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Entries in Los Angeles Angels (46)

Tuesday
May292012

Ernesto Frieri's Whiff-Tastic Fastball

Since being traded from the Padres to the Angels for infielder Alexi Amarista in early May, Ernesto Frieri has faced 41 helpless hitters. The right-hander with the sneaky, short-armed delivery has punched out 23 of those batters and hasn't allowed a single run to score on his watch. Frieiri's dominance is a result of many empty swings against his fastball. He might not have Alrodis Chapman-like velocity, but his results with the pitch are just as good -- if not better.

Frieri's fastball, which averages 92.6 mph and tops out at 95, has the highest opponent whiff rate in the majors among relief pitchers this season:

PitcherMiss Pct.
Ernesto Frieri 47.2%
Aroldis Chapman 39.6%
Jason Grilli 36.6%
Joel Peralta 32.2%
Craig Kimbrel 30.0%
Steve Delabar 29.9%
Fernando Rodriguez 28.4%
Brad Brach 26.6%
Jose Arredondo 26.2%
Andrew Cashner 26.1%
MLB Avg. for RP 19.5%

 

Eat your heart out, Chapman. Frieri likes to throw his fastball above the belt, with three-quarters of his heaters located in the middle or upper third of the strike zone:

Frieri's fastball location, 2012Those middle-high fastballs, particularly ones thrown to his arm side, are producing next to no contact for batters. Check out Frieri's fastball contact rate by pitch location, and then the average for relievers:

Hitters' contact rate by location vs. Frieri's fastball, 2012 

Average fastball contact rate by location vs. relief pitchers, 2012L.A. toiled at the bottom of the AL West standings early in the season in part due to a lousy bullpen (the Angels' pen has the second-worst Win Probability Added among AL clubs). But with the Angels riding a seven-game win streak and Frieri firing one of the game's most dominant fastballs, the late innings should no longer be so vexing for Mike Scioscia and company.

Tuesday
May152012

Trumbo Showing Better Plate Approach

The L.A. Angels are mired in last place in the American League West and have the worst offensive attack this side of the Minnesota Twins. A big reason why is an overly jumpy lineup: The Angels rank dead last in the A.L. in walks, taking a free pass in just 6.7 percent of their plate appearances. Strangely enough, though, the Angels' lone offensive star so far is a reformed hacker who wasn't even supposed to be a full-time starter in 2012.

Though Mark Trumbo showed plenty of power as a rookie by belting 29 home runs, his lack of patience led to a walk rate of just 4.4 percent and a paltry .291 on-base percentage. That low OBP and the allure of adding one of the game's all-time great hitters led to Trumbo being displaced by Albert Pujols. But, while Pujols has seemingly lost his once-pristine plate approach, Trumbo has made ample progress in working the count.

In 2011, Trumbo hacked at lots of eye-high pitches. Check out his swing rate by pitch location last year, and then the league average:

Trumbo's swing rate by pitch location, 2011

Average swing rate by pitch location, 2011Trumbo chased 41 percent of pitches thrown out of the zone as a rookie, trailing just Vlad Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Olivo and Adam Jones among all qualified MLB hitters. This year, though? He's laying off those elevator pitches:

Trumbo's swing rate by pitch location, 2012

His chase rate has dipped to 31 percent this season, not far from the 28 percent league average. As a result, Trumbo's walk rate has shot up to 9.2 percent. That patience, combined with continued power production (six homers in 98 plate appearances) and some good fortune on balls put in play has led to a 185 OPS+ for Trumbo. The next highest mark on the Angels is Kendrys Morales' 120, and the club sports a collective 93 OPS+.

Trumbo's transition across the diamond to third base didn't take, so he doesn't really have a set position at this point (he has appeared at third, first, both outfield corners and DH). But if he keeps laying off the high stuff and hammering pitches, the Angels will make sure he gets everyday ABs.

Thursday
May032012

Soft Stuff Vexing Pujols

Unless you've been in a coma or decided to live like the Amish for a month, you probably know that Albert Pujols' Angels career is off to a hellish start. The $240 million man enters play Thursday with nary a home run in 107 plate appearances and a 55 OPS+ that, as Bob Uecker might say, is just a bit outside his normal range (Pujols' career OPS+ of 169 is seventh-best all time, ranking between Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb).

Pujols isn't exactly scorching fastballs and sinkers this year, with a .404 slugging percentage against them that is 141 points below his 2011 mark. But that looks prolific next to his performance against "soft stuff -- curveballs, sliders and changeups. Pujols is batting -- and slugging -- .116 against breaking balls and off-speed pitches, compared to last year's .502 slugging percentage. That's one of the ten worst rates among qualified hitters this season:

Lowest slugging percentage vs. "Soft" pitches

BatterSlug Pct.
Mark Reynolds .040
Casey Kotchman .043
Brandon Crawford .048
Jason Kubel .067
Russell Martin .083
Freddy Galvis .097
Shin-Soo Choo .100
Albert Pujols .116
Clint Barmes .129
Carlos Pena .143
MLB Avg. .343

 

Pujols is scuffling and has yet to record an extra-base hit against soft stuff because he's chasing so many curves, sliders and changes of pace off the plate. Check out his swing rate by pitch location vs. soft pitches in 2011, and then with the Angels so far in 2012:

Pujols' swing rate vs. curveballs, sliders and changeups, 2011

Pujols' swing rate vs. curveballs, sliders and changeups, 2012He went after about 29 percent of soft stuff thrown out of the zone last year, below the 32 percent major league average. This year, though? 44 percent.

Pitchers have thrown Pujols slightly more soft stuff this year (38.8 percent of the time) than last (37.8 percent). Expect that rate to rise further if he keeps on going after so many breakers and changeups in the dirt.

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