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Entries in New York Yankees (126)


Hiroki Kuroda: Command King

Hiroki Kuroda brushed aside concerns that his finesse stuff would not translate to the American League last season, establishing new career highs in innings pitched (219.2) and ERA+ (126) for the Yankees. The Bombers would have been a $200 million also-ran without Kuroda, considering that Michael Pineda's season-ending shoulder injury, CC Sabathia's barking elbow, Phil Hughes' and Ivan Nova's homer woes and Freddy Garcia's morphing back into a pumpkin made New York's rotation a middle-of-the-pack unit in 2012.

Kuroda will again don pinstripes in 2013, reportedly turning down more lucrative, multi-year offers to sign a one-year, $15 million deal with the Yankees. The 38-year-old had other teams willing to shell out ace money because he displayed the best command of any starter in the DH league last year.

While Kuroda throws a handful of pitches ranging from the low 90s to the low 70s, they all have one thing in common: They hardly ever catch the middle of the plate. Take a look at Kuroda's pitch location with his sinker, slider, splitter and curveball:

Kuroda's sinker location, 2012

Kuroda threw 21.2% of his sinkers to the horizontal middle of the strike zone, comfortably below the 22.9% average for AL starting pitchers in 2012.

Kuroda's slider location, 2012

Kuroda tossed 16.8% of his sliders over the middle of the plate, compared to the 23.1% average.

Kuroda's splitter location, 2012

With his splitter, Kuroda threw to the middle of the plate 18.6% of the time. That was well below the 21.1% average for AL starters.

Kuroda's curveball location, 2012

Kuroda placed 19% of his curves over the middle, compared to the 25.2% average.  

Pitchers typically get crushed when the leave the ball over the middle of the plate, surrendering a .511 opponent slugging percentage last year. Kuroda was no exception, as opponents slugged .536 when he left the ball over the middle. Happily, Kuroda threw the lowest percentage of pitches over the horizontal middle of the dish of any qualified AL starter in 2012:

Lowest percentage of pitches thrown to the horizontal middle of the zone among AL starters, 2012

PitcherPct. Middle Pitches
Hiroki Kuroda 19.3%
Dan Haren 19.5%
Jon Lester 19.9%
Colby Lewis 20.3%
Doug Fister 21.0%
Clay Buchholz 21.1%
Jered Weaver 21.2%
Gavin Floyd 21.2%
Jason Vargas 21.5%
Kevin Millwood 21.6%
AVG for AL SP 23.6%



Another CC- performance by Sabathia

The Yankees have given CC Sabathia a lead in each of his last five starts including last night's against the Tampa Bay Rays. Sabathia has given that lead back in each of those games including last night's 6-4 loss and the Yankee Universe has to be wondering if their team makes the postseason, how long can they last with an ineffective CC Sabathia?

CC has not been brilliant all season.

In his first 15 starts, the Yankees went 11-4 and Sabathia went 9-3 in spite of his 3.45 ERA. He surrendered 10 homers and struck out 105 in 107 innings. Batters hit .257 and slugged .400 against him.

Sabathia then went on the disabled list and didn't make his first start after the All-Star break until July 17. From that date through last night, a series of 10 starts, the Yanks have gone 4-6 and CC himself is 4-3 and the hefty lefty has a bloated 3.91 ERA. He's given up 11 homers in just 69 innings while striking out 64. But batters have hit only .234 and slugged .407.

One of Sabathia's problems has been the decreasing effectiveness of his fastball since the 2009 season and the numbers and the graphics tell the story.

Sabathia's 2009 fastball:

When you look at these graphics remember you are looking for colors in the orange-red range reflecting high batting success. As you can see here, batters were only hitting Sabathia's fastballs on the fringe of the strike zone. This resulted in a .248 batting average on a pitch that averaged 94.1 mph. He allowed nine homers among the 114 hits off the pitch. He recorded 64 whiffs on fasballs.

Sabathia's 2010 fastball:

We can see the orange/red colors more dramatically here in the strike zone as batters hit .262, a jump of 14 points. He gave up nine homers and 98 hits on the pitch that averaged 93.6 mph. He struck out 60 batters.

Sabathia's 2011 fastball:

Now instead of focussing on the orange/red end of the spectrum, start comparing the dark blue to green colors to prior years which reflect low batting averages and ineffective results. You can really see those colors disappearing as last season batters hit .286 against Sabathia's fastball that averaged 93.9 mph, about the same as 2010. However in 2010, 8% of the flyballs hit against Sabathia went for homers while in 2011 that number was up 10.9% as CC ceded 11 homers among the 91 hits he allowed. Strikeouts on his fastball were down to 52.

