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Entries in Los Angeles Dodgers (49)

Tuesday
Sep202011

Kershaw and his evolving slider

Check out the evolution of the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw from a fastball/curveball pitcher to a fastball/slider pitcher.

 2008

In 22 games (21 starts) in 2008, Kershaw was 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.495 WHIP.

Kershaw in 2008 had a .264 batting average against

Kershaw threw 1891 pitches in 2008

Fastball - 68.0% (1286 pitches) - .291

Change Up - 4.5% (85) - .167

Curveball - 21.6% (408) - .153

Slider - 0.3% (6) .500

Cutter - 0.1% (1) .000

2009

In 31 games (30 starts) in 2009, Kershaw was 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.228 WHIP.

Kershaw in 2009 had a .206 batting average against

He threw 3259 pitches in 2009

Fastball - 66.5% (2168 pitches) - .216

Change Up - 4.0% (130) - .355

Curveball – 16.8% (546) - .126

Slider – 6.9% (225) .143

Cutter - 0.6% (20) .000

2010

In 32 games (32 starts) in 2010, Kershaw was 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.179 WHIP.

Kershaw in 2010 had a .214 batting average against

He threw 3390 pitches in 2010

Fastball – 70.5% (2390 pitches) - .243

Change Up – 1.3% (45) - .250

Curveball – 6.8% (229) - .290

Slider – 19.5% (662) .108

Cutter - 0.5% (16) .000

2011

In 32 games (32 starts) in 2011, Kershaw is 20-5 with a 2.27 ERA and a 0.987 WHIP.

Kershaw in 2011 has a .208 batting average against

He has thrown 3375 pitches in 2011

Fastball – 65.3% (2205 pitches) - .272

Change Up – 3.6% (122) - .059

Curveball – 5.2% (176) - .146

Slider – 24.1% (813) .117

Cutter – not thrown

The change in Kershaw has been both significant and successful. 

Thursday
Sep152011

Kenley Jansen's Cutter

Kenley Jansen will throw a cutter. You shall not hit that cutter. Maybe that's a bit simplistic, but it basically sumps up Jansen's 2011 season with the Dodgers. The former catcher, who led the Netherlands to an upset win over the Dominican Republic in 2009 by gunning out Willy Taveras on the base paths, has used his howitzer of a right arm to rack up 83 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched (15.6 K/9), the highest rate of Ks per nine innings pitched among relievers. And he's doing it with perhaps the nastiest cutter in the game this side of Mariano Rivera.

Jansen's cutter, thrown about 72 percent of the time, averages 93.1 mph and can climb as high as 97. He doesn't nibble with the pitch, choosing to challenge hitters in the zone:

 Frequency of Jansen's cutter location, 2011

Fifty-eight percent of Jansen's cutters have been thrown in the strike zone, well above the 51 percent league average for the pitch. Despite Jansen putting his cutters over the plate, hitters swing through the pitch at a startling rate. Check out hitters' contact rate by pitch location vs. Jansen's cutter, compared to the league average:

 Hitters' contact rate vs. Jansen's cutter, 2011

League average contact rate vs. cutters, 2011

Unless it's low, batters have no chance against Jansen's cutter. In fact, his 37 percent miss rate with the cutter is the highest in the majors and makes a mockery out of the 20-21 percent league average.

When hitters do make contact, they might as well be swinging a whiffle bat. They're not doing any damage:

Hitters' in-play slugging percentage vs. Jansen's cutter, 2011League average in-play slugging percentage vs. cutters, 2011Opponents are slugging .248 against Jansen's cutter (.394 league average). Paul Goldschmidt doubled on an 0-2 cutter from Jansen two days ago. It was the first extra-base hit Jansen surrendered with the pitch since May.

Since making his major league debut last July, Jansen has whiffed 14.9 batters per nine frames. That's the second-highest K rate in MLB history among relievers throwing 70+ innings during their first two seasons in the big leagues, according to Baseball-Reference (Craig Kimbrel is first). Talk about some serious Gouda.

Friday
Sep092011

Dee Gordon's Going Up Swinging

During a 2011 season filled with family feuds and fiscal woes, rookie shortstop Dee Gordon is giving Dodgers fans something to smile about on days when Matt Kemp's not cracking homers or Clayton Kershaw's not on the mound. The 23-year-old is batting near .300 and has nabbed 17 bases in 21 tries since his June call-up, hinting at the talent that led Baseball America to rank him as the 26th-best prospect in the game this past spring.

However, that's not to say that Gordon, who didn't play baseball until his senior year of high school and had just one year at an NAIA school before being drafted, is a refined talent. Flash's son might be a blur on the bases and a high-contact hitter, but he also has just two walks in 145 MLB plate appearances. In fact, no hitter with 100+ plate appearances has taken ball four less often than Gordon. That's because he's swinging at everything between Chavez Ravine and Sacramento.

First, take a look at the average swing rate by pitch location for a left-handed hitter:

Overall, lefties offer at 45 percent of pitches thrown, including 28 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. Now, look at Gordon's swing rate:

 

Dee is swinging at slightly over 58 percent of pitches seen overall, and a whopping 47 percent of pitches tossed out of the zone. Both of those are big league highs.

With superb speed and a penchant for making contact, Gordon could be the sort of hitter who keeps his average near .300. But, with a 5-foot-11, 150 pound (listed) frame that conjures up images of Urkel, he's got about as much chance of hitting for power as Frank McCourt has of becoming Bud Selig's BFF. For Gordon to become a true top-of-the-order dynamo and get on base at a good clip, he'll need to start walking more than once a month.