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Entries in Milwaukee Brewers (41)

Wednesday
Jul132011

Axford's Highs and Lows

John Axford of the Milwaukee Brewers may or may not lose his closer role to Francisco Rodriguez.  Axford has been striking out batters at a high rate this season, thanks to his ability to change the level of his pitches.  Axford throws his fastball high in the strike zone, and batters chase it:

John Axford, swing rate on fastballs, 2011.While they swing high, they don't make contact high:

John Axford, contact rate on fastballs, 2011.The high fastball presents the batter with less time to swing, and a poor angle for making contact with a slight upper cut.  Twenty six percent of plate appearances against John that end in fastballs end in strikeouts.

The high fastball also sets up the curve.  John's curve breaks sharply down.  Batters are good at recognizing  a curve in the strike zone:

John Axford, swing rate on curve balls, 2011.The problem, however, is that they are recognizing those as high pitches, so they swing and miss:

John Axford, contact rate on curve balls, 2011.Forty-eight percent of plate appearances that end on a curve go down as strikeouts.  By buzzing batters high, and then breaking the ball low, Axford gets opposing batters to generate a lot of wind, and earns saves for the Brewers.

Tuesday
Jul122011

Robinson Cano and the Long Ball

New York Yankee Robinson Cano put on quite a show last night as he outdueled Adrian Gonzalez (BOS) in the final round of the HR Derby, winning it with 32 total HRs.  His 12 homers in the final round set a record for the derby.

Playing for the Yankees, a team that has big sluggers like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Cano's power sometimes gets short shrift.  But after last night, it will be hard for anyone to ignore his long ball proclivity.

Cano seemed more than comfortable having his father, Jose Cano, throw to him last night.  While BP pitchers usually soft toss fastballs one after another, one wonders if Cano could have produced even more HRs last night if he was facing sliders.

Since 2009, Robinson Cano has hit more HRs off sliders than any AL batter with 21, and second behind fellow HR Derby contestant and former derby winner Prince Fielder (MIL), who has 23.  Those 21 homers tie the number he has hit off fastballs in that same span of time.  His 8.0 HR% on sliders (highest among any pitches he has seen since 2009) ranks 5th in baseball behind Jason Giambi (9.1%), Russell Branyan (9.0%), Prince Fielder (8.3%), and Hideki Matsui (8.3%).

Since the 2010 All-Star Break, Cano has hit 11 HRs off sliders, best in the league.  He has a 27.5% HR/FB rate on sliders, ranking him in the top 4% of the league.    And his 11.0 HR% on sliders in that time is best among all major league hitters, even Jose Bautista (10.4 HR%).

If Cano is looking to top last night's performance in next year's home run derby, perhaps Jose will break out the slider in Kansas City.

Friday
Jul012011

CC's 13 Ks

CC Sabathia tied a career high in strikeouts yesterday afternoon, fanning 13 Milwaukee Brewers in 7.2 innings as the Yankees rolled to a 5-0 victory and a series sweep. All of Sabathia's punch outs versus the club that he propelled to the playoffs in 2008 were of the swinging variety.

Seven of CCs Ks came on his slider. A souped-up fastball averaging about 95 MPH (his season average is 93.5 MPH) recorded four whiffs, and his changeup got two strikeouts.

Sabathia managed to sit down Prince Fielder, ranking fourth in the majors in Weighted On-Base Average, twice. Sabathia blew a high 96 MPH fastball past the Big Veggie in the first inning. With the bases loaded and two out in the third, Fielder swung through an 85 MPH slider perfectly located on the outside corner of the plate:

Fielder's Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011Sabathia also victimized lefty hitters Mat Gamel and George Kottaras twice on sliders.  Each whiffed at a slider in the zone and chased one off the plate. Well off the plate, in Gamel's case:

Gamel's Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Kottaras' Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Sabathia toyed with righty-hitting Rickie Weeks, striking him out on a pair of 95 MPH fastballs on the outside corner and a diving 88 MPH changeup in nearly the same spot:

Weeks' Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Likely well aware of Carlos Gomez's tendency to chase balls, gum wrappers, birds and low flying planes, Sabathia got the center fielder to swing at high 95 MPH heat and a slider at the shoe tops:

Gomez's Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Finally, Corey Hart fanned on an outside changeup and a slider just out of the lower portion of the zone:

Hart's Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Sabathia will soon turn 31, but he's showing no signs of slowing down. Imagine where the Yankees' rotation, a middling seventh in the American League in Fielding Independent Pitching, would be without the big workhorse.