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Entries in Tampa Bay Rays (46)


The Price is Almost Right

David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays has improved both his walk and strikeout rates in 2011 posting the best K/9 IP and BB/9 IP marks of his career.  The result however, is an ERA one run higher than last season.  While David keeps men off base very well, with men on base, batters hit him better making the most of their limited opportunities.

The spot to hit Price the best is near the catcher's glove hand:

David Price, in play average, 2011.David, however, avoids that area of the plate:

David Price, pitch frequency, 2011.Note that Price works the outside part of the strike zone near the catcher's hand.  He experience great success getting both swinging and called strikes there:

David Price, strike rate, 2011.So working inside to left-handers, outside to right-handers, works well for Price, while putting the ball on the inside part of the plate (from a right-handed batter's perspective) works poorly.  So with no one on:

David Price, pitch frequency, bases empty, 2011.This pattern produces a .213/.249/.368 slash line by his opposing batters.  With men on base, however, Price abandons this winning pattern:

David Price, pitch frequency, runners on, 2011.He often puts the ball right where batter like to hit it against him.  The above pattern results in a .276/.338/.414 slash line.  Those hits come at a bad time, and help drive runners home.

I wonder if this pattern is part of a desire to drive down his walks.  Walks with men on base are frustrating for a pitcher.  By throwing the ball over the plate more with men on base, he avoids the walks, but he's also providing good pitches to hit.  It's not clear the trade-off is working this season.


Zorilla Feasting On High Pitches

Tampa's switch-hitting Swiss Army Knife, Ben Zobrist, could end up on the American League All-Star squad if the fans deem him worthy of Major League Baseball's Final Vote contest. It's hard to argue against Zorilla: His 4.1 Wins Above Replacement this season tie him with Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Dustin Pedroia for tenth among position players.

Zobrist is playing like a darkhorse MVP candidate due to a resurgence at the plate. He batted a mild .238/.346/.353 in 2011, with a .115 Isolated Power. But this year, he's hitting .265/.349/.461 and has a .196 ISO. Zobrist might not be going yard like he did in 2009, when he hit 27 home runs, but his total of 41 extra-base hits ties him with Carlos Quentin for fourth in the AL behind Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson.

Zobrist is splitting the gaps and occasionally clearing the fence by feasting on high pitches. Take a look at his in-play slugging percentage on pitches thrown high in the zone in 2010 and 2011:

 Zobrist's in-play slugging percentage on high pitches, 2010

Zobrist's in-play slugging percentage on high pitches, 2011Zobrist's .358 slugging percentage versus high pitches in 2010 was well below the .382 league average. In 2011, however, Zorilla has crushed high pitches for a .655 slugging percentage (.375 league average). Seven of his nine homers have come on pitches thrown in the upper third of the zone.

A cerebral player who once worked with "Swing Mechanic" Jamie Cevallos to add power to his game, Zobrist has a near-.200 ISO from both sides of the plate. Whether he nabs that final All-Star spot or not, Zobrist's rangy D and rediscovered power stroke make him on of the most valuable players in the game.  


James Shields's 3-D Change Up

James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays pitched a three-hitter Friday night evenly mixing in his fastball, change up and curveball throughout the evening.  The change up proved to be his out pitch.  With two strikes, he went to the change up nineteen times out of 30 pitches thrown.  Astros batters went 0 for 12 when they put a change up in play, and struck out on five more.

Shields throws a change that varies in three dimensions from his fastball.  First, compare the two pitches on speed and spin:

James Shields, fastball and change up, speed and spin, June 24, 2011.The fastball is nearly straight over the top with good back spin, thrown about 91 MPH.  The change introduces that little bit of side spin which moves it toward the catcher's glove hand.  The change averages about 84 MPH.

How do these pitches look crossing the plate?

James Shields, fastball and change up, movement, June 24, 2011.The main movement of the fastball is toward left-handed batters.  The main movement of the change up is down and toward right-handed batters.  With the same motion as his fastball, Shields throws a change up with a different speed, spin and the opposite movement.  That pitch ate up the Astros Friday night.