A Baseball Weblog

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quick f/x: Drabek's curve

The Yankees will face Kyle Drabek this afternoon.  It will already be the third time they have faced Drabek in his young career, though this will be their first meeting at Yankee Stadium.  Drabek will pick up plenty of groundballs (55% since his major league debut) and whiffs (25% of swings), but he's struggled to get the ball over the plate (12% walk rate, 43% ball rate, 33% zone rate).  I'm going to make this pretty brief (you can read some more about Drabek here), but I would like to check in with Drabek's curveball, which looked to be his primary out-pitch when he came into the league.  He's not using it as much as he was last year.  Game by game pitch selections are below; there's a slight overall decrease since last year.  

click to enlarge

Drabek has also changed how he uses his curve.  Ponder these metrics from Drabek's 2010 starts compared to 2011:

#Zone Rate Swing Rate Chase Rate Watch Rate 
2010 Curveball38.237.526.448.222
2011 Curveball44.364.432.393.500

The sample size is small, but a trend is pretty clear - Drabek is throwing more curveballs over the plate than last year and is able to pick up more called strikes.  Also of note is that his curve averaged 84 mph last year and is only at 81 this year.  It looks like it's also getting some more vertical "drop," but I won't say too much on that before working out the calibration issues at Rogers Centre (they've been pretty severe, sometimes off by more than five inches).

Drabek's curve is by far his best pitch in terms of run values (both expected and actual), and since last year has garnered a swinging strike on 59% of swings (that kind of number would be up at the top of the league over a full season, but we only have a sample of 39 swings).  He seems to be pitching to contact more this year by throwing a much higher percentage of cut fastballs, but it's always good to have a power curve at your disposal when you want to use it.

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