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Entries in New York Yankees (126)


The dulling of Mariano's cutter

It is becoming increasingly apparent that we are finally seeing the aging of Mariano Rivera. The great Yankee closer earned his 23rd save on Saturday, but it took a lot of work. While he struck out two, he brought the tying run to the plate (twice) by giving up two hits. Most significantly, he threw 28 pitches. This is the seventh time in 37 (18.9%) appearances he's thrown 20+ pitches in part, because batters are now able to work Mariano more effectively.

2009 Mariano vs. 2011 Mariano

As broadcasters repeat ad nauseum, Rivera is (primarily) a one pitch pitcher; he throws the cutter.

Here is the Mariano cutter in the first-half of 2009

Look at the consistent placement of Mo's 483 cuttersThrough July 14 of 2009, Mariano faced 119 batters, walked one and struck out 38. Batters hit .178, slugged .280, and had a .465 OPS. He had a 31.9% strikeout rate.

Here is the Mariano cutter in the first-half of 2011

This season, his 406 cutters are drifting more toward the center of the plate and upward, two dangerous places

In the first half of 2011, Mariano faced 106 batters, walked three and struck out 25. Batters hit .214, slugged .252, and had a .488 OPS. He had a 23.6% strikeout rate.

Beyond the slight drift upward of the pitch and the slight drift upward of the stats, there is a slight drift upward in the swing rate (49.5% to 53%), and a slight decrease in the miss rate (17.2% to 15.3%). Beyond that, there is an increase in the play rate 33.5% to 36.3%

2009 Mariano vs. 2011 Mariano against lefties

The difference is even greater versus lefties, take a look.

Here is the Mariano cutter in the first-half of 2009 against lefties

In 2009, lefties hit .167You can see that Mariano primarily worked inside, but he still worked enough on the outside to throw batters off.

Here is the Mariano cutter in the first-half of 2011 against lefties

In 2011, lefties are hitting.224The difference isn't vastly significant, but enough so that you can see why lefties are having more success this season. The pitches that Mariano used to throw on the outside are now being thrown more frequently inside and high.

Mariano will undoubtedly get the 20 saves he now needs to be the all-time saves leader, but he is going to have to work harder and his decreasing save percentage rate (98%, 96%, 87% to 85% this season), will most likely continue.


Cano Versus Halladay

One potential match-up to watch this evening pits Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees versus Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the PITCHf/x era, 2008-2011, Cano posted a slash line of .303/.346/.494, good for a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .361.  Cano collects hits through a wide swath of the strike zone.

Robinson Cano, hits, 2008-2011.Cano doesn't hit location as much as he hits movement, or lack thereof:

Robinson Cano, movement on hits, 2008-2011.Balls that pass near the intersection of the major axes indicate that the ball traveled as expected; there was no extra spin to deflect the ball left, right, up or down.

Halladay held Robinson to a .158/.179/.184 slash line and a .166 wOBA in 39 PA during this period.  Roy tends to work him inside:

Robinson Cano vs. Roy Halladay, pitch frequency, 2008-2011.Roy does a decent job of avoiding the middle of the plate.  Most of his pitches are inside or outside, and as we see from above, Cano does not get hits on inside pitches.  Where Halladay really beats, however, is on movement.

Robinson Cano vs. Roy Halladay, pitch movement, 2008-2011.Very few of Roy's pitches come in straight. Almost all of them dip, move in on Cano, or both.  Halladay's mastery of movement and location make Cano and easy target for outs.


Breaking Down Team Ortiz's Dingers

Tonight at 8 p.m. E.T., eight of the game's most prolific sluggers will take their cuts in the 2011 Home Run Derby at Chase Field. For the first time, each league has a captain who handpicked three other teammates for the contest. National League captain and 2009 Derby champ Prince Fielder selected Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp and Rickie Weeks. American League honcho David Ortiz, who won last year's derby, called on Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez.

Here's a quick breakdown of Team Ortiz, which offers a mix of pull power and all-fields thump.

Jose Bautista

Where he hits 'em: The leader in the home run clubhouse at the break with 31, Bautista is all about the pull power. Twenty-four of his shots have been ripped into the left field stands this season, with four clearing the center field fence and three going the other way. Believe it or not, that's actually a more even dinger distribution than in 2010, when Bautista pulled 47 of his 54 homers.

HR pitch location: As noted last week, opponents are trying to keep the ball away from Bautista, with little success. Take a look at the pitch location of Bautista's shots this season:

Bautista has hit 12 homers apiece on pitches located down the middle and on the outside corner of the zone. Inside, middle, outside...if Bautista has a weakness, pitchers haven't found it yet.

Pitch type breakdown: Sixteen of Bautista's home runs have come on fastballs/sinkers. He has gone deep six times on sliders, while also hitting three changeups, curveballs and cutters apiece.

Robinson Cano

Where he hits 'em: Playing his home games in Yankee Stadium, a venue that smiles upon left-handed hitters, Cano has pulled all 15 of his home runs this season. That pull-happy tendency might serve the second baseman well on Monday night: Chase Field gives lefty power hitters a 14 percent boost compared to a neutral park, according to StatCorner.

HR pitch location: Cano likes the ball on the inside third of the plate, particularly low-and-inside pitches that he can golf into the cheap seats:

Eight of Cano's homers have come on pitches thrown inside.

Pitch type breakdown: Six of Cano's round-trippers have come on sliders, four on fastballs/sinkers, two apiece on changeups and sinkers and one on a curveball.

Adrian Gonzalez

Where he hits 'em: In contrast to Bautista and Cano, Gonzalez is an all-fields slugger. Seven of his home runs have gone to the pull side, with two going to center field and eight the opposite way.

HR pitch location: As you might expect given his opposite-field slugging, Gonzalez does most of his damage on pitches on the outside corner:

Nine of Gonzalez's home runs have come on pitches located on the outside third.

Pitch type breakdown: Eleven of his homers have come on fastballs/sinkers, with four coming on changeups and one apiece on a slider and a cutter.

David Ortiz

Where he hits 'em: Papi has pulled 12 of his home runs in 2011. He has three blasts to center, and four to the opposite field.

HR pitch location: Ortiz has taken advantage of pitchers who have left the ball over the fat part of the plate:

Ten of his home runs have been on pitches thrown over the middle of the plate.

Pitch type breakdown: Ortiz is making much more contact on fastballs this season, and it's loud contact, too. Fifteen of Ortiz's homers have come on fastballs/sinkers, two on changeups and one apiece on a slider and a cutter.