Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Excellent hitters and pitches geekery

from Joe Posnanski:
Here are the five players facing the FEWEST fastballs.

1. Ryan Howard, 44.9%
2. Alfonso Soriano, 46%
3. Garret Anderson, 50.1%
4. Ryan Ludwick, 50.4%
5. Hunter Pence, 50.7%


It’s not a perfect rhythm — and there are so many other things involved such as healthy and league and so on — but generally speaking when you throw [Alfonso] Soriano fastballs, he peppers you. He can’t hit a curveball. He REALLY can’t hit a slider. And his plate discipline is as dreadful as ever so you can throw him those curveballs and sliders on three-ball counts. He might not see a fastball until July.

Pitchers have thrown Derek Jeter the same for years — two-thirds fastballs, a healthy dose of sliders, and a few change-ups and curveballs to keep him honest. Jeter generally pounds curveballs and change-ups. He will swing and miss some — more than you might expect from a lifetime .317 hitter* — but his ability to pick up the different speeds and spins of pitches is uncanny. “You can beat him side to side,” a scout friend tells me. “But you can’t beat Jeter back and forth.” In other words, Jeter will swing at stuff outside of the strike zone, but if you try to fool him inside the zone with different speeds, he generally will crush you.

*Among the players with more than 7,500 plate appearances and a .300 batting average, Jeter ranks fourth on the strikeout rate list behind Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Larry Walker.
Albert Pujols: 53% fastballs, 20% sliders, 10% curveballs, 10% change-ups, 7% other stuff.
– There’s no right way to pitch Pujols, just any number of wrong ways. He hits everything; a pitcher’s best bet is to keep Pujols off-balance and never give him a fastball that catches too much of the plate.

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