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Entries in New York Yankees (126)

Friday
Aug262011

A Grand Night in the Bronx

Eat your heart out, Murderers' Row. Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson each hit a grand slam in last night's 22-9 thrashing of the Oakland Athletics, making the Yankees the first team in major league history to hit three grand slams in a game.

Cano ripped a low-and-inside splitter from Rich Harden over the right field fence in the fifth inning:

  

That's a bad location for Harden, considering that Cano typically crushes pitches low and at the knees:

Cano's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, 2011

The Yankees second baseman is slugging .778 on pitches thrown down and in, which ranks in the top 10 among MLB hitters.

One inning later, Martin hit an opposite-field shot on a high 96 MPH fastball thrown by Fautino De Los Santos:

  

As was the case with Cano, Martin's blast came on a pitch thrown to one of his hot spots in the zone:

Martin's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, 2011

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Martin's granny is that he went the opposite way. Just four of the righty batter's 69 career home runs had been hit to the opposite field prior to last night, yet his grand slam was his second opposite-field homer of the night (he also took Harden deep in the fourth frame).

Granderson made history in the eighth, golfing a low 94 MPH Bruce Billings fastball to right-center field:

 

Ranking second in the majors in home runs and slugging percentage, Granderson is scorching pitches thrown just about anywhere in 2011...

Granderson's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, 2011

...but he's killing fastballs like no one else. Granderson has a major league-best .771 slugging percentage and 24 homers against heaters. Mark Teixeira ranks a distant second in homers vs. fastballs, with 19.

Tuesday
Aug232011

Breaking Down A.J. Burnett's Zones

So now A.J. Burnett may really lose his spot in the Yankees rotation. I wanted to see if there was anything he's done this season that may provide hope that he could bounce back. When I broke down the zone location to up, middle and down, I found something pretty interesting.

First, the bad:

2011 A.J. Burnett - Up in the Zone

Basically the middle of the strike zone includes any pitch that hits the middle seven inches of the zone (which is normalized depending on the height of the batter). So anything above the top of that seven inch mark (whether inside or outside the actual strike zone) is designated as 'up'. The same applies for pitches down in the zone which you will see further down in the post.

This season, A.J. ranks in the bottom 21% of the league in opposing batting average (.271) on pitches up (min. 500 pitches thrown in that zone). The league average is .240. His opponent slugging percentage of .474 ranks in the bottom 11% of the league and is nearly 100 points worse than the league average. Sadly, this is actually an improvement over last season when he ranked in the bottom 5 and 3 percent of the league in opponent average (.318) and slugging (.588) respectively.

2011 A.J. Burnett - Middle of the Zone

When throwing over the middle of the zone, Burnett has not only been flat out terrible, he's basically been the worst pitcher in the league. He ranks second to last in opponent batting average (.379), and dead last in opponent slugging percentage (.707), opponent wOBA (.452), and HR/FB (23.3%).


Yet, here's how he's done on pitches down in the zone:

2011 A.J. Burnett - Down in the Zone

As bad as A.J. Burnett has been throwing middle and up, he's been that awesome on pitches down. Batters are hitting just .117 against him in 259 plate appearances decided on a low pitch (1162 total pitches), which is the best in baseball this season. Opponents are also slugging just .157 on low pitches, which also leads the league.

Most of this success on low pitches is probably due to his knuckle curve, which has been by far his best pitch this season (and has accounted for 50.9% of his low pitches). Opponents have a .188 wOBA versus his curve this season compared to a .407 wOBA against all of his other pitches. Burnett obviously can't rely on just one pitch, and we're seeing that quite clearly this season. The decline of his fastball is probably the biggest culprit here, as hitters are putting up a .439 wOBA against it, ranking him in the bottom 1% of the league (Only Edinson Volquez and Kyle Davies have been worse with their fastballs). That number has been increasing every year since PitchFX data began keeping track (2008: .364, 2009: .385, 2010: .403).

His stuff is simply getting worse. Maybe moving him to the bullpen will help him regain something, but is it best for a Yankees pen that has been exceptionally good this year?

Monday
Aug222011

Curtis Granderson, the right man against lefties

December 9, 2009 was a date that has had a profound affect on three teams that are in first place today. On that date, the Detroit Tigers sent Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees. The Yankees sent Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers. The New York Yankees sent Ian Kennedy to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Arizona Diamondbacks sent Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to the Detroit Tigers. Talk about deals that deserve the Charlie Sheen Award for WIN-WIN-WIN!

Austin Jackson finished second in the AL last season in the Rookie of the Year voting. Ian Kennedy at 15-4 is getting some Cy Young Award talk this season and now, Curtis Granderson is in the mix for the AL MVP award this season. The Grandy Man leads the league in runs with 114, in triples with 10, in RBI with 98 and has 35 homers and a .965 OPS.

Watching Granderson's improvement has been dramatic. Let me remind you that on July 7 of last season he was hitting .225 and hitting seventh in the Yankee lineup. 

Here's what Granderson looked like up to July 7 last season:

Granderson was hitting a weak .225Granderson only had 8 doubles, 4 triples, and 7 homers.

But it was his inability to hit lefties that was killing him:

Granderson was .198 against leftiesHe had 2 doubles, 1 triple, and 1 homer.

Then along came Kevin Long:

Granderson hit .257 from July 9 onGranderson worked hard with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long and it produced results. He had 9 doubles, 3 triples, and 17 homers to end 2010 strongly.

Here's how he did against lefties from July 9 on:

Grandy hit .257 against lefties and .257 against rightiesAgainst lefties he had 3 doubles and 3 homers, but more importantly he had started getting better plate coverage.

Up to July 7, from the inside to the middle of the plate against lefties, Granderson was getting killed hitting .156. From the middle to the outside of the plate against lefties, Granderson hit .203. From July 9 on from the inside to the middle of the plate against lefties Granderson hit .429. From the middle to the outside of the plate against lefties, Granderson hit .257. 

Jump to 2011:

Grandy is hitting .281 overall this season.

Grandy this season against lefties:

Now Granderson is hitting .281 against lefties and .281 against rightiesOf his 35 homers this season, 13 are against lefties.

Granderson's quick bat against lefties, Inside to the Middle of the plate:

Grandy is hitting .270

Granderson's quick bat against lefties, Middle to the Outside of the plate:

Grandy is hitting .278 with 12 homersLooking at these heat maps you can see the incredible difference in Granderson. Since last July 7, Granderson is hitting .276 with 31 doubles, 14 triples, and 53 homers.

Granderson has clearly been the right man against lefties this season, which means if we are looking at the postseason, the Texas Rangers with their three lefty starters have to prefer to face the Boston Red Sox.