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Entries in Milwaukee Brewers (41)

Wednesday
May022012

Shaun Marcum, Swing and Miss King

Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum has not thrown a single pitch faster than 89 mph in 2012. No starting pitcher has been more adept than Marcum in getting hitters to swing and miss. 

Those two sentences create a kind of cognitive dissonance for many fans. When we think of whiff kings, we think of pitchers pumping premium mid-90s gas. But Marcum has induced more misses than the Verlanders, Strasburgs and Moores of the world by supplementing his speed-challenged heater (averaging 86.5 mph) with a mean mix of cutters, changeups, sliders and curves. Marcum's "heat" might not get many misses, but everything else he throws sure does:

PitchAvg. VelocityPct. ThrownMiss Pct.NL Avg. Miss Pct.
Fastball 86.5 28 13.8 15.3
Cutter 84.6 25 27.3 18.3
Changeup 80.6 20 43.1 30.3
Slider 80.4 18 46.2 31.2
Curveball 73 9 36.4 29.2
Overall     31.6 20.9

 

Marcum has always thrown lots of off-speed and breaking stuff, but he's using his fastball even less than in 2011 (33 percent) and 2010 (50 percent).

A key to Marcum's MLB-best miss rate is that he gets batters to chase his cornucopia of pitches off the plate. Opponents have gone after 35 percent of Marcum's pitches thrown outside of the strike zone, which ranks behind only R.A. Dickey, Jered Weaver and Ian Kennedy among starters. Against lefties, Marcum is getting most of his swings and misses on pitches located well off the outside corner or low and away:

Location of Marcum's swinging strikes versus lefty hitters, 2012

Right-handers, meanwhile, are also swinging through lots of pitches placed far off the outside corner:

Location of Marcum's swinging strikes versus righty hitters, 2012

By throwing fewer fastballs and getting hitters to futilely chase his breaking and off-speed pitches off the plate, Marcum is striking out a career-high 8.7 batters per nine innings pitched. Who needs a killer fastball when you can flummox hitters so many other ways?

Friday
Apr132012

Corey Hart Crushing It

Milwaukee Brewer Corey Hart currently holds the highest wOBA (.569) in the National League heading into Friday action.

All 2012 pitches to Corey Hart through April 12th (click to enlarge)Despite opposing pitchers' best efforts to keep the ball away from Hart, he's managed a .941 slugging percentage while going 6 for 17 with 3 home runs.

Corey Hart 2012 through April 12th (Click to enlarge)Hart has made the most with the few pitches that have floated up in the zone. Last season he hit .289 with a .518 SLG on pitches up, while just .219 with a .368 SLG on pitches down. Expect pitchers to avoid Hart's hot spots by keeping the ball down, or trying to get him to chase outside.

Thursday
Feb022012

Greinke's Many Curveballs

A free agent after the 2012 season, Zack Greinke is on the cusp of signing a mega free agent deal. The Brewers righty is 28 years old and has proven to be one of the game's best, most durable starters over the past four seasons. Greinke ranks 12th among starting pitchers in both ERA+ (126) and Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (17.2) since 2008, easily topping 200 innings from 2008-2010 before falling short this past year after cracking a rib during a pickup hoops game.

But I'm guessing Greinke already knew those things. He's currently representing himself, after all, and he might throw the league a curve by going into free agency agentless. Greinke is no stranger to throwing others for a loop -- just take a look at his curveball.

Greinke has thrown his curve at an average of 74.8 mph since 2008, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He really has about five or six different curves, thrown at anywhere from 59 mph all the way up to 87 mph. Take a look at Greinke's curveball distribution, by speed:

Curveball SpeedPct. Of Total Curves Thrown
Less than 60 mph 0.3%
61-65 mph 3.0%
66-70 mph 17.0%
71-75 mph 32.3%
76-80 mph 24.3%
81+ mph 23.1%

 

Greinke uses his slow, medium and fast curveballs for different purposes. At the far ends of the spectrum, his slow, looping curve thrown at 61-65 mph and his power curve at 81+ mph are thrown out of the strike zone and are used to get chases. From 66-80 mph, Greinke throws his curve for strikes:

Curveball SpeedPct. Thrown in Strike ZoneChase Pct.
61-65 mph 34% 29%
66-70 mph 49% 22%
71-75 mph 56% 18%
76-80 mph 52% 23%
81+ mph 36% 42%

 

As you might expect, Greinke uses his slow (61-65 mph) and power (81+ mph) curves when he's ahead of the hitter. Seventy percent of his slow curves have been thrown in pitcher's counts, and 60 percent of his power curves.

If he gets through 2012 intact, Greinke could be looking at a $100 million contract next winter -- we just don't know where he'll sign or who will negotiate that pact. GMs, like hitters, are left wondering what Greinke will do next.

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