A Baseball Weblog

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day f/x: Verlander and Sabathia

Happy Opening Day, everybody!  The Yankees will face Detroit at home this afternoon in a match-up of two elite pitchers - Justin Verlander for the Tigers and CC Sabathia for the Yanks.


(Pitch movement and velocity is from road games only to strip out home park biases.  The four-seam fastball group may include a few two-seamers as well.) 

The first thing to know about Verlander is that he throws heat.  Intense heat, and lots of it.  He was second among starters in average velocity behind Ubaldo Jimenez.  Also, his four-seam fastball was thrown more than any other pitch in the majors last year save for Clayton Kershaw's four-seamer.  It also gets a ton of movement, tailing an average of 8 inches into a right handed batter with nearly 10 inches of positive vertical movement (relative to a theoretical spinless pitch).  While he uses his heater and power curveball the most, his changeup might actually be his most effective pitch.  Or his slider.  

#%Swing RateWhiff RateZone RateBall RateChase RateWatch RateRV/100xRV/100


In PlayGB RateFB RateLD RatePU RatewOBAconHR/FB


Despite all the heat, his fastball garners a league-average whiff rate, and his curve is below average.  He'll fool a lot of batters with it in the zone, though.  The changeup and slider look like good pitches.  The slider, which can get cutter-ish at times, is a relatively new addition to Justin's repertoire.



Sabathia works with a five-pitch mix - four and two-seam fastballs, a slurvey slider, a changeup, and a rare curveball.  The changeup is pretty hard, about seven miles per hour on average off of his 94 mph four-seamer.  The slider, on the other hand, is pretty slow, sitting in the low 80s with a significant amount of "drop."  The curve pretty much just looks like a slower slider. 

%Swing RateWhiff RateZone RateBall RateChase RateWatch RateRV/100xRV/100


In PlayGB RateFB RateLD RatePU RatewOBAconHR/FB


The slider is elite (one of the top 20 pitches in whiff rate for 2010 starters) and the changeup is still very good, though it's easier to hit than it was last year (2009 whiff rate ~40%).  The curve is pretty much only used to steal a called strike early in the count.  Both fastballs generate a good batted-ball profile, including plenty of grounders.  

Let's raise a glass (of white grape juice) to an awesome year of baseball in 2011! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring stats for Colon and Nova

I love Spring Training stats because they typically say a lot about future regular season performance.  NOT!  Nonetheless, it's intriguing that Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova have been pitching this well.  The lines:

Bartolo Colon15104121720851
Ivan Nova148214729930

I'm not supposed to read into Spring Training numbers ... but isn't the winner (or in this case, winners) of the rotation battle going to be based on the better spring stats?  Now you're confusing me.  Anyway, Colon has had a very good spring, with a 2.40 RA/9 and excellent strikeout and walk numbers.  The groundball rate (.588) over 34 balls in play is great, too.  Nova has a lower RA/9 (1.29), but has shown much worse strike zone dominance.  29 ground balls out of 41 balls in play (rate of .707) is superb.  I would be shocked if we don't see these two guys beginning the season in the rotation - in other words, I would be shocked if Freddy Garcia makes the rotation.      

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chamberlain's out longer than expected

The MRI results on Joba Chamberlain's left side showed an "injured oblique," and he's out indefinitely. He suffered the injury during Friday's appearance, and the Yankees initially thought he would be well enough to pitch sometime in the middle of this week - that's certainly not going to happen. Not that I can really trust YES's radar gun, but he hit 97 mph during Friday's appearance and was down to 89 by the end of the inning. His curve and slider were also significantly slower than they had been. Again, I don't know if this had anything to do with the injury; it could've just been the gun being weird.

The Yankees don't seem too concerned, but oblique injuries can be nasty.  Still, if Chamberlain had to miss a portion of the regular season, the bullpen would be just fine, considering Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are around for setup work.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Yankees' whiff rates

I was curious to see what the hardest pitches to hit were in 2010, and I posted my findings on Beyond the Box Score a few days ago.  The only Yankee to make the list was CC Sabathia, whose slider had the 16th highest whiff rate in the 250+ swing department.  The tables below show how the Yankees fare in both the 100-249 and 250+ swing categories.  The column furthest to the left is league-wide rank.  The column furthest to the right is whiff rate compared to league average for pitch type, in which average = 100.  406 pitch types qualified for the 250+ bucket; 586 qualified for the 100-249 bucket.  

RankPitcherPitch TypeWhiff RateWhiff+
16CC SabathiaSlider.405129
30A.J. BurnettCurveball.366130
73CC SabathiaChangeup.296103
139David RobertsonFour-seam fastball.207128
164Phil HughesFour-seam fastball.193119
170Phil HughesCutter.18890
194Mariano RiveraCutter.17383
197Javier VazquezFour-seam fastball.172106
251A.J. BurnettTwo-seam fastball.146120
262CC SabathiaFour-seam fastball.14087
266CC SabathiaTwo-seam fastball.139114
281A.J. BurnettFour-seam fastball.13483
287Joba ChamberlainFour-seam fastball.13181
368Javier VazquezTwo-seam fastball.09477
397Andy PettitteFour-seam fastball.07245

100-249 SWINGS
RankPitcherPitch TypeWhiff RateWhiff+
36Andy PettitteSlider.399127
40Joba ChamberlainSlider.394126
62Javier VazquezChangeup.368128
107David RobertsonCurveball.324115
199Javier VazquezCurveball.26293
284Javier VazquezSlider.21669
291Phil HughesCurveball.21376
326Andy PettitteCurveball.19670
385Boone LoganFour-seam fastball.168104
500Sergio MitreTwo-seam fastball.11796
569Ivan NovaFour-seam fastball.07747
573Dustin MoseleyTwo-seam fastball.07360
584Andy PettitteTwo-seam fastball.04537

A few things that caught my eye ...
  • Hitters didn't have too much trouble making contact with Pettitte's fastball, but his breaking pitch was excellent.  Most people call it a cutter, but it had enough movement and velocity difference from his fastball to be a fairly typical slider, so at least for this analysis, that's what I'll call it.    
  • Chamberlain's slider might not be as insane as it used to be, but it's still awesome.  
  • Mariano is definitely declining in the swing-and-miss department, but that's not really his thing anyway.  Consider me unconcerned.
  • Hughes' curveball wasn't the out-pitch we were looking for.  His fastball was only a bit easier to hit, and relative to pitch-type averages, the fastball was a *lot* more impressive.
  • I have to show some respect for Boone Logan and his slider.  Boone's slide-piece doesn't make the cut since it was only swung against 83 times, but on those swings, it garnered a whiff rate of .542.  Very impressive.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Banuelos, with my own eyes

Earlier tonight, many Yankee fans got their first live look at Manuel Banuelos.  I'm included in that group.  He looked great, striking out three over two scoreless innings while walking one and giving up a double.  I saw three pitches from him - a fastball (pretty sure they're all four-seamers, but not positive), a changeup, and a curveball.  I don't really want to put a ton of trust in the radar gun (especially since it gave some readings in the 60s), but it had Banuelos ranging 93-95 in his first inning and 89-93 in his second.  The changeup was in the low 80s, usually 82 or 83, and the curveball was at 78.  Here are some results from his 29 pitch outing:

#BallCalled StrikeWhiffFoulIn Play


Banuelos got three groundouts and gave up a line drive double with the fastball.  It was a pretty soft line drive off a pitch in on the hands of a righty batter.

Basically, he was pretty awesome.  All of the typical Spring Training disclaimers apply.  
And the typical pitch-tracking-from-television disclaimers, too.