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Entries in Texas Rangers (77)

Friday
Oct142011

A Little Bit of Luck

There is always a certain degree of luck involved with balls put in play.  This was perhaps most evident last night when Miguel Cabrera hit a ball off the third base bag in the sixth inning, scoring a run and kicking off a four run inning for the Detroit Tigers.  Had the ball missed the bag, it is likely fielded by Adrian Beltre for at least one out.  Instead, Cabrera's ball, not particularly well-hit, bounced over Beltre and into left field for a double, and the Tigers went on to win Game 5 against the Texas Rangers.

Interestingly enough, Cabrera hit .301 on ground balls this season, which ranks him in the top 15 percent of batters.  Of course, for someone like Cabrera it's tough to say whether this is due to his ability to hit the ball hard or just good fortune.  He's not particularly fast, and speedy players tend to have higher batting averages on ground balls due to their ability to get down the line faster.  However, Cabrera has consistently hit ground balls above the league average line over the past four years.  Between 2008-2010, he hit .283 on ground balls, which was about 40 points above league average.

One last interesting note: Prior to last night's sixth inning, Cabrera had hit nine ground balls this postseason, all outs.  Whether you believe he is particularly skillfull at hitting ground balls for hits or not, it's hard to deny that his 10th ground ball was almost purely a product of luck.  And as a result, the Tigers are still alive.

Friday
Oct142011

Wilson Missing High, Getting Hammered

During the regular season, Texas Rangers starter C.J. Wilson served up just 16 home runs in 223.1 innings pitched. During the playoffs, however, the lefty with the blue glove has been left black and blue by the long ball. Wilson has surrendered six homers in 15.2 innings, including three in last night's 7-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers. While Wilson rarely left the ball up in the zone during the regular season, he's missing high in the playoffs and paying for it.

 Take a look at Wilson's pitch location during the regular season. He mostly threw around hitters' knees:

Wilson's pitch location during the 2011 regular season

Wilson located 45 percent of his pitches down in the zone, and just 23 percent high in the zone. Now, look at his location during the 2011 playoffs:

Wilson's pitch location during the 2011 playoffsWilson has thrown 38 percent of his pitches low in the zone during the postseason, and 29 percent of them high. Those high pitches are the ones that batters have launched into orbit. Check out the pitch location of Wilson's playoff home runs:

Pitch location of Wilson's HRs surrendered in playoffs

Wilson is at his best when he's hammering hitters at the knees. In his two seasons as a starter, Wilson has a .244 slugging percentage on low pitches (far below the .328 league average over that time frame) and a .426 slugging percentage on high pitches (.401 league average). If he gets another start this postseason, he'll need to re-discover the low approach that has made him a top-notch starter and a soon-to-be mega-millionaire.

Tuesday
Oct112011

Cruzin' for a Brusin'

Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers hit two home runs and a double Monday night, tying the game with his first home run and winning it in extra-innings with the first walk-off grand slam in playoff history.*

Cruz's power envelops the top and inside halves of the plate.

 

Nelson Cruz, in play slugging percentage, 2011 regular season.It makes sense then that pitchers try to work him low and away:

Nelson Cruz, pitch frequency, 2011 regular season.The Tigers did not seem to get the memo, as they worked Nelson inside:

Nelson Cruz, pitch frequency, 2011 ALCS game two.Three of those pitches ended up in his wheel house.

Nelson Cruz, in play slugging percentage, 2011 ALCS game two.Note that working him well inside was a good idea, as the only out he recorded was on an inside pitch off the plate.  Whether the pitches he crushed were meant to be more inside or more away, Tigers hurlers missed badly three times, and Nelson made them pay.

 

*Robin Ventura hit a walk-off grand slam in the playoffs, but due to a base running blunder, it only counted as a single.