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View Full Version : Reds' pitchers and the "zone"



Brutus
04-29-2010, 02:11 PM
It's interesting that in another thread, I was having a debate with traderumor on the merits of Bryan Price's pitching philosophy. Specifically, whether he's been instructing his pitchers to work the corners.

Personally, if that's the case, I feel it's the way you should pitch. You have to work in-out, mix speeds, locations and change the eye levels on hitters. If you work the middle third of the plate, you won't often live to tell about it - unless you have overpowering stuff.

But in my back-and-forth, I came across some very interesting data.

I was examining the zone%, i.e. percent of pitches thrown in the strike zone, of Aaron Harang.

It was a career-low 42%. His previous low was 50% way back in 2003. Now on the bright side, he's got a 77% contact percentage, which is actually second only to his 2006 season (75%).

But it gets more interesting.

Bronson Arroyo has a career-low 41.5% zone percentage. His previous low was 50.5% in 2008.

Homer Bailey is throwing 50.5% of his pitches in the zone - essentially the same as last year's 50.6%, though down a bit from 52% two years ago.

Johnny Cueto is at 50.6% of his pitches - which is in between 2008 (51.2%) and 2009 (47.6%) - though 2009, he was dealing with some injuries.

Mike Leake has no prior history, but he's just below 50 (49.7%).

On to the pen...

Francisco Cordero has a career-low 43% zone rate going right now. His previous low was 44.9%.

Nick Masset has a career-low 38.7% zone rate right now. His previous low was 43.1%.

Arthur Rhodes has a career-low 43.3% zone rate. His previous low? 50.1% (note: the zone% only goes back to 2002 so it's not all of his career is accounted for)

Danny Hererra is tied for last season at 47.1%. He was at 52% in 2008.

In the storied career of Mike Lincoln, he's having his second-lowest season (49.7%).

Logan Ondrusek was 45.6%.

In a sense of irony, Micah Owings is actually the only Red above his average (he's at 51.9%).

The Major League average this year is 48.3%.

It does seem, then, that Price is putting a high emphasis on throwing on the corners and out of the zone. The question, now, is what do we take from this? I personally like it. While the results haven't been good thus far, and could explain for getting behind in the counts so often, if the pitchers get accustomed to this new style, perhaps it will pay dividends as the year goes on. Or perhaps that's not what's happening and it's simply a matter of coincidence. Adjusting to a new pitching coach, I imagine, can be difficult sometimes.

I do find it very interesting though that all three backend relievers and the top two starters all are well below their career norms.

dougdirt
04-29-2010, 02:14 PM
Leake's fangraphs page - Michael Leake
http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=10130&position=P

Brutus
04-29-2010, 02:18 PM
Leake's fangraphs page - Michael Leake
http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=10130&position=P

Thanks. I never thought to look for "Michael." I just couldn't find him by his last name, though I probably put too much emphasis looking for "Mike."

My hunch was correct. He's at 49.7%.

bucksfan2
04-29-2010, 04:14 PM
It does seem, then, that Price is putting a high emphasis on throwing on the corners and out of the zone. The question, now, is what do we take from this? I personally like it. While the results haven't been good thus far, and could explain for getting behind in the counts so often, if the pitchers get accustomed to this new style, perhaps it will pay dividends as the year goes on. Or perhaps that's not what's happening and it's simply a matter of coincidence. Adjusting to a new pitching coach, I imagine, can be difficult sometimes.

I do find it very interesting though that all three backend relievers and the top two starters all are well below their career norms.

I heard Leo Mazzone talking in a telecast about how he taught his pitchers to work from the outside corner and in. Granted it helps having Maddux, Smoltz, and Glaven as your horses for years but still I started to think about that philosophy. The hardest strike to hit would have to be the ball placed on the lowest outermost part of the strike zone. If you can place your pitch there it is hard to get any power behind the ball. If the batter begins to cheat to get to that outside corner its easier to keep them off balance and come inside.

I have no issue with the idea of working around the edges of the strike zone. You sure don't want to work over the heart of the plate. Balls thrown there can end up a long way away. The whole concept is dependent on the pitchers ability to locate the pitches where they are called. IMO Harang wasn't exactly hitting his spots and often time he was missing by a wide margin.

traderumor
04-29-2010, 04:23 PM
Brutus,

Your data is interesting and confirms what my eyes have been telling me. I think you mischaracterize the discussion here. Any pitching coach working with advanced arms is going to promote "working the corners." That is obvious. Where the distinction is in whether or not he is taking it a step further and actually promoting working outside the zone early in the count, hoping to get major league hitters fishing to get ahead. That is my hypothesis. And if that is the jest of the idea, I would say it is not going to work at this level. They are and will continue to lay off, esp. the good hitting teams. I think for bad hitting teams, it will work, but then most anything will work with a bad hitting team. Either way, this group has not adjusted well. Their command and control has been miserable.

Will M
04-29-2010, 08:00 PM
Once upon a time the Reds had a setup guy & occasional closer named Rob Dibble. Dibble had two pitches. A high 90s fastball with movement & a low 90s slider with devastating movement. Its was strike one. Strike two. And strike three. Those who never saw Dibble in action cannot fathom the number of times I saw him strike out the side on nine pitches. It was beautiful.
Most pitchers are not blessed with either the stuff or control of Mr Dibble. They can't just lay one down broadway. So pitching the corners seems like baseball 101.

It seems to me that the Reds pitchers pitch the OUTSIDE corner way too much compared to the inside corner. if i were an opposing batter i'd crowd the plate & look for the low & away. with the Reds pitchers control (i'll use the term loosely) they are likely to let one drift up or in right into the sweet spot for the hitter. IMO the Reds pitchers need to pitch inside more often.