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Entries in San Francisco Giants (49)


Reverse Cain

Since the start of the 2009 season, Matt Cain of the Giants recorded better results against left-handed batters than right-handed batters despite Matt throwing from the right side.  Left-handers hit .224/.282/.360 against Matt, while righties managed a .231/.295/.380 slash line.  How does Matt manage to keep lefties so off balance?

The first thing to notice is that Cain works lefties away:

Matt Cain, pitch frequency vs. LHB, 2009-2011.Left-handed power hitters like the ball low and inside, so this should be a good strategy.  Cain adds to it, however, with the movement of his pitches.  While he works outside, his four pitches move inside:

Matt Cain, movement across the plate vs. LHB, 2009-2011.His fastball in orange, changeup and slider in green (slider closer to the batter) and curve ball in blue all move toward a left-handed batter most of the time.  So Cain can start these pitches outside the strike zone, and have them break over the plate.  So left-handed batters often see ball, but then end up with the ball over the plate.  His fastball and curve ball result in over one third of the time, while his change and slider get chased out of the zone over 40% of the time.  Lefties get fooled.

Finally, here's what happens when lefties put the ball in play:

Matt Cain, in play batting average vs. LHB, 2009-2011.They hit him well down and in, the main area Cain avoids with his pitches.  He uses movement to fool left-handed batters in and out of the zone, and throws where these batters don't hit well.  The result makes Cain as good if not better when the batter owns the platoon advantage.


Buster Posey vs. Fastballs

A reader requested we take a look at how Buster Posey has fared versus fastballs this season.  Contrary to his concern, Posey has actually done well against the pitch in 2011.  He's hit .316 and slugged .456 compared to .284 and .483 prior to this year. 

One reason his average is up on fastballs is because he's hit 9 line drives off them this season, and all 9 have fallen for hits.  However, none of them have been for extra bases, which could be why his SLG% is down slightly.

(Click to enlarge)

From the above graphic, you can see that his power is a bit more spread out against fastballs this season.  Last year, he hit fastballs up and out over the zone extremely well.  In fact, on fastballs in the upper portion of the pitching zone, Posey slugged .565 last season with three doubles, one triple, and four home runs.

Posey has actually had trouble versus off-speed pitches in 2011.  His average is down from .313 in 2010 to .222 so far this year.  Against changeups in particular, Posey has really struggled; his average is down 177 points. 

It's a little early to get hung up on pitch type results, but as far as fastballs are concerned, Posey has hit about as well as he did in 2010.


More Change Ups for Matt Cain

Matt Cain (SFN) altered his pitch selection significantly so far in 2011.  During the previous three seasons, Matt relied on his fastball, working a change up occasionally.  He used the heater 62.1% of time time, with the change tapped 11.6% of the time. The pitch barely shows up in comparison to the fastball:

Matt Cain, break on fastball and change up, 2008-2010.The change is represent by the small tail down and toward a right-handed batter.  In 2011, Cain throws fewer fastballs and more change ups, the change accounting for nearly a quarter of his pitches.

Matt Cain, break on fastball and change up, 2011.The tail stands out more as fastballs are down to 56.4% and changes are up to 24.2%.  Why the change to the change?  During the three previous seasons, Cain's fastball resulted in a .306 wOBA, while his change brought him a .282 wOBA.  In 2011, those numbers are closer, but the change still wins .287 to .293 for the fastball.

Cain didn't stop with just throwing more change ups, he's throwing them farther down and out than before.  In 2008-2010, he threw the pitch for strikes.

Matt Cain, change up location, 2008-2010.This season it's more likely to be out of the strike zone:

Matt Cain, change up location, 2011.It's not clear that this shift really helped Matt, as he's getting more ball on the ground, but giving up more hits as well.  That said, pitchers run the risk of becoming too predictable.  Altering his pattern puts something new in the mind of his opposing hitters, and that works to the pitcher's advantage.