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Entries in oakland athletics (22)

Wednesday
Jun082011

Don't Lowball Me!

(2011 data through June 7th)

For purposes of this list, we define low ball as any pitch that located below a line 6 inches above the bottom of the PitchFX strike zone, even if it was outside of the actual strike zone (for example, balls in the dirt or pitches way inside are included if they were below the line).

One thing stands out: 9 of the top 25 worst hitters of low pitches this season are catchers.  Is this due to catchers struggling to bend down to hit the low pitch as a result of knee issues?  Hideki Matsui (OAK) also makes the current list and his knee issues are well documented. 

At the end of 2010, only 4 catchers made the list (min. 100 plate appearances decided on a low pitch).  But if we take all data from 2009 to the present with a minimum of 150 plate appearances decided on a low pitch, 10 catchers are in the Top 25.  It's possible that with last season being the "Year of the Pitcher," more non-catchers flooded the top of this list, with offense down across the board.  Or it could simply be that catchers overall tend to be among the weaker hitters in the league.  Or maybe 2010 was just be an outlier.

As much as I'd like to speculate that catchers have trouble hitting low pitches as a result of knee problems, the current 2011 list is most likely a product of a small sample size.  Nonetheless, we'll keep an eye on how the list changes throughout the season.

 

Sunday
Jun052011

Arguing the Strike Zone in the A's-Red Sox game

Last night, both Jason Varitek (BOS) and Jonathan Papelbon (BOS) were ejected in the top of the ninth inning for arguing the strike zone with home plate umpire Tony Randazzo.  Varitek was ejected first after a Cliff Pennington (OAK) double that cut the Red Sox lead over the A's to two runs.

First, let's look at all the called balls Papelbon had from the game:

10 Pitches (Click image to enlarge)

And here's Papelbon's called ball rate heat map from that ninth inning which incorporates all the pitches he threw:

28 pitches (Click image to enlarge)

Other than that one spot middle-down, Randazzo really didn't miss any called strikes.  And as for that missed strike call?  Well, it was the third pitch of Landon Powell's plate appearance.  Papelbon had him 0-2 and that should have ended the atbat.  But it did little to effect the inning because he eventually struck Powell out swinging on the 7th pitch.

Kevin Youkilis also gave Randazzo a hard time after the ump rang the Red Sox third baseman up on a Brad Ziegler (Oak) curveball in the 8th inning.

(Click image to enlarge)

Ziegler started him out with two sinkers, and finished with two curveballs which both caught the outside of the plate, the last well within the pitchFX defined strike zone.

Ironically, one of the biggest missed strikes from last night came while Youkilis batted in the 4th inning.  Oakland starter Trevor Cahill threw him a 3-2 curveball that seemed to land right in the middle of the plate, yet was called ball four.

(Click image to enlarge)

Cahill's sixth, and last pitch of the AB looks to have caught more than enough of the plate, but Randazzo didn't see it that way.  The first pitch, a changeup, was also called a ball by Randazzo, but appears to have caught the corner.  Cahill would get David Ortiz (BOS) to hit into an inning ending double play two pitches after walking Youkilis, however.  So much like the missed called strike to Powell in the ninth, no harm done.

Tuesday
May312011

Bartolo Colon's Doughnut

Bartolo Colon of the Yankees pitched his first shutout since 2006 on Monday against the Athletics.  Colon allowed just four hits and did not walk a batter.  His kept his approach simple, throw his fastball and keep it away from batters.  Eighty six of his 103 pitches came in as fastballs, varying in speed between 89 and 94 miles per hour.  His location really did the trick, however:

Bartolo Colon, fastball pitch frequency, May 30, 2011.Colon did a great job of being around the middle of the plate without being in the middle of the plate.  His pitches form a delicious looking doughnut, the hole being right in the sweet spot for batters.  That hole is actually formed by his ability to keep the fastball away from both right and left handed batters.  Against lefties, he was able to make the fastball fade away:

Bartoto Colon, fastball movement against LHB, May 30, 2011.Against righties, the pitch came in straighter, but with a little movement away:

Bartolo Colon, fastball movement vs. RHB, May 30, 2011.So in fact, Bartolo threw two fastballs, with slightly different velocities and spin:

Bartolo Colon, fastball spin, May 30, 2011.One fastball, represented by the darker orange, is the classic overhand backspin pitch.  The lighter orange pitch looks like it's thrown at a slightly lower angle, and in some ways looks like a very fast change up.  With the mixing of location, speeds and spins, Colon kept the Athletics off balanced and pitched his best game in half a decade.