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Entries in Nick Swisher (7)

Monday
Sep262011

Curveball Key for Shields vs. Yankees

James Shields needs to live up to his "Big Game" billing tonight, as the Rays (one game behind Boston in the Wild Card standings) open a three-game set with the Yankees. Shields has shut down New York this year, posting a 27/7 K/BB ratio in 30 innings pitched while holding Bombers batters to a collective .222/.270/.343 line. A big reason for Shields' success against the majors' second-most potent offense is that he's using his curveball, a pitch that makes some Yankees look Cerrano-like, more often.

Shields has increased his curveball usage from 13 percent in 2010 to 21 percent this year. The bender,  dropping a couple more inches compared to last season, is holding hitters to a .199 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), well below the .253 league average. The Yankees, meanwhile, haven't hit curveballs well this season. It's the only pitch against which the club has a below-average team wOBA:

2011 Yankees Team wOBA by Pitch Type (league average in parentheses)

Fastball: .382 (.340)

Sinker: .345 (.343)

Cutter: .323 (.311)

Slider: .302 (.263)

Changeup: .299 (.290)

Splitter: .289 (.279)

Curveball: .248 (.253)

Here are the Yankee hitters who are scuffling against curveballs in 2011:

Brett Gardner, .117

Mark Teixeira, .190

Nick Swisher, .239

Curtis Granderson, .251

Alex Rodriguez, .256

Rodriguez (.344 wOBA vs. curves from 2008-2011) typically crushes curveballs, but that hasn't been the case this season. Gardner (.216), Teixeira (.263), Swisher (.226) and Granderson (.241) have long been jelly-legged against curves.  

Shields has tossed his curveball for a strike nearly 70 percent of the time against the Yankees, giving up just one extra-base hit in the process. Look for the pitch to play a prominent role tonight as Tampa continues its late-season playoff pursuit.

Friday
Sep022011

Jon Lester's 43 Pitch First Inning vs. The Yankees

After last night's game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, NESN broadcasters Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo discussed Jon Lester's 43 pitch first inning.  Remy said that it looked like Lester wasn't getting some calls from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez that looked to be strikes.

Here's Lester's heat map from that first inning:

Jon Lester's First Inning vs. The Yankees (9/1/11)
43 Pitches, 26 strikes

Of all the pitches he threw in that first inning, there was only one that was called a ball yet was located inside the strike zone - a 0-0 pitch to Nick Swisher, who eventually struck out swinging.

Jon Lester - Called Balls within the Strike Zone (1st inning)

The only other pitch Marquez called incorrectly was a 2-1 strike to Mark Teixeira that was located off the outside edge of the zone.

Jon Lester - Called Strikes Outside the Strike Zone (1st inning)

There was a lot of talk about the strike zone throughout the game, but overall Marquez was fairly consistent.  And Lester's long first inning was likely not the result of any squeezing on Marquez's part.

Thursday
Jul212011

Nick Swisher's Contact Rates

As noted earlier in the season, Nick Swisher (NYY) was struggling from the left side of the plate before going on a small run.  He currently holds a .414 wOBA from the right side compared to .320 from the left, but his HR rate is nearly identical at this point in the season.

One of the big disparities for Swisher is his contact rate.  Since 2010, Swisher has had a tougher time making contact against right-handed pitching.

(Click image to enlarge)

This season, Swisher is making contact on 87.0% of his swings versus righties, compared to just 75.8% versus lefties.  This isn't a change from his rates in the two previous seasons (84.0%/74.8%).  However, his power from the left side has dropped.  He's slugging just .370 from the left side this season, compared to .453 between 2009 and 2010.

In the last month, Swisher has been doing much better from the left side, slugging .525 with 3 HR.  So perhaps the first few months of the season were just a blip, rather than a sign of decline.