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Entries in New York Yankees (126)

Friday
Jul082011

Home Run Slump: Is It A-Rod or the Pitchers?

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is mired in a home run slump.  He last homered on June 11 and in the last 22 games he hit well, but just did not deliver a long ball.  Given that he's collecting a good number of base hits, it doesn't seem like there is anything wrong with his swing.

As a prolific home run hitter, PITCHf/x provides a nice sample of where A-Rod likes the ball in the the strike zone in order to take it deep:

Alex Rodriguez, pitch frequency, home runs, 2008-2011.The black box gives you an idea of where he likes pitches, down in the strike zone so he can get a solid upper cut swing at the pitch.  Lately, pitchers avoided that area of the zone:

Alex Rodriguez, pitch frequence June 12, 2011 through July 7, 2011.Rodriguez had a few pitches he might have hit out, but in general the approach against him was very good.  Notice this is what I call a septum heat map, where there is a nice separation between inside and outside pitches.  If I saw this for a single pitcher, my guess would be that he had a successful streak. In that light, Alex's hitting might be considered impressive.  He's taken what pitchers have given him and produced a high BA and high OBP.  If pitches start making mistakes against Alex, we should see him driving the ball again.

Thursday
Jul072011

Phil Hughes Returns, Sort Of

Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes made his first major league start in nearly three months last night at Progressive Field, taking a loss against the Indians while allowing two runs in five innings pitched. Hughes, on the DL since mid-April with right shoulder inflammation, walked and whiffed two Indians apiece while also beaning two batters and tossing a wild pitch.

The Bombers' would-be number two starter behind CC Sabathia regained some, but not all, of the zip that was conspicuously absent on his fastball in April. Hughes averaged 91.5 MPH with his heater against Cleveland, topping out at 92.9 MPH.

That's certainly better than his 89.3 MPH showing in the season's opening month. Still, he didn't look like the same pitcher who sat at 92.5 MPH and maxed out at 96 in 2010. Hughes didn't get a swing and miss on any of the 40 fastballs that he threw. By contrast, Hughes' near-20 percent fastball miss rate last year ranked just outside the top 10 among starting pitchers.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi ascribes the lack of whiffs to Hughes elevating his fastball too much:

I think that's because he was up a lot. When it's up, it's flat; when it's flat, it's easy to keep your bat on the same plane. He's got to get a better downhill plane the next time he goes out.

 Here's the frequency of Hughes' fastball location from last night's start:

Girardi was right. It seems like Hughes is trying to use the same pitching approach as last year, but without the same quality of stuff.

Hughes elevated his fastball a lot last season, and to great effect. Forty-four percent of his fastballs were thrown up in the zone, and hitters managed just a .241 Weighted On-Base Average against the high heat (.328 league average). Forty-nine percent of his fastballs have been in the upper third of the zone this season. In a small sample, hitters have a .418 wOBA against Hughes' elevated fastballs in 2011.

Climbing the ladder with a fastball that can hit 96 on the gun is a different story than trying to do the same with an offering that doesn't break 92. Hughes' high heat could be a problem if he can't rediscover that extra gear on his fastball.

Wednesday
Jul062011

Baseball-All-Starlytics: Curtis Granderson: What a difference a year makes

"The Grandy Man can."

Yes, we're all sick of hearing that during Yankee radio casts but the truth is, Curtis Granderson can rake.

Were it not for the beast numbers of Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista, not to mention Asdrubal Cabrera's season, we would be hearing chants of "MVP!, MVP!" at the Stadium

We have written in these pages in praise of Yankee batting coach Kevin Long whose work with Granderson has produced remarkable results. But you really need to see the numbers to appreciate the contrast.

What a difference a year makes

Let's compare Curtis Granderson's 2010 through July 5 to Grandy's 2011 season through July 5.

Granderson to July 5, 2010

Granderson's hot spots look like Caribbean islandsOn the morning of July 6, 2010, Curtis Granderson was hitting .228 with seven homers and 23 RBI. He was slugging .411. He was hitting .192 against lefties with one homer and 22 total bases and 23 strikeouts (more strikeouts than total bases can't be good).

Granderson to July 5, 2011

His Heat Map looks like a view of New England

First look at the difference in the map. He was getting destroyed at this point last year on the outer portion of the plate. High and away (in the strike zone) and low and away were ways of getting him out. That's no longer the case.

Now, look at the difference in his numbers: On the morning of July 6, 2011, Curtis Granderson is hitting .278 (I'm no math genius but I think that's 50 points higher) with 25 homers and 62 RBI. He is slugging .597. He is hitting .260 against lefties with nine homers and 63 total bases and 31 strikeouts (over twice as many total bases as whiffs is very good).

A history making season in the making?

The last Yankee outfielder to hit over 40 homers was Reggie Jackson in 1980 when he hit 41. In fact, and I found this surprising, there really have been relatively few Yankee outfielders with over 40 homers in a season. Babe Ruth did it 10 times, Mickey Mantle four times, Reggie, Roger Maris and Joe DiMaggio did it once each.There have been 26 Yankees, who've played at any position, who have hit over 40 homers and driven in 100+ runs.

Right now, Granderson is en route to being the next, he could be number 27 on this list exhibiting the power of the '27 Yankees.