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Entries in Mark Teixeira (12)

Monday
Sep262011

Curveball Key for Shields vs. Yankees

James Shields needs to live up to his "Big Game" billing tonight, as the Rays (one game behind Boston in the Wild Card standings) open a three-game set with the Yankees. Shields has shut down New York this year, posting a 27/7 K/BB ratio in 30 innings pitched while holding Bombers batters to a collective .222/.270/.343 line. A big reason for Shields' success against the majors' second-most potent offense is that he's using his curveball, a pitch that makes some Yankees look Cerrano-like, more often.

Shields has increased his curveball usage from 13 percent in 2010 to 21 percent this year. The bender,  dropping a couple more inches compared to last season, is holding hitters to a .199 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), well below the .253 league average. The Yankees, meanwhile, haven't hit curveballs well this season. It's the only pitch against which the club has a below-average team wOBA:

2011 Yankees Team wOBA by Pitch Type (league average in parentheses)

Fastball: .382 (.340)

Sinker: .345 (.343)

Cutter: .323 (.311)

Slider: .302 (.263)

Changeup: .299 (.290)

Splitter: .289 (.279)

Curveball: .248 (.253)

Here are the Yankee hitters who are scuffling against curveballs in 2011:

Brett Gardner, .117

Mark Teixeira, .190

Nick Swisher, .239

Curtis Granderson, .251

Alex Rodriguez, .256

Rodriguez (.344 wOBA vs. curves from 2008-2011) typically crushes curveballs, but that hasn't been the case this season. Gardner (.216), Teixeira (.263), Swisher (.226) and Granderson (.241) have long been jelly-legged against curves.  

Shields has tossed his curveball for a strike nearly 70 percent of the time against the Yankees, giving up just one extra-base hit in the process. Look for the pitch to play a prominent role tonight as Tampa continues its late-season playoff pursuit.

Thursday
Sep082011

More on Tex's Batting Average

Earlier this week, Josh Weinstock at The Hardball Times examined Mark Teixeira's shrinking batting average on balls in play. Weinstock found that the switch-hitter's BABIP remained steady from the right side of the dish, but Tex is getting far fewer hits on balls in play as a lefty in 2010-2011 (.234) compared to 2008-2009 (.302). As a result, Teixeira's batting average has dipped from the high .290s to around .250.

Weinstock also discovered that Teixeira's BABIP decline as a lefty hitter has mostly been on pitches located on the outer part of the plate. Here's a look at Tex's in-play average as a lefty hitter from 2008-2009 and then from 2010-2011. While the in-play average graphs do include home runs, you can still see the cold spots appear on the outer portion of the plate:

Teixeira's in-play average by location as a LHB, 2008-2009Teixeira's in-play average by location as a LHB, 2010-2011

Righty pitchers have long tried to stay away from Teixeira's pull power by locating their stuff on the outside corner. But they're throwing him even more outside pitches since 2010, and those pitches are thrown farther outside:

Frequency of righty pitchers' location vs. Teixeira, 2008-2009Frequency of righty pitchers' location vs. Teixeira, 2010-2011

Righties have thrown Tex an outside pitch 57 percent of the time from 2010-2011, compared to 53 percent from 2008-2009. Interestingly, Teixeira's swing rate on outside pitches has increased (from 33 percent over the '08-'09 seasons to 36 percent in '10-'11), and he's hitting more foul balls on those outside pitches (32 percent of the time he swung from '08-'09 to 36 percent in '10-'11).

Those extra foul balls tack on strikes in the count and put Teixeira in less favorable hitting situations: his percentage of hitter's counts against righties has dropped from 27 percent in 2008-2009 to 25 percent in 2010-2011, while his percentage of pitcher's counts seen has increased from 37 percent to 39 percent.

It's possible that Teixeira's batting average dip against righties is just a fluke. But the increase in pitches thrown outside and Tex's taking a cut at (and fouling off) more of them could be an indication that scouts, coaches and pitchers think that the Yankees' first baseman has become more vulnerable when extending his arms and trying to cover the outside part of the plate. Keep a close eye on how righties pitch Teixeira in September and, more importantly, October.

Friday
Sep022011

Jon Lester's 43 Pitch First Inning vs. The Yankees

After last night's game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, NESN broadcasters Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo discussed Jon Lester's 43 pitch first inning.  Remy said that it looked like Lester wasn't getting some calls from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez that looked to be strikes.

Here's Lester's heat map from that first inning:

Jon Lester's First Inning vs. The Yankees (9/1/11)
43 Pitches, 26 strikes

Of all the pitches he threw in that first inning, there was only one that was called a ball yet was located inside the strike zone - a 0-0 pitch to Nick Swisher, who eventually struck out swinging.

Jon Lester - Called Balls within the Strike Zone (1st inning)

The only other pitch Marquez called incorrectly was a 2-1 strike to Mark Teixeira that was located off the outside edge of the zone.

Jon Lester - Called Strikes Outside the Strike Zone (1st inning)

There was a lot of talk about the strike zone throughout the game, but overall Marquez was fairly consistent.  And Lester's long first inning was likely not the result of any squeezing on Marquez's part.