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Entries in mlb (25)


Wandy Rodriguez and the Curve

Wandy Rodriguez is regarded as one of the better starting pitchers in baseball. He was rewarded as such this off-season when the Houston Astros signed him to a three-year, $34 million extension.

However, the left-hander struggled mightily during the first half of the 2010 season. In his first 14 starts, he posted a 6.09 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 34 walks in 75 and one-third innings. In his next 18 starts, he posted a 2.03 ERA with 126 strikeouts and 34 walks in 119 and two-thirds innings. What happened?

At Baseball Prospectus, Christina Kahrl suggested that Rodriguez refined his curve. Using data from Baseball Analytics, we shall find out exactly how Rodriguez changed.

We will start out with some of the results, first looking at the batted ball splits. In the first half, Rodriguez induced 46 ground balls out of 82 total batted balls (56 percent); in the second half, he induced 89 grounders out of 137 total (65 percent). As we can see by the league trends on batted balls (and intuitively), it is significantly harder to hit for power when the ball hits the ground.

Did he change his general location? During the first half, he was hitting the middle of the plate more often overall. His performance against lefties stayed about the same (.276 wOBA to .273) but improved drastically against right-handers (.341 to .290). The heat maps showed that he hit the corners better and even expanded outside of the strike zone.

Wandy Rodriguez, first half vs. RHWandy Rodriguez, second half vs. RH

In both halves, Rodriguez opted not to use the curve in hitters' counts, choosing instead to use them in pitcher-favored and even counts. His performance in pitcher-favored counts did not vary much at all (.257 wOBA to .226) but in even counts, his wOBA allowed dropped from .355 to .283. The heat maps show you the severe change in location as well.

Wandy Rodriguez, first half, even counts vs. RHWandy Rodriguez, second half, even counts vs. RH

Many have tried to explain Rodriguez's second-half transformation, but the answer may simply be that he located his curve better. After a bit of Googling, I could not find out if pitching coach Brad Arnsberg had Rodriguez change his grip -- or arm slot, or anything else for that matter -- but it would not surprise me if that were the case.


World Series Picks

We've been asking around for World Series Picks... Here are some of the highlights:

Jonathan Scippa (

World Series Champion: Texas Rangers
Games: 5
World Series MVP: Cliff Lee

The Texas Rangers offense will be too much for the San Francisco Giants as Nolan Ryan's team looks to earn it's first World Series title in franchise history.  As good as the pitching has been for the Giants, especially the bullpen, Josh Hamilton and co. will be even better.  But the surprising effectiveness of the Rangers' starters behind Cliff Lee will be the story of the Series.  Proving they can shut down arguably the most potent offense in the league in the New York Yankees, the Rangers' starters will quiet the Giants' bats, winning the World Series in 5 games.

David Pinto (

World Series Champion: San Francisco Giants
Games: 6
World Series MVP: Tim Lincecum

I will revise if the Rangers decide to use Cliff Lee three times

Bill Baer (

World Series Champion: Texas Rangers
Games: 5
World Series MVP: Cliff Lee 

While the Giants were busy taking advantage of a dormant Phillies offense, the Rangers' offense was clicking on all cylinders, averaging more than six runs per game in the ALCS against the Yankees. The Giants' starting rotation certainly has a tough task ahead of them with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, Nelson Cruz, and Michael Young. Meanwhile, the Rangers also have a formidable starting rotation led by Cliff Lee, who has a 34-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the 2010 post-season. Although the playoffs are a crap shoot, I don't see the Giants putting up a fight against the Rangers, who may have flown under the radar as the most well-rounded team in the playoffs.

World Series Champion: San Francisco Giants
Games: 7
World Series MVP: Tim Lincecum

I like the Giants in seven games, but not because of anything tangible. Sure, their pitching staff is excellent, and their offense is (on paper) still a bit underwhelming, but after watching how they played in that excellent six-game series against the Phillies, I can't help but buy into the Giant bandwagon. The whole concept of "just enough" applies with these Giants, because, for whatever reason, this offense of scrap-heap plucks and a pitching staff of one superstar and a bunch of roleplayers has made it this far, and I can't help but think it's for a reason.

One Tough Out: Buster Posey

Buster Posey continues to have an impressive postseason. The image below is an overlay of the pitch sequence in his at bat vs. LHP Antonio Bastadro in the 7th inning of last night's game (NLCS Game 4). Despite Bastardo only giving Posey one pitch in the zone he still fails to keep him off the bases.

Pitch Sequence with 2010 In Play SLG% Heat Map: Buster Posey vs LHP Antonio Bastardo (NLCS Game 4 - 10/20/2010). Bot 7, 1 out, Bases Empty.

The Pitch Sequence:
Buster Posey doubles (2) on a line drive to right fielder Jayson Werth. Vs LHP Antonio Bastardo (Philadelphia Phillies - Home - 10/20/2010)

Bot 7, 1 out, Bases Empty, 2-2 Fastball, 94 mph

  • 1: 0-0 - Strike Looking on a 93 MPH Fastball - Over the Plate
  • 2: 0-1 - Ball on a 85 MPH Changeup - Inside
  • 3: 1-1 - Ball on a 93 MPH Fastball - Inside
  • 4: 2-1 - Strike Swinging on a 83 MPH Slider - Over the Plate
  • 5: 2-2 - Foul on a 94 MPH Fastball - Over the Plate
  • 6: 2-2 - Double on a 94 MPH Fastball - Outside

Here is video of all Buster's hits in Game 4 of the NLCS.