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Entries in Seattle Mariners (36)

Thursday
Jun162011

Peguero Hitting Backwards

Carlos Peguero of the Seattle Mariners isn't hitting for a high average or getting on base much, but he is smacking the ball.  He slugs .457 with a .223 batting average, indicating that his average hit is better than a double.

Rookie batters are known for their ability to hit the fastball, but they need to learn to hit major league breaking pitches.  Minor league pitchers can throw hard, but what often keeps them in the minors is their inability to fool batters with off-speed pitches.  When young hitters reach the majors, they have not see very many good breaking balls and change ups. 

Peguero exhibits the exact opposite tendency.

Carlos Peguero, in play slugging percentage on fastballs, 2011.That's about as cold a strike zone as you'll see.  In 38 plate appearances ending in a fastball, Peguero owns a .176/.263/.176 slash line, good for a .219 wOBA. Lower the speed, however, and the zone lights up:

Carlos Peguero, in play slugging on change ups, curve balls and sliders, 2011.In 39 PA against these pitches, Carlos posts a .324/.359/.811 slash line with eight of his 12 hits going for extra bases and a .474 wOBA.  Until Carlos catches up to the fastball, there's no reason not to challenge him.

Saturday
Jun042011

Vargas Adds a Pitch

Jason Vargas of the Seattle Mariners pitched the first shutout of this career Friday night.*  His two prior outings, however were less than successful as he allowed eleven runs in 7 2/3 innings.

*Vargas pitched nine shutout innings on May 12th of this year, but the game went into extra innings and he was not credited with a shutout.

In his starts of May 23-29, Vargas failed to spin his cutter very differently than his four-seam fastball:

Jason Vargas, spin on fast pitches, May 23 & 29 2001.The fastball is in green and the cutter in yellow.  The spin is so close, some of the cutters were classified as fastballs by the PITCHf/x algorithm.  With little difference in movement and less velocity, batters went 3 for 7 against the cutter and 12 for 35 against the fastball.

Looking at the same spin chart from June 3rd, Vargas made two changes:

Jason Vargas, spin on fast pitches, June 3, 2011.First, notice that the cutter shows complete separation from the fastball.  The spin between the two pitches is very different.  Batters went 0 for 2 on the cutter.  More importantly, notice the fastball now exhibits two centers of mass, lighter, faster pitch with more vertical break and a darker, slower pitch with more horizontal break.  That latter pitch is a two-seam fastball, something he didn't throw in his two previous starts.  Batters went two for 17 against those two fastballs.  So Vargas added a pitch and improved the spin on his cutter.  He went from two fastballs that were tough to distinguish to three fastball that moved very differently, and found great success.

Friday
May272011

Pineda's Perfect Pitch

Michael Pineda (SEA) is a leading rookie of the year candidate as he owns a 6-2 record and 2.16 ERA after nine starts.  He excels at all aspects of the game as a pitcher, striking out a high number of batters while allowing few walks and home runs.  So far, he's accomplished this with two pitches, a fastball and a slider.

The spin view from the PITCHf/x data allows easy identification of the two pitches:

Michael Pineda, pitch spin by velocity, 2011.The red blob represents Pineda's fastball, while the green area indicates the slider.  The location of the fastball indicates that Michael is not perfectly over the top, but his arm slot is a bit right of center which gives his fast ball a little lateral movement, but also keeps it from dropping too much.  As we've seen with Matt Cain, the high fastball is tough to hit for a home run.

The slider, on the other hand, is almost perfectly straight.  A proper slider is thrown with the spin perpendicular to the flight of the ball, so there is no Magnus force.*  Michael gets very close to the ideal with his slider.

*Update: I want to clarify this statement.  The spin of a slider is perpendicular to the spin of a fastball.  The axis of spin of the slider is parallel to the flight of the ball, which is why batters see a dot as the pitch approaches.

The most impressive aspect of his slider, however, is his ability to repeat that spin:

Michael Pineda, pitch spin by frequency, 2011.The bullseye of the slider is quite concentrated compared to the fastball.  That indicates Michael can repeat the pitch consistently, which makes it much easier for him to spot the ball where he likes.  He hits the strike zone 55.8% of the time with the pitch, which is tied for the best in the league.  He doesn't hang the pitch either, as batter have yet to hit a home run off it, and slug just .211 against it.  For him, the slider is the perfect pitch.