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Entries in NLCS (11)

Friday
Oct222010

No Easy Answer to Jayson Werth

Soon-to-be free agent Jayson Werth continued to pad his resume with the all-important insurance run last night in Game Five of the NLCS with a solo home run in the ninth inning off of Giants right-handed reliever Ramon Ramirez. The right-handed Werth took Ramirez to the opposite field, clearing the 24-foot high wall at AT&T Park, putting his team ahead 4-2. Werth had already made noise earlier in the game with one of the best outfield assists of the 2010 season, and had been one of the only Phillies doing anything offensively in the playoffs to that point.

Represented by Scott Boras, it seems a foregone conclusion that Werth is playing his final games as a Philadelphia Phillie -- and for good reason: hitters of Werth's caliber are very rare.

Over the past three calendar years, Werth has the fifth-highest wOBA among all Major League outfielders. At a ridiculous .389, Werth trails only Matt Holliday, Josh Hamilton, Shin-Soo Choo, and Ryan Braun. In 2009, Werth led all Major Leaguers in average pitches seen per plate appearance (4.5) and finished third this year (4.37).

With a hitter so patient and yet so potent, how do you pitch to him? It's a good question, one that opposing pitchers have yet to answer. As the following charts show, Werth has tremendous plate coverage and great power to all fields against both left- and right-handed pitchers.

Jayson Werth's in play ISO vs. RHP

Jayson Werth's in play ISO vs. LHP

He hits hard stuff (93rd percentile in wOBA, 2010) and soft stuff (95th percentile) alike. He even hits well with two strikes (97th). If there is an easy way to handle Jayson Werth, it's not obvious. Among the 14 pitchers he has faced 20 or more times, only Tim Redding, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez, and Chris Volstad have had impressive results. Aside from mediocrity, there is nothing the four pitchers have in common.

When Werth hits free agency after the post-season, teams will be bidding for the services of what appears to be an as-yet unsolved riddle -- a very productive, multi-talented unsolved riddle.

Thursday
Oct212010

NL Changeup Rankings

2010 NL Changeup Rankings by wOBAThe above table lists the top changeup pitchers in the NL ranked by wOBA with a minimum 100 plate appearances decided by the pitch.  Tonight's starters in game 5 of the NLCS both make the cut.

2010 NL Changeup Rankings by OBPNote: Tim Lincecum is ranked 16th in changeup OBP.  He missed out on the above list by about ten-thousandth of a point.  However, he does have the third best strikeout rate on changeups among NL starters, behind only Manny Parra and Stephen Strasburg.

2010 NL Changeup Rankings by Strikeout Rate

Thursday
Oct212010

Ryan Madson's Dominance

On the FOX broadcast of the NLCS last night, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver went over Ryan Madson's statistics when he was brought into the game, concluding that he was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. It's true, and it's a drum I've been banging for a while -- even calling for his promotion to closer, usurping the role of Brad Lidge.

As the following chart illustrates, Madson found quite a bit of velocity some time in early August of 2008.

His strikeouts-per-nine innings rate went from 7.3 in April through July to 8.3 in August and September in 2008. In 2009 and '10, his K/9 rates were 9.1 and 10.9 respectively.

He pairs his ability to miss bats with elite control. Since '08, his walk rate never exceeded 2.6 per nine innings.

How is he so good? His mid-90's fastball is perfectly complemented by a deceptive change-up that averages 83 MPH. With as much as a 15 MPH differential, Madson's pitches become extremely hard to square up for opposing hitters.

Among pitchers who have faced at least 200 batters, Madson falls into the 97th percentile in wOBA allowed, at .168. His strikeout rate is in the 99th percentile, incredibly.

Madson becomes even more amazing when you look at his platoon splits. Although he deals with right-handed hitters better, as expected, lefties still have a very hard time hitting him. This is due to Madson peppering the outside corner with change-ups, rarely coming inside.

Against lefties, Madson's wOBA allowed and strikeout rate still fall in the 92nd and 96th percentiles, respectively. Against right-handed hitters, those two stats are both in the 98th percentiles.

Madson will enter the final year of a three-year contract in 2011. Although the Phillies have a lot of money coming off of the books, including Brad Lidge potentially, Madson -- represented by super-agent Scott Boras -- should garner a lot of attention from the other 29 teams in the Majors. He is a guy with dominant stuff that can close on just about any team.