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Entries in New York Yankees (126)


Andy Pettitte Battling

With the retirement of lefty pitcher Andy Pettitte, the Yankees will be down a solid starter for the 2011 season. Pettitte developed a reputation as a "battler", fighting in and out of jams towards the end of his second stint with the Yankees. It's possible this view is simply a matter of selective memory. However, a quick look at some of his numbers suggests he was a better pitcher when he had his back against the wall.

Andy Pettitte 2008-10
Men On Base10279.0%17.6%78.4%.281.342.426.350
→ w/ No Outs2465.7%16.7%84.3%.284.305.394.329
→ w/ No Outs1094.6%8.3%89.5%.341.330.459.377
→ w/ No Outs60.0%16.7%100.0%.

Pettitte wasn't doing anything special with runners in scoring position. However, with the bases loaded, his K-rate jumped 6% while managing a greater rate of swings and misses. Since 2008, in the 6 plate appearances in which he faced a bases loaded, no outs situation, Pettitte yielded no hits, no walks, and struck out one batter looking (Kendry Morales on September 10, 2008).

When he had his back to the wall, Andy Pettitte was at his best. The Yankees will surely miss that toughness this year.

Joba's Slider

I wanted to take a closer look at Joba’s numbers over the past 3 years to see if anything stood out besides the obvious loss in fastball velocity. Below is some data on Joba’s slider.

Joba’s Slider vs. LHB

Joba’s Slider vs. RHB

Joba’s pitch count obviously received a bump in 2009 because of the 31 starts he made that year. But overall, batters made better contact on the pitch than in 2008. You can also see that his slider lost a good deal of both vertical and horizontal movement in 2009. He lost nearly a foot per second of vertical movement against LHB and 1.2 against RHB, while losing almost equally as much horizontal movement.

In August of 2008, Joba went on the DL with shoulder inflammation, but returned to pitch in September of that year. I looked at the overall data on his slider in that final month and it was right in line with his pre-DL numbers (PVX of 7.8, PVZ of -18.0). So I’m not sure why he lost so much movement on his slider in 2009, but doubt the injury contributed much at all. I guess he could have been pitching through the injury in September ’08 and only felt the full effects the following season. But I doubt the Yankees training staff would have allowed this to happen. At this point, we can only speculate/complain about the extent his shoulder injury affected his performance.

However, Joba’s heat maps show that location may have been part of the problem with his slider.

You can see that his slider was not dropping out of the zone nearly as much in 2009. It’s possible that since he wasn’t getting as much movement on his slider, it hung in the zone more after 2008. Or perhaps he simply had more trouble locating it in addition to a loss in movement. But it’s pretty apparent that his slider lost some bite after his rookie season.

Granted, it’s really tough to gauge a real sense of progression or decline from these numbers since he bounced between starter and reliever each year. I think it’s reasonable to expect his numbers to regress in his second season with the league getting more looks at him, as well as the increase in work load as a full time starter. But there’s no denying that Joba’s slider was among the best in the league in 2008, and he’s yet to duplicate his success with it since.


Derek Jeter 2010: Not a Year of Contact

A few weeks ago, we looked at Jeter’s 2010 and how poorly he hit against RHP. In that post, I noted how Jeter’s power zone (up and away) decreased significantly last season. Jeter tends get his extra base hits on balls up and out over the plate. In 2010, his in play SLG% on pitches to that area of the zone dropped greatly, especially against RHP.

Considering that a decrease in bat speed might be at issue, I decided to look at Jeter’s contact percentage last season to see if anything changed from previous years.
Derek Jeter Contact Rate 2010
So Jeter was swinging and missing at a lot of pitches in an area where he typically generates most of his power. The first thought that comes to mind is a drop in bat speed. I can't attest to whether or not Jeter actually lost anything on his swing in 2010, but he certainly whiffed at a greater rate on pitches up and away. Hard pitches up in the zone are usually tougher to get around on for hitters. If Jeter was experiencing a drop in bat speed, this would be an area we would notice it most, especially against righties with fastballs tailing away.

How do Jeter's contact numbers up in the zone compare to his 2009 numbers?

Derek Jeter Contact Rate 2009 (Selected Zone [518 pitches, 378 swings])
vs. LHP45.907.63089.3%
vs. RHP110.642.43485.3%
vs. FB101.765.52086.8%

Derek Jeter Contact Rate 2010 (Selected Zone [421 pitches, 295 Swings])
vs. LHP60.719.47483.9%
vs. RHP78.293.24779.5%
vs. FB71.441.31378.9%

Across the board, Jeter’s contact rate was down 5% in 2010. Against fastballs in his power zone, it was down nearly 8%. And against right handed fastballs in that zone, his contact rate was down more than 10% from 2009 (79.4% to 68.7%). Again, I don't know if this is due to a drop in bat speed, or if his bat speed saw any decline at all from 2009 to 2010. However, Jeter was swinging and missing at a greater rate in an area where he gets most of his big hits.

Given the drastic drop in power, Jeter’s 2010 was likely not all a result of decline due to age. He could simply have had an off year, with his problems only partly a result of age related factors. He had a terrible season against RHP which contributed greatly to his overall power outage. However, his numbers do look similar in many respects to his 2008 season numbers, with 2009 looking like the outlier.

I’m really not sure what to expect out of Jeter in 2011. He probably won’t be as bad as he was in 2010. But unless he can correct his troubles against RHP, I doubt we’ll see him approach anything close to his 2009 production.