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Entries in New York Yankees (126)

Wednesday
Apr132011

Phil Hughes' Early Season Blues

Yes, Phil Hughes' fastball velocity is down. We get it. Is that his only problem? Probably not, but it sure makes it harder for him to be successful with his other pitches. Let's take a look at how he's locating compared to the last three seasons.

Phil Hughes Pitch Location (All Pitch Types)
(Click to enlarge)

The major difference so far has been Hughes' attempt to come in on lefties. The main reason for this is that he's been relying on his cutter more over his first two starts, while shying away from his velocity-challenged fastball.

Phil Hughes Pitch Selection vs. LHB
FB%CHNG%CURV%SLD%CUT%
2008-1063.5%4.4%20.5%1.3%10.2%
201111.9%6.0%13.4%0.0%68.7%
Phil Hughes Pitch Selection vs. RHB
FB%CHNG%CURV%SLD%CUT%
2008-1061.5%0.1%17.0%3.2%18.1%
201112.9%1.4%20.0%0.0%65.7%

Having to rely more on his cutter has not produced positive results for Hughes. Batters are hitting .412 off it, compared to .290 in his three previous seasons; he's only induced a handful of swings and misses on the pitch as well. In his three previous seasons, Hughes was able to get opposing righties to chase his cutter out of the zone 38.4 percent of the time. So far this season, he's produced just 2 total swings on 21 cutters out of the zone to RHB. This could be a sign that his location is somewhat iffy. But it could also be a side effect of the ineffectiveness of his fastball. With batters seeing the cutter more, it's likely easier for them to lay off the pitch when it's thrown to the outside edge of the plate. And the reduced velocity on his fastball means batters have more time to identify the pitch, differentiating it from the cutter.

Phil Hughes vs. LHB
PPAK%BB%Miss%Strk%Foul%
2008-10280666620.3%11.4%18.2%62.7%46.6%
201167170.0%5.9%3.0%70.1%48.5%
Phil Hughes vs. RHB
PPAK%BB%Miss%Strk%Foul%
2008-10270067622.0%5.5%21.5%67.6%46.2%
201170166.3%18.8%6.7%55.7%53.3%

With only two starts under his belt, you can't really get too bent out of shape about any of these numbers, although they don't inspire much confidence going forward. His swing and miss rate is pretty awful even for the limited sample. Basically, opposing batters are making contact on 95 percent of their swings against Hughes. He's obviously not going to be racking up the Ks at that rate.

Friday
Apr012011

InDepth Recap: CC Sabathia's Opening Day Slider

CC Sabathia's Slider Location
(Click to enlarge)

Sabathia didn't have his best slider in the Yankees' opener yesterday. His location was off as it hung up in the zone quite a bit. Over the last three seasons, batters have made contact on his slider 56.1 percent of the time. On 24 sliders yesterday afternoon, the Tigers made contact 77.8 percent, primarily on pitches in the strike zone. Obviously, it's only one game's worth of data, but it was clear he wasn't able to keep the pitch down like he normally does.

BrkX and BrkZ values provided by PitchFX measure the number of inches the ball moves horizontally and vertically as a result of the spin on the ball read from when it is 40 ft from home plate. Sabathia traditionally gets about 5.1 inches of BrkX (horizontal) movement on his slider. Yesterday it averaged 2.8 inches. From 2008-2010, PitchFX data has Sabathia throwing 2060 sliders in regular and postseason games combined. Only 450 of those sliders have had a BrkX reading less than 3.0.

One game's worth of data is not enough to draw any significant conclusions on one pitch. Besides, it was cold, and CC usually takes a few starts to get going. If he's still hanging his slider up in the zone in a couple weeks, then it might be time to worry.

Tuesday
Mar082011

Curtis Granderson: Before and After Long

In early August of last season, Yankees' center fielder Curtis Granderson went to hitting coach Kevin Long for help with his swing. From that point on, Granderson was performing much better at the plate. It could just be a combination of small sample size and selective endpoints. You can judge for yourself.

2010 Curtis Granderson ISO (click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

I also noticed that Granderson was producing better results on pitches up in the zone. If we isolate pitches thrown to the top 5 inches of the average strike zone and higher, Granderson's slugging percentage went from .403 to .816. His swing rate, as well as miss rate, didn't really change at all. We're only dealing with 365 and 288 pitches in this specific zone over the two time periods respectively, however, so you can't read too much into his results. Although I will say that a change in his expected OBP might indicate a better approach. Before August 10th, Granderson had an exp-OBP of .363 with a 17.2% exp-BB% on pitches up. From the 10th on: .421 exp-OBP, 20.8% exp-BB%.