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Entries in Los Angeles Dodgers (49)

Tuesday
Jul192011

Rubby De La Rosa's Gem of a Fastball

Little has gone right for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. The club is periously close to last place in the NL West standings, has uncertain finances and has featured more marital acrimony than an episode of Judge Judy. But one bright spot for L.A. is the pitching of rookie right-hander Rubby De La Rosa.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007, De La Rosa once sat in the high-80s with his fastball and was Dee Gordon-level skinny. But, as Baseball America's Jim Shonerd explained in the 2011 Prospect Handbook, De La Rosa's velocity has since shot through the roof:

De la Rosa weighed 130 pounds and threw 89-91 mph when he signed for $15,000 as an 18-year-old. Since getting on a proper diet, he has added 40 pounds of quality weight and fueled his breakout with a fastball that lights up radar guns. He pitches at 95-96 mph and registered as high as 102 mph at Great Lakes. He's capable of holding that velocity deep into games and finding an extra gear when he needs it.

True to the scouting report, De La Rosa's fastball is lighting up the radar guns in the majors. The 22-year-old has thrown his heater at an average of 95.2 MPH, besting Justin Verlander by the slighest of margins for the highest velocity among starting pitchers. And that extra gear? De La Rosa has topped out at 99.8 MPH.

That high-octane fastball has produced plenty of swings and misses. Here is De La Rosa's opponent contact rate against his fastball by pitch location, compared to the league average:

 De La Rosa's fastball contact rate by locationLeague average fastball contact rate by locationGood luck making contact with a fastball thrown high in the zone.  De La Rosa's miss rate with the fastball is 21.8 percent, trailing just Brandon Beachy and Brandon Morrow among starters.

When opponents aren't whiffing on De La Rosa's fastball, they're chopping it into the grass: his ground ball rate with the pitch is 54 percent, compared to the 43 percent league average. Overall, batters have a .213 batting average, a .310 on-base percentage and a .307 slugging percentage against De La Rosa's cheddar. That's miles ahead of the .270/.349/.423 league average.

De La Rosa still has work to do to become a more well-rounded pitcher: he has thrown his fastball nearly 80 percent of the time, and his slider and changeup haven't especially effective. But if he can pair one of the game's most dominant fastballs with improved secondary stuff, the Dodgers could have a right-handed complement to lefty Clayton Kershaw at the front of the rotation.

Monday
Jul112011

Baseball-All-Starlytics: Inside story on Matt Kemp

Last season, at the All-Star break, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers was doing whatever players do who have not been selected to the All-Star team (and are not subsitituting for the players who are selected). This year at the break, he's batting third in Bruce Bochy's lineup in the All-Star Game.

How did Kemp go from a .261 hitter with 16 homers  at this point last year to a .313 hitter with 22 homers this year?

The answer is quickness inside.

Compare 2010 and 2011 on inside fastballs

It is really something to see the difference in Matt Kemp.

Here is 2010:

Kemp at the 2010 breakHere is 2011:

Kemp at the 2011 breakVisually the difference is stunning and the pictures are backed up by the numbers. 

  • 2010: 245 fastballs on the inside, 60 plate appearances, 50 at bats
  • 2011: 225 fastballs on the inside, 66 plate appearances, 59 at bats 
  • 2010: 14 hits, 2 homers, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts
  • 2011: 25 hits, 4 homers, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts  
  • 2010: .280 avg., .350 OBP, .440 slug., .790 OPS
  • 2011: .424 avg., .470 OBP, .729 slug., 1.199 OPS 

You have to admit, that is a pretty stunning turn-around.

And now, you have the inside story on Matt Kemp.

Tuesday
Jun282011

Kemp Killing Fastballs, Sliders

Last night, Matt Kemp went 4-for-5 and hit his National League-leading 22nd home run of the season as the Dodgers pummeled the Twins 15-0. Kemp doubled and notched a pair of singles on fastballs, and hit a 449 foot bomb on a slider. Following another big game, Kemp has a .336/.422/.636 line and ranks behind just a pair of Joses (Bautista and Reyes) in Wins Above Replacement.

L.A.'s center fielder has put himself in MVP contention by throttling fastballs and sliders. Look at his in-play slugging percentage on fastballs, compared to the league average:

    Kemp's in-play slugging percentage vs. fastballs

           

  League average in-play slugging percentage vs. fastballs                     

Look at all that red! Kemp's overall slugging percentage against fastballs is .780. That makes a mockery of the .439 league average, and is way above Kemp's .500 slugging percentage last season. Twelve of Kemp's homers have come against fastballs. Only Curtis Granderson has hit more home runs against heaters.

Here's Kemp's in-play slugging percentage versus sliders:

Kemp's in-play slugging percentage vs. sliders

 

League average in-play slugging percentage vs. sliders          

Kemp is slugging .631 against sliders, compared to the .341 league average and his .446 mark in 2010. He has cracked seven homers on sliders, the highest total among MLB hitters.

Kemp's percentage of fastballs seen hasn't changed much over the course of the season, but pitchers seemingly got the scouting report on the slider and are throwing it less often. Kemp got a slider about 26 percent of the time in April, but that figure dropped to 20 percent in May and is slightly under 19 percent in June.