Over at the Hardball Times, Harry Pavlidis, who has been charting every pitch thrown in 2010, has provided an early benchmark for pitch types. Pavlidis also breaks out his data into a variety of different outcome-based and performance-based measurements. For example, according to his data, more batters swing and miss at the splitter than any other pitch, while the curve is the most likely common pitch to be taken for a called strike.
Because pitch selection is often predicated by the count, the performance-based metrics are not necessarily indicative of the relative effectiveness of each pitch, but they still offer an interesting look into how much damage is being done on each type. Pavlidis’ preliminary data indicates that the most damage (as measured by SLG% on balls in play) is done on the four seam fastball, while the least amount of pain is caused by the splitter.
There are several other interesting early inferences that can be drawn from the data, but the point of this post is to examine what pitches are currently being thrown to Yankee batters, and how each performs relative to the diet they are being fed. Again, without a breakdown based on counts, the value of pitched-based performance is mitigated somewhat. Still, the general picture provides some insight into what’s going on each time a Yankee batter steps into the box.
Breakdown of Pitches Seen By Yankee Batters (based on Fangraphs data)
The table above displays the frequency of pitch types being thrown to each Yankee hitter (more detailed charts appear below). For the sake of simplicity, I have narrowed down the variety to five pitches (fastball, slider, cutter, curve and change) and labeled all others as such.
Based on the data, it seems as if the conventional wisdom about pitchers challenging the bottom of the order is true. The three Yankees who have seen the most fastballs so far are Brett Gardner, Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli. In the past, both Gardner and Cervelli struggled against the fastball, so perhaps each has made the necessary adjustment to catch up with their scouting reports? Now, the question is at what point does the league readjust?
Two other Yankees who see more fastballs than the average MLB player are Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriquez. Pitchers have long tried to bust Jeter in with the fastball, but the Captain’s quick hands and ability to inside-out that pitch has long thwarted the strategy. Still, the number of fastballs seen by Jeter over his career has been very consistent. The one difference in how pitchers are attacking Jeter this season is the more frequent use of the cutter. Because the normalization that takes place over a season is lessened by the smaller sample, such comparisons need to be taken with a grain of salt. Having said that, a left hander’s cutter would seem to be the ideal pitch to Jeter.
Over the years, “anonymous scouting reports” have also suggested that Arod could be beaten with a good fastball. Perhaps that’s why he continues to see more than his fair share of heat even though his performance suggests that off speed might be more effective.
The Yankee who sees the fewest fastballs is Nick Swisher, a trend that has developed over his career. Instead, pitchers seem to rely much more on the change and curve when facing Swisher. Also, more than any regular starter, Swisher sees more nontraditional pitches, which is perhaps a nod to the number of pitches he sees per at bat.
Other Yankee batters who see fewer than average fastballs are Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada. Like Swisher, both are switch hitters, so that could have something to do with the dearth of heat.
Finally, Robinson Cano seems to see the greatest variety of pitches. Cano’s pitch-based performance has varied over the years, but then again so has his approach at the plate. Cano has talked about working with hitting Coach Kevin Long on a series of adjustments, so perhaps American League pitchers are still figuring him out.
Below is a breakdown of the pitches seen by each Yankees alongside their relative 2010 performance (based on wins above average per 100 pitches as calculated by fangraphs.com). Also listed in bold is the qualified leader in each category.
|Paul Konerko||54.9%||5.21||Ty Wigginton||14.8%||11.15|
|Jorge Posada||56.7%||3.88||Marcus Thames||9.7%||6.7|
|Marcus Thames||57.1%||3.54||Robinson Cano||11.3%||6.25|
|Nick Swisher||53.3%||3.04||Derek Jeter||10.3%||5.4|
|Francisco Cervelli||68.0%||1.3||Jorge Posada||6.7%||4.99|
|Alex Rodriguez||62.1%||1.01||Nick Swisher||8.4%||3.48|
|Brett Gardner||69.5%||0.64||Francisco Cervelli||12.9%||3.18|
|Robinson Cano||58.1%||0.55||Brett Gardner||8.4%||2.72|
|Nick Johnson||63.5%||0.49||Randy Winn||4.4%||-0.56|
|Derek Jeter||66.4%||0.18||Alex Rodriguez||14.9%||-0.58|
|Curtis Granderson||56.2%||-0.37||Nick Johnson||8.7%||-1.73|
|Mark Teixeira||56.0%||-0.42||Ramiro Pena||5.8%||-4.07|
|Ramiro Pena||68.6%||-0.89||Mark Teixeira||7.5%||-4.29|
|Randy Winn||62.3%||-1.21||Curtis Granderson||12.1%||-4.99|
|Kevin Russo||100.0%||-11.31||Kevin Russo||0.0%|
|Pablo Sandoval||2.6%||18.3||Francisco Cervelli||5.6%||12.09|
|Francisco Cervelli||4.5%||16.68||Raul Ibanez||5.5%||10.3|
|Curtis Granderson||3.5%||7.36||Robinson Cano||10.9%||9.56|
|Marcus Thames||7.8%||6.96||Derek Jeter||5.6%||3.5|
|Mark Teixeira||6.6%||3.6||Alex Rodriguez||6.8%||3.37|
|Brett Gardner||3.6%||3.43||Nick Johnson||8.7%||1.19|
|Alex Rodriguez||5.7%||0.39||Brett Gardner||9.8%||0.8|
|Nick Johnson||6.8%||0.17||Nick Swisher||12.8%||0.31|
|Jorge Posada||8.0%||-1.44||Mark Teixeira||11.3%||0.24|
|Nick Swisher||5.6%||-1.92||Jorge Posada||12.5%||-2.37|
|Derek Jeter||7.8%||-1.92||Curtis Granderson||11.8%||-3.06|
|Randy Winn||1.5%||-2.4||Randy Winn||9.4%||-3.33|
|Robinson Cano||8.1%||-5.44||Marcus Thames||4.6%||-6.37|
|Ramiro Pena||1.2%||-5.88||Ramiro Pena||4.7%||-6.62|
|Kevin Russo||0.0%||Kevin Russo||0.0%|