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Entries in Toronto Blue Jays (32)

Friday
May102013

Hitters Laying Off Dickey's Knuckler

For three years in Queens, R.A. Dickey disproved the notion that knuckleball pitchers are mercurial creatures whose control goes through jarring spells of precision and wildness. Dickey issued just 2.2 walks per nine innings with the Mets from 2010-12, compared to the average of 2.9 BB/9 for starting pitchers over that time frame. Flutterball pitcher or not, Dickey didn't hurt himself with free passes.

In 2013, though, the reigning Cy Young Award winner has walked 4.1 batters per nine frames with the Blue Jays. That's his highest walk rate since he was but a knuckleball neophyte getting lit up in Minnesota. You might think that Dickey hasn't been as sharp with his knuckler this season, and that's part of the problem (his percentage of knuckleballs thrown in the strike zone has decreased from 54% in 2012 to 51% in 2013). But the bigger issue is that hitters haven't been nearly as tempted to take a cut at Dickey's signature pitch as it dances off the plate.

Check out opponents' swing rate by pitch location against Dickey's knuckleball during his Cy Young season in 2012, and his Cy Yuk year so far in 2013. Pay particularly close attention to knucklers thrown around hitters' knees:

2012

 

2013

Dickey got hitters to chase 34% of his knuckleballs out of the strike zone last season. This year? Just 23%. The decline in chases is most acute on low knucklers -- 31% in 2012, and 13% in 2013. Compounding matters, Dickey is throwing more out-of-the-zone knuckleballs low this season (41%) than last (32%).

Without all of those chases, Dickey is falling behind in the count nearly twice as often as he did last season (14.5% of hitters' plate appearances last year, 27.4% in 2013). That's a recipe for not just walks, but also extra-base knocks from so many unfavorable counts. It's hard to say why hitters are suddenly laying of Dickey's low knucklers. But it might be time for a meeting of the Jedi Council of Knuckleballers.

Monday
Mar112013

Four from the Bill Chuck Files...

Best/Worst: Blue Jays and Nationals

Here are the best and the worst seasons of the two teams whose franchises are rooted in O Canada (and may be meeting in the 2013 World Series).

Source: Billy-Ball.com

The (Season-) Long Goodbye starring Mariano Rivera

This season-long goodbye is not a Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novel, it’s the Mariano Rivera Goodbye Tour.

For those fans away from New York, here are the dates in which you can get to say a final farewell to one of baseball’s immortals.

SourceBilly-Ball.com

From the Sunday Funnies: Big Nate

The very talented Lincoln Peirce, the cartoonist behind Big Nate found in over 300 papers and in print for 22+ years, shared his view on his very favorite team yesterday.

SourceBilly-Ball.com

Nine to Know: 2012 Grand Slams

David Wright‘s grand slam on Saturday enabled Team USA to defeat Italy, 6-2.

So far, the most interesting aspect of the WBC was the basebrawl between Mexico and Canada over apparently who is really the United States’ BFF.

Wright’s grand slam was the first for Team USA since Jason Varitek on March 8, 2006, against Canada which got me thinking about grand slams in games that count/matter/of interest.

SourceBilly-Ball.com

Friday
Mar082013

Which Ricky Romero will we see in 2013?

In 2011, Ricky Romero went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA.

In 2012, Ricky Romero went 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA.

I suspect that 2013 will go a long way in showing us which was the outlier season.

Romero is primarily a fastball pitcher

In 2011, Romero threw 3374 total pitches, of which 2373 were fastballs.

Batters hit .249 against his fastballAs we look at the heat map above, we can see three hot spots of success by batters having formed a face: the two eyes are pitches up and on either side of the strike zone, and the mouth is down, but in the vertical middle of the strike zone.

In 2012, Romero threw 3084 total pitches, of which 2039 were fastballs. 

Batters hit .326 against his fastballSuccessful pitchers and successful realtors share three things in common: location, location, location.

Look at the difference in Romero's two heat maps. The red zones reflect where batters hit for average against Romero and the 2012 map is ugly with red, particularly in the strike zone.

The season ahead

The one thing to watch, even from the start of Romero's 2013 season, will be his fastball.

If it is drifting all over the strike zone, he and the Jays will be in trouble.

However, if he is working the edges, chances are you will be looking at the best #5 starter in baseball and an AL division crown for the Jays.