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Entries in Yankees (14)

Thursday
Oct112012

Raul Ibanez Still Slugging Fastballs

Raul Ibanez is 40 years old, scuffles against soft stuff and covers ground like Kirk Gibson might have if the Dodgers had let him limp around the outfield during the '88 World Series. But whatever limitations Ibanez might have, he can still kill fastballs. Ibanez displayed his heater prowess last night against the Orioles, belting a game-tying home run in the 9th inning after pinch-hitting for A-Rod (I don't believe what I just saw!) and then handing the Yankees a walk-off win by going deep again in the 12th. Now, he's being compared to Gibson for all the right reasons.

Ibanez capitalized when Jim Johnson left a 94 MPH sinker over the heart of the plate in the 9th.  In the 12th, Ibanez turned on a high 91 MPH fastball from lefty Brian Matusz:

 Location of Ibanez's home runs vs. Baltimore, 10/10/12

Both pitches were located in Ibanez's hot spots against fastballs and sinkers:

Ibanez vs. fastballs and sinkers, 2012

Ibanez is slugging .555 overall against fastballs and sinkers this season, far above the .460 MLB average. Blowing a fastball by Raul, even when he's coming in cold off the bench, is no simple task. It's a different story against breaking and off-speed pitches, though:

Ibanez vs. breaking and off-speed stuff, 2012

Ibanez is slugging .331 against curveballs, sliders and changeups, which is over 40 points below the big league average (.374).

Raul's ridiculous night ranks as one of the most clutch hitting performances in postseason history. Judging by Win Probability Added, Ibanez places behind just David Freese, Gibson, Steve Garvey and Lance Berkman when it comes to clubbing his club to playoff glory:

Highest single-game WPA total in playoff history

Rk Player Date Series Gm# Tm Opp WPA
1 David Freese 10/27/2011 WS 6 STL TEX 0.969
2 Kirk Gibson 10/15/1988 WS 1 LAD OAK 0.87
3 Steve Garvey 10/6/1984 NLCS 4 SDP CHC 0.854
4 Lance Berkman 10/27/2011 WS 6 STL TEX 0.832
5 Raul Ibanez 10/10/2012 ALDS 3 NYY BAL 0.828
6 Charlie Keller 10/5/1941 WS 4 NYY BRO 0.826
7 Cookie Lavagetto 10/3/1947 WS 4 BRO NYY 0.822
8 Michael Tucker 10/12/1998 NLCS 5 ATL SDP 0.812
9 Brian Jordan 10/8/1999 NLDS 3 ATL HOU 0.806
10 Stan Hack 10/8/1945 WS 6 CHC DET 0.806

 

Not bad for a guy who started the night as a spectator.

Monday
May212012

A-Rod Getting Beat Inside

As recently as 2010, Alex Rodriguez's chances of becoming baseball's all-time home run king looked promising. He moved past hip surgery that sidelined him in 2009 to go deep 30 times and slug slightly over .500 -- not vintage A-Rod numbers, but plenty potent nonetheless. A couple of years later, though, Rodriguez's body and power appear to betraying him. 

Knee surgery cut his season short in 2011, when he hit 16 HR and slugged .461. And in 2012, Rodriguez has five homers and a sub-.400 slugging percentage. He's under contract with the Yankees through 2017, but hitting another 129 bombs to move past Barry Bonds looks like a long shot. Put simply, A-Rod is no longer a threat on the inside part of the plate.

Back in 2010, A-Rod still turned on inside offerings and punished pitchers. Check out his slugging percentage by pitch location against inside stuff, and then the league average:

A-Rod's slugging percentage by location vs. inside pitches, 2010

Average slugging percentage by location vs. inside pitches, 2010

A-Rod hit 18 home runs and slugged .554 when a pitcher challenged him inside in 2010, well north of the .421 average for MLB hitters. Last year, A-Rod lost some oomph on the inside part of the plate:

A-Rod's slugging percentage by location vs. inside pitches, 2011

His slugging percentage on inside stuff dipped to .504. While that was still above the .415 MLB average, it represented a 50 point drop. He hit just five homers on inside pitches in 2011.

This year, A-Rod has been downright punchless against inside pitches:

A-Rod's slugging percentage by location vs. inside pitches, 2012

He's slugging a paltry .234 versus inside stuff (the MLB average so far is .408), with a single homer. Rather than ripping pitches for homers and extra bases as in years past, A-Rod is rolling over when pitchers go inside. Here's his spray chart this season on pulled pitches put in play:

 

A-Rod's spray chart on inside pitches put in play, 2012

Rodriguez has a 63 percent ground ball rate on inside pitches put in play, a full 20 percentage points above his inside grounder rate during his still-powerful 2010 campaign.  

While pitchers haven't gone inside on A-Rod much more than usual so far (about 45 percent of the time), that could change if scouts think he no longer possesses the world-class bat speed to launch pitches thrown in on the hands into the stands. Decline is inevitable, even for all-time greats. But the Yankees need more thump for their third baseman if they're going to survive the gauntlet that is the AL East.

Friday
Jul012011

CC's 13 Ks

CC Sabathia tied a career high in strikeouts yesterday afternoon, fanning 13 Milwaukee Brewers in 7.2 innings as the Yankees rolled to a 5-0 victory and a series sweep. All of Sabathia's punch outs versus the club that he propelled to the playoffs in 2008 were of the swinging variety.

Seven of CCs Ks came on his slider. A souped-up fastball averaging about 95 MPH (his season average is 93.5 MPH) recorded four whiffs, and his changeup got two strikeouts.

Sabathia managed to sit down Prince Fielder, ranking fourth in the majors in Weighted On-Base Average, twice. Sabathia blew a high 96 MPH fastball past the Big Veggie in the first inning. With the bases loaded and two out in the third, Fielder swung through an 85 MPH slider perfectly located on the outside corner of the plate:

Fielder's Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011Sabathia also victimized lefty hitters Mat Gamel and George Kottaras twice on sliders.  Each whiffed at a slider in the zone and chased one off the plate. Well off the plate, in Gamel's case:

Gamel's Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Kottaras' Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Sabathia toyed with righty-hitting Rickie Weeks, striking him out on a pair of 95 MPH fastballs on the outside corner and a diving 88 MPH changeup in nearly the same spot:

Weeks' Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Likely well aware of Carlos Gomez's tendency to chase balls, gum wrappers, birds and low flying planes, Sabathia got the center fielder to swing at high 95 MPH heat and a slider at the shoe tops:

Gomez's Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Finally, Corey Hart fanned on an outside changeup and a slider just out of the lower portion of the zone:

Hart's Ks vs. Sabathia on June 30, 2011

Sabathia will soon turn 31, but he's showing no signs of slowing down. Imagine where the Yankees' rotation, a middling seventh in the American League in Fielding Independent Pitching, would be without the big workhorse.