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Entries in Ryan Vogelsong (4)


Fastball Velocity Dip, Location Concerning for Vogelsong

After declining to exercise Ryan Vogelsong's $6.5 million salary for next season, the San Francisco Giants came to terms with the 36-year-old left-handed starter Friday afternoon on a one-year contract worth $5 million, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Missing a handful of starts in the middle of 2013 with a broken hand, Vogelsong finished with a 5.73 ERA in Bruce Bochy's rotation, each of which were elevated marks compared to his 2011 campaign in which he posted a 2.71 ERA en route to his first All-Star appearance.

What's contributed to this increase in earned runs allowed? For starters, Vogelsong struck out nearly two less batters per nine innings in 2013 (5.8) than he did in 2011 (7.6). He also conceded nearly three more hits per nine last season (10.8) than two years ago (8.1), coupled with the fact that those hits went for extra bases more often in his latest campaign (.477 SLG%) than prior (.361 SLG%). However, it was Vogelsong's decrease in fastball velocity over the past two seasons that most contributed.

  Vel MxVel MnVel League Vel Avg.
2013 89.1 92.5 81.1 91.3
2011 91.4 94.2 87.9 91

Comparing the velocity of Vogelsong's fastball between the two seasons, we see the pitch has regressed. In 2011 -- Vogelsong's best season as a professional (3.2 bWAR) -- the pitch's velocity ranged from 94.2 MPH to 87.9 MPH for an average of 91.4, which was slightly above the 91 MPH league average fastball velocity for starters. That average dipped to 89.1 MPH last season, however, and was more than two miles per hour slower than before while dipping below last season's league average fastball velocity mark of 91.3 MPH. What's important to understand is that this decrease in velocity has hampered Vogelsong's ability to attack right-handed hitters on the inside portion of the plate.

Batting average vs. Vogelsong's inner-half fastball, 2011

Batting average vs. Vogelsong's inner-half fastball, 2013

While Vogelsong's fastball velocity was only slightly above league average in 2011, he challenged right-handed batters with it by throwing it on the inner-half of the plate at a 39.3% clip, which was nearly five points higher than the 34.0% league average for southpaw fastballs against right-handed batters. And to his credit, he found success. Right-handers posted a .219 batting average against the offering in 2011 (excessively low for the .281 league mark) while placing 40.8% of those pitches in play (compared to the 44.1% league average).

As the second image indicates with clarity, opponents improved significantly against Vogelsong's fastball when located on the inner-half of the plate compared to two seasons ago. Challenging right-handers on the inner half at a 41% rate, elevated from 39.3% in 2011, Vogelsong's fastball was chewed up and spit out by right-handers, who garnered a .417 average (juxtaposed to the .276 league average) to go with a 53.7% in-play rate -- nearly 13% higher than in 2011 and well above the 46.7% league average mark.

Considering everything we've just discovered, what we're seeing is that A.) that Vogelsong's average fastball velocity is dwindling, and B.) that he should not longer challenge right-handed batters inside with the offering, due to the fact that opponents are making quality contact against it in that region. Locating it on the outer half of the plate, where he held righties to a .244 average last season, gives him a better chance to live up to his $5 million salary in 2014.


San Fran's Starters Avoid Fat Part of Plate During Shutout Streak

The San Francisco Giants have leaped into first place in the NL West thanks to four straight shutouts, becoming the first club to blank the competition four or more consecutive times since the 1995 Baltimore Orioles. Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum dominated the Dodgers for a series sweep, and Madison Bumgarner was an up-the-middle roller from Ryan Hanigan away from a no-hitter versus the Reds last night.

While Zito, Vogelsong, Lincecum and Bumgarner all put up zeroes, their pitch location during their respective shutouts varied. One thing they all had in common, though, was avoiding the fat part of the plate.

Barry Zito

Zito's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/25/12

Zito stuck to his glove side versus the Dodgers, staying away from lefty batters (nearly 60 percent of his pitches to lefties were thrown outside) and pounding righties inside. Zito threw just five of his 109 pitches to both the horizontal and vertical middle of the plate.

Ryan Vogelsong

Vogelsong's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/26/12

While Zito pitched to his glove side, Vogelsong located to his arm side and induced a bunch of ground balls (15, compared to eight fly balls). Vogelsong also left just five of his 98 pitches over the horizontal and vertical middle of the plate. 

Tim Lincecum

Lincecum's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/27/12

Lincecum turned in arguably his best start of the season by keeping the ball down: 54 percent of his pitches were at hitters' knees, compared to 45 percent overall in 2012. Only nine of Timmy's 115 pitches were left middle-middle.

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner's pitch location vs. Reds on 6/28/12

Good luck finding a pattern in Bumgarner's pitch location. Batters must have felt like they got walloped with a beer-and-shaving-cream pie as the big lefty peppered all four quadrants of the plate. Bumgarner threw a mere four of his 107 pitches to the middle-middle-portion of the plate.

Bad things happen when pitchers leave the ball down the heart of the plate: hitters are slugging a collective .579 on pitches thrown to both the horizontal and vertical middle of the dish this season. Basically, batters turn into this year's version of Robinson Cano when they get a cookie. But Zito, Vogelsong, Lincecum and Bumgarner only threw a combined 5.4 percent of their pitches to the fat part of the plate during the shutout streak. The average for starting pitchers is about 7.5 percent. It pays to be precise.


Ryan Vogelsong's command

Ryan Vogelsong has been a surprisingly effective addition to the San Francisco Giants' starting rotation this season.  His comand is one reason he's been fairly successful since his first start on April 28th.

Ryan Vogelsong - All Pitches
All heat map data from 2011 (Click image to enlarge)

For the most part, Vogelsong keeps the ball away from opposing batters.  As Dave Golebiewski pointed out back in June, Vogelsong will also throw his fastball inside to righties.  But overall, he's successfully managed to keep the ball away from both righties and lefties.  In fact, the 34 year old righty seems to have tightened up his control even more in the last month and a half:

Ryan Vogelsong - All Pitches
(Click image to enlarge)

To both righties and lefties, Vogelsong is nailing the outside black.  Opposing batters are hitting him a bit better in the last month and a half (.329 wOBA compared to .291 on the season), however.  Most of this is coming from lefties who are OPSing 155 points higher against Vogelsong, compared to their season average. 

Since it looks like the Giants and Diamondbacks will be battling it out for the NL West division title over the next month and a half, Vogelsong will probably need to maintain his command in order to help his team come out on top.