Sabathia's 2012 fastball:

Now I'm a tad color blind, but even I can see the scarcity of blue here as red has become the predominant color. You can also see by the location of the red in pitches down the middle, that Sabathia has not been effective in fooling or overwhelming batters in the heart of the strike zone. This season, batters are hitting .301 against the fastball that is now averaging 92.4 MPH. That's a jump of 53 points since the 2009 season on a fastball that is slowing down. He's allowed six gophers among the 74 hits, but he's also allowed 12 doubles as batters are slugging .488. He has 31 strikeouts on his fastball.

Understand that the diminishing speed of the Sabathia fastball also lessens the the impact of his other pitches as batters have a smaller differential and are less frequently fooled or can make adjustments.

One quick example of this is the Sabathia sinker: 

  • In 2009, Sabathia threw a total of 110 sinkers, primarily to righties (88). Overall batters hit .318 with no homers.
  • In 2010, the sinker became a big part of the Sabathia repertoire. He threw a total of 508 (righties: 417). Overall batters hit .326 with six homers.
  • Last season, CC threw 604 sinkers with 108 now to lefties. Overall, batters hit .313 with one homer as this proved to be a very effective pitch for him.
  • This season is another story. Thus far, he has thrown 496 sinkers with 20 per cent of them to lefties.  

You can see from the graphic below what happens when a sinker doesn't sink:

The graphic indicates very little downward movement and that means trouble. Overall, many of his sinkers have been stinkers as batters have hit .344 with seven homers to date on the pitch that averages 91.0 MPH.

The Yankees are getting Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte back, and it's not a moment too soon. They need additional consistent pitchers besides Hiroki Kuroda as CC searches for his mojo and seeks to improve his pitching grade above C-.


Bill Chuck's Nine to Know: Report from Fenway

Photo by Bill Chuck
September 11 at Fenway Park
Photo by Bill Chuck


Last night at Fenway where the Red Sox were hosting the Yankees, after a moving 9/11 ceremony, I expected to see a game between a motivated team against an opponent playing out the season, And that's exactly what I saw. However, I was shocked to find that the inspired team was the near-comatose Red Sox as they faced a Yankee squad that looked sloppy in every aspect of the game won by Jacoby Ellsbury on a 9th inning walkoff single, 4-3.

Here's Nine to Know:

1. Each team had 12 at bats with runners in scoring position - the Sox were 5-12, the Yankees were 1-12.

2. The Yankees blew leads of 1-0 and 3-2, the Red Sox blew a 2-1 lead when Derek Jeter hit a two-run double.

3. Red Sox starter Jon Lester pitched 5.1 innings throwing 102 pitches walking seven and allowing three runs. Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched 6.1 innings throwing 94 pitches and allowing three runs including a Dustin Pedroia homer.

Lester was all over the place last night:

Lester has been hit at a .275 pace this season, .276 against righties and .271 against lefties:

4. Andrew Bailey picked up his first win as a Red Sox, David Robertson took the loss and dropped to 1-7. Robertson continued his not-2011 season as he failed in his attempt to pitch two innings of relief (he went 1.1).

5. For the third time in a week the Yankees fell into a first-place tie with the Orioles who crushed the Rays, 9-2.

6. Lester struck out five giving the lefty 150 for the season and 1044 for his career, the most for any lefty in Red Sox history. Here's your top nine:

1 Jon Lester 1044 2006 2012 85 45 .654 1138.0 3.76
2 Bruce Hurst 1043 1980 1988 88 73 .547 1459.0 4.23
3 Dutch Leonard 771 1913 1918 90 64 .584 1361.1 2.13
4 Lefty Grove 743 1934 1941 105 62 .629 1539.2 3.34
5 Mel Parnell 732 1947 1956 123 75 .621 1752.2 3.50
6 Bill Lee 578 1969 1978 94 68 .580 1503.1 3.64
7 Ray Collins 511 1909 1915 84 62 .575 1336.0 2.51
8 Mickey McDermott 499 1948 1953 48 34 .585 773.2 3.80
9 Babe Ruth 483 1914 1919 89 46 .659 1190.1 2.19
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/12/2012.

7. Jacoby Ellsbury celebrated turning 29 by picking up four hits, just the third time a Red Sox birthday-boy celebrated with this many hits since 1918:

1 Jacoby Ellsbury 2012-09-11 NYY W 4-3 5 4 2
2 Carl Yastrzemski 1976-08-22 OAK L 6-7 5 4 1
3 Carl Yastrzemski 1961-08-22 WSA W 3-2 5 4 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/12/2012.

8. Alex Rodriguez went 0-4 with three strikeouts and was 0-2 with runners in scoring position. This season, A-Rod is hitting .221 with runners in scoring position and RISP/w 2 outs he's hitting .156 with four RBI.

A-Rod's hitting with RISP:

9. Jon Lester started and finished his September 11th start with a record of 9-11.