fastball was obviously not as effective last season, right? 

While batters made better contact on the pitch and struck out less, Valverde's fastball was even more productive in his first season with the Tigers.  In 2009, batters had a .379 slugging percentage on his fastball;  this dropped to .284 in 2010.  Check out the change in where he located the pitch, accompanied by opposing batters' results.

Jose Valverde's Fastball

(click to enlarge)

So Valverde was locating his fastball further down in the zone last season, and while batters were making contact more, they weren't producing the same results as in 2009. One possible reason for this is Valverde's increased use of his splitter. In 2009, he relied heavily on his fastball, using his splitter sparingly. In 2010, he threw both pitches equally. A splitter is typically thrown low in the zone and resembles a regular fastball out of the hand. Batters would have found it even tougher to distinguish Valverde's splitter from his fastball given that he was locating both pitches similarly. And while the result was an increase in contact on his fastball, keeping batters guessing meant less well hit balls overall.

Friday
Feb252011

Brett Myers Part Two: Location, Location, Location

Continuing our examination of Brett Myers, let’s take a look at his pitch frequency over the last 3 years.

Brett Myers Pitch Comparison (click to enlarge)

In 2010, Myers became a lot more efficient at hitting the outside corners against both hitters.  Against RHB, you can see that he rarely touched the inner half of the plate at all last year; against LHB, Myers primarily hit the lower outside corner, unlike the previous two seasons where he threw to the center of the plate quite often.

In his career, Myers has relied mostly on his fastball and curveball, throwing in a slider (borderline cutter) and changeup from time to time.  However, he’s slowly begun to utilize his slider more, and last year was the first time he actually threw it more than his curveball.  The results were very good.

Batters vs. Brett Myers' Slider
PPAAVGSLUGwOBAK%BB%HR%
2008 Season479133.304.552.37120.3%4.5%7.2%
2009 Season20148.326.652.42118.8%2.1%8.7%
2010 Season917230.233.314.26418.3%5.7%1.0%

Now first things first: Myers 2009 season was cut down by injury, so we should take that into consideration when comparing seasons.  But there’s no doubt that he’s improved his slider to the point where it’s become an effective out pitch.  His walk rate did jump bit, which is no surprise given that he’s throwing to the edges of the zone more.  I would caution optimistic ‘Stros fans that the ridiculously low HR rate on his slider is bound to regress this season, especially if he’s utilizing the pitch more.  But location is key, and if Myers avoids the middle of the zone like he did last year, he should continue to see positive results.

Thursday
Feb242011

Brett Myers getting it done in Houston

Brett Myers is set to start the spring training home opener for the Houston Astros on March 1st. What amazes me is how well Myers pitched in his first season as an Astro after his two previous seasons in Philadelphia. His 2009 was interrupted by a hip injury forcing him to the pen when he returned. He finished the season with a below league average ERA+, same as 2008. In Houston, however, Myers turned it around. This season, the Astros will be looking for him to lead their rotation.

For most of his career, Myers has been a better pitcher versus left-handed batters. Righties have hit .270/.323/.458 against him compared to .248/.325/.408 against lefties. His last two seasons in Philly were no different. Take a look at the following splits:

Brett Myers vs. LHB
AVGOBPSLGwOBA
2008-09.230.308.395.314
2010.240.298.388.307
Contact%K%BB%LD%
2008-0979.6%21.0%9.9%17.2%
201080.3%19.4%7.4%13.6%

Myers saw little change overall versus LHB last season as he continued to pitch well against them. He was able to bring down his walk rate and his line drive rate, but for the most part his performance remained unchanged.

Brett Myers vs. RHB
AVGOBPSLGwOBA
2008-09.294.344.543.383
2010.254.302.373.306
Contact%K%BB%LD%
2008-0980.6%17.1%6.4%19.0%
201077.5%19.1%6.8%14.9%

Myers was far more successful against right-handed batters last season. He was getting more swings and misses, and as a result his strike out rate increased. His line drive rate decreased about the same amount as it did against LHB. The most outstanding number is the 170 point decrease in slugging percentage. While Myers was pitching in a pitcher’s park last season according to park factor, one has to wonder how much the Astros’ own offense contributed to that. And even if Minute Maid had some effect on his performance, Myers pitched just as well on the road in 2010 (Home: .255/.294./.374 | Road: .243/.305/.384).

In a post to follow, I’ll get into some more specifics regarding Myers’ improved 2010 season...