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Entries in Los Angeles Angels (46)

Thursday
Jul282011

Missing: Joel Pineiro's Grounders, Control

A few years ago, Joel Pineiro reinvented himself as an earth-scorching sinkerball pitcher possessing exquisite command. That skill set made him nearly a five-win pitcher for the Cardinals in 2009 and earned him a two-year, $16 million contract with the Angels prior to last season. Pineiro pitched well for the Halos in 2010 in between a nearly two-month DL stint for a strained oblique, but he's not burning worms or being as stingy with the walks in 2011.

The 32-year-old righty, who missed most of April with right shoulder tightness, is getting fewer grounders and issuing more free passes as the season progresses:

April/May: 53.1 ground ball percentage, 1.56 walks per nine innings pitched

June: 49.1 GB%, 3.3 BB/9

July: 39 GB%, 3.66 BB/9

Pineiro gets precious few strikeouts (3.9 per nine innings this season, tied with Pineiro's mound opponent on Thursday, Brad Penny, for second-lowest among starters). Without scores of ground balls and great control, he's going to get drubbed.

So, what's the cause of Pineiro's sharply lower ground ball rate and his higher walk rate? You might think it's his sinker, but that's not the biggest reason. Pineiro is getting a lower (but not drastically lower) percentage of grounders with the pitch, while still throwing strikes:

Pineiro's sinker, by month

April/May: 55.1 GB%, 62.7 strike percentage

June: 48.6 GB%, 64.1 strike%

July: 50 GB%, 63.1 strike%

His high-70s curveball and mid-80s slider are different stories, though:

Pineiro's breaking stuff, by month

April/May: 53.8 GB%, 64.2 strike%

June: 53.6 GB%, 67.4 strike%

July: 26.1 GB%, 58.9 strike%

Pineiro's location with his breaking pitches has been way off in July, and batters are often lofting those offerings into the air. Take a look at his curveball and slider location through June:

 Pitch frequency of Pineiro's breaking stuff, April-June 2011

In the strike zone, and at the knees. Now, look at where Pineiro is throwing his breaking pitches this month:

Pitch frequency of Pineiro's breaking stuff, July 2011He's missing low or to the glove side a lot, and when he puts in in the zone, it's higher and over the fat part of the plate.  

When Pineiro is inducing weak choppers and giving up few base on balls, he's a quality starter in spite of his microscopic strikeout rate. Without those virtues, he's a batting practice pitcher. To get back on track, he needs to pound hitters at the knees with his breaking stuff.

Wednesday
Jul272011

Ervin Santana's No-No

The Angels' Ervin Santana no-hit the Indians on Wednesday afternoon -- but Cleveland still led the game until the fifth frame. A first inning fielding error by Erick Aybar later turned into a run when Santana uncorked a wild pitch with Ezequiel Carrera on third base, but Santana pulled off the no-no and earned the Angels a 3-1 win by allowing just one other base runner the rest of the game. Santana whiffed 10 batters and walked one (Lonnie Chisenhall in the eighth inning), joining Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander in 2011's no-no club. It was the Angels' first complete-game no-hitter since Mike Witt threw a perfect game against Texas on September 30, 1984.

A fastball/slider pitcher who features just a smattering of changeups, Santana threw 68 heaters, 34 breaking balls and three changes against Cleveland. His velocity was higher than usual, as Santana averaged 93.3 MPH with his heat (92.6 MPH overall in 2011) and 82.7 MPH with his slider (81.9 overall in 2011).

While Santana is typically a fly ball-slanted pitcher, he recorded 12 ground ball outs compared to five fly outs on Wednesday. He challenged Cleveland's lefty-laden lineup (seven swung from the left side) with fastballs on the inner half, and buried his slider at the knees:

Fastball

Frequency of Santana's fastball location vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011

Slider

Frequency of Santana's slider location vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011

Santana got five Ks apiece with his fastball and slider, and seven of his whiffs were of the swinging variety:

Pitch location and release velocity of Santana's strikeouts vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011

According to Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, Santana is the first pitcher to throw a nine inning no-hitter while surrendering a run since Houston's Darryl Kile did it versus the Mets on September 8, 1993, at the Astrodome. 

Sunday
Jul102011

Weaver's Devastating Fastball

Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and starting pitcher for the American League All-Stars owns the most devastating fastball in the majors this season.  In plate appearances ending on a Weaver fastball, he recorded the lowest weight on-base average (wOBA) of any pitcher (min 200 PA on fastballs):

 

PitcherTeamFastball PAwOBA
Jered Weaver LAA 242 0.225
Erik Bedard SEA 201 0.243
Jair Jurrjens ATL 223 0.255
Cliff Lee PHI 270 0.259
Jordan Zimmermann WSH 246 0.262
David Price TB 350 0.270
Ryan Vogelsong SF 228 0.270
Matt Cain SF 271 0.272
Justin Verlander DET 292 0.274
Bartolo Colon NYY 296 0.274

 

Weaver manages to keep his fastball away from both lefties and righties.  The following graph shows his pitch loationa and movement against left-handed batters:

Jered Weaver, fastball vs. LHB, 2011. Location on the left, movement on the right.Note the great movement toward the left-handed batter.  Weaver can start this pitch outside, and the break brings it back over the outside corner.  Even when he misses, batters sometimes go after the pitch, resulting in a swing and miss.  His wOBA against lefties on his fastball is .224.

Against right-handed batters, he works the other side of the plate.

Jered Weaver, fastball vs. RHB, 2011. Location on the left, movement on the right.Note that Weaver gets even more lateral movement with his fastball against right-handed batters.  He starts the ball inside, and then it breaks over the outside part of the plate.  Batters see a pitch they can pull, but it ends up a pitch they should be driving the other way.  Instead of getting good wood on the ball batters get weak ground balls or flies bunched in the middle of the outfield.  That helps him to a .226 wOBA against righties.