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Entries in Los Angeles Angels (46)

Friday
Jul012011

Chatwood Finds Footing in Majors

Tyler Chatwood faced a daunting task when the Angels inserted him into the starting rotation this past April. The 21-year-old entered the year ranked as a top-100 prospect according to Baseball America, but he had all of 6.2 innings of Triple-A pitching under his belt and spent most of the 2010 season between High-A and Double-A. Chatwood's lack of upper-level experience showed in the Spring. But he has improved each month:

April: 0.67 K/BB ratio, 6.23 Fielding Independent Piching (FIP)

May: 1 K/BB, 4.01 FIP

June: 1.62 K/BB, 3.34 FIP

Chatwood's percentage of pitches thrown within the strike zone has increased from 44.7 in April to 47.9 percent in May and 48 percent in June. Consequently, his strike percentage has climbed: 55.4 percent in April, 59.2 percent in May and 60.6 percent in June.

The undersized right-hander relies heavily on a fastball that sits around 93 MPH and tops out at 97, throwing the pitch over three-quarters of the time while mixing in a few upper 70s curveballs and low-80s changeups. Chatwood is doing a better job of hitting his spots with his fastball, getting the pitch to cross the plate at the hitters' knees instead of missing to his armside:

Frequency of Chatwood's fastball location in April

Frequency of Chatwood's fastball location in May

Frequency of Chatwood's fastball location in JuneChatwood placed his fastball in the zone just 47.1 percent of the time during the season's opening month, but that figure bumped up to 47.8 percent in May and sits at 52 percent in June. For comparison, the league average is slightly under 52 percent.

His better-located fastball has been much more successful. Chatwood's heat had a .411 Weighted On-Base Average against in April. In May, that fell to .361. This month, Chatwood's fastball has a .290 wOBA against that bests the .338 league average.

With nascent breaking and off-speed stuff, Chatwood is certainly a work in progress. But at least his fastball has turned into a legitimate weapon with which he can combat big league hitters.

 

Thursday
May052011

Erick Aybar and the Inside Strike

Erick Aybar (LAA) hit well in 2009, posting a .312/.353/.423 slash line, good for a wOBA of .334.  In 2010, that dropped to .253/.306/.330, a poor .282 wOBA.  So far in 2011, Aybar's averages are back up.  What changed from 2009 to 2010, and has it changed back?

Aybar is a switch hitter, with most of his at bats coming against right-handed pitching.  In 2009, umpires gave Erick the benefit of the doubt on pitches on the inside corner of the plate.

Erick Aybar, called strikes from right-handed pitchers, 2009.Umps called strikes wide on Erick, but he could take the inside pitch, and force pitchers to move farther over the plate, a better hitting zone.  In 2010, umpires were not as generous.

Erick Aybar, called strikes from right-handed pitchers, 2010.While he still got the low strike called a ball, the inside edge of the plate reverted rightfully to the pitcher.  You can see how this might hurt a batter.  He was hitting in pitchers counts more often, and right-handed opponents didn't need to move over the center of the plate as much.  His strikeout rate against RHP went from 10.6% in 2009 to 14.6% last season.

What about in 2011?

Erick Aybar, called strikes from right-handed pitchers, 2011.Erick gets a big chunk of the lower, inside part of the plate.  The upper inside edge still belongs to the pitcher.  With almost one quarter of the zone going Aybar's way, it no wonder his slash line is back up to .342/.364/.425 and his strikeout percentage is now to 11.3%.  I would be dubious of that much of the zone going his way the full season, but if can at least keep the lower inside edge, he might post good numbers again.

Tuesday
May032011

Dustin Pedroia's Excellent At Bat

In the bottom of the fifth inning Monday night, Dustin Pedroia (BOS) battled Jered Weaver (LAA) for 13 pitches, the batter eventually delivering a two-RBI single that resulted in the Red Sox taking the lead.  The following chart shows the pitches of the at bat overlayed on Dustin's hot zones since the start of the 2008 season:

Dustin Pedroia vs. Jered Weaver, May 2, 2011, bottom of the fifth inning.From the batter's point of view, this sequence shows Dustin's superb strike zone judgement.  He only swung at two pitches out of the strike zone (6 and 12), and they were both probably too close to take with two strikes and Weaver on the mound.  Dustin did not swing and miss in the sequence, nor did he take a strike.  Each swing resulted in a foul ball or ball in play.  In Moneyball terms, Pedroia's process was very good.

From the pitcher's point of view, Weaver mixed his pitches well in every dimension.  He used four different pitches during the sequence, four fastballs, three changeups, three sliders, and three cutters.  Three times he threw the same pitch on consecutive throws, but on almost every toss he changed location, up, down in and out.  Until the last three pitches, there was always something different about the previous pitch.

The last three pitches, however, is what did in Weaver.  Pitches 11 and 12 were classified as cutters and pitch 13 as a fastball, but the three had all about the same speed, spin and movement.  Pedroia basically saw the same pitch three times in a row for the first time during the at bat.  Note, too, that pitch 13 was higher on the corner than the other two, and that's right on the edge of a hot zone for Dustin.  Pedroia had the pitch timed, Weaver put it in a good location, and the single on pitch 13 turned the game around.  It was a classic battle between a fine pitcher and a fine hitter.