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Entries in Texas Rangers (77)

Sunday
Aug282011

Lewis's Home Field Disadvantage

Colby Lewis of the Texas Rangers allowed twice as many home runs at home than on the road so far in 2011.  Is the park really that much of a disadvantage to Lewis, or does his pitching approach hurt him there.

What's clear is that balls travel farther in Texas.  The following graph shows his distribution of fly balls by distance on the road:

Colby Lewis, fly ball distance and slugging percentage, away games, 2011.

Note that his fly ball distance peaks at around 260 feet and falls off from there.  Note, also, that on the road even his deep fly balls don't always produce that much power.

At home, things look a little different.

Colby Lewis, fly ball distance and slugging percentage, home games, 2011.There's a huge peak at 330 feet, and the number of fly balls from 360 to 400 feet is much higher than on the road.  In addition, those long flies in Arlington produce a ton of power.  Not many of those get caught.

The park effect also shows up in where batters connect for home runs in the strike zone.  In away games, they tend to take pitches down out of the park:

Cobly Lewis, pitch frequency on HR, away games, 2011.At home, homers come on higher pitches:

Cobly Lewis, pitch frequency on HR, home games, 2011.At home, 14 of his 20 home runs allowed came on various fastballs.  On the road, five of his ten home runs came on off-speed pitches.  He allowed three home runs on change ups on the road, none at home.  It seems that at home, the high fastballs carry better than on the road.  His hard pitches, which produce a .201/.259/.341 slash line away land him a .264/.331/.608 line at home.  It's the stadium, not the pitcher.

Friday
Aug262011

Throwing the Ball By Hamilton

Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers suffered an offensive downturn in 2011 compared to 2010.  His .359/.411/.633 slash line from 2010 dropped to .298/.345/.520 in 2011.  The change in the way pitchers approach him offers an idea of why.  The average pitch Josh saw in 2010 wasn't very fast:

Josh Hamilton, pitch velocity, 2010.The pitches above averaged 85.6 MPH.  In 2011, Josh sees a lot more yellow:

Josh Hamilton, pitch velocity, 2011.The average velocity isn't that much greater, 86.6 MPH.  Pitchers aren't afraid to throw the high fastball to Josh, and they are getting him to chase those.  In 2010, he did go out of the strike zone up a bit:

Josh Hamilton, swing rate, 2010.In 2011, he can't lay off the high pitch:

Josh Hamilton, swing rate, 2011.In 2010, Josh hit .338/.455/.688 on high pitches, but he was disciplined high.  In 2011, with the selectivity gone, he's at .253/.387/.480. 

It strikes me that Josh lost a little bat speed.  That allows pitchers to throw him high fastballs, which give him even less time to swing.  This may not be a slump, but opponents exploiting a new weakness.

Thursday
Aug182011

Napoli's Two-Strike Contact

Mike Napoli is thriving in his first season in Texas. The 29-year-old masher, never fully embraced by Mike Scioscia in L.A., was traded to Toronto in the logic-defying Vernon Wells deal last off-season and then sent to the Rangers in exchange for reliever Frank Francisco. The part-time catcher is raking to the tune of a .294 average, a .386 on-base percentage and a .592 slugging percentage with Texas, racking up a career-best 3.3 Wins Above Replacement so far.

Napoli's having his best season yet by paring down his strikeout rate from 26.9 percent of his plate appearances last season to 18.6 percent in 2011. In particular, he's making for more contact in two-strike counts.

First, here's the league average contact rate by pitch location in two-strike situations:

Overall, non-pitchers miss 20.5 percent of pitches swung at with two strikes.

Now, compare Napoli's contact rates in two-stike counts in 2010 and 2011:

Napoli's contact rate by pitch location in two-strike counts, 2010

Napoli's contact rate by pitch location in two-strike counts, 2011

Napoli is whiffing less just about everywhere, especially against high pitches and offerings thrown inside. His miss percentage with two strikes has dropped from 29.6 percent in 2010 to 19.9 percent in 2011. And while most players are fighting a losing battle once they have two strikes on them, hitting a collective .191/.260/.288, Napoli has a .277/.358/.484 line in such situations.

Considering that Angels catchers are getting on base barely a quarter of the time and slugging .300, you'd have to think they'd love to have Napoli back instead of watching him dim their playoff prospects on hard cut at a time.