It’s somewhat of a surprise that we’re seeing Jason Hammel pitch tonight. He’s been far from a bad pitcher in 2012, showing a 3.23 FIP and a 3.43 ERA, but he’s also thrown just 8.2 innings since mid-July. It’s a risky move for the Orioles, but Buck Showalter and company are playing with house money right now, and his recent decision to start Joe Saunders in the Wild Card playoff game paid off nicely.
When looking at his numbers against the Yankees, I’d usually select career numbers, as to get the biggest sample size, but as we’ll see later, Hammel is a different pitcher in 2012. Despite this, he’s still been mediocre against the Yankees in 3 starts, posting a 3.94 ERA through 16.0 IP, but also sported a 1.563 WHIP and allowed a 10.1 H/9. Up and down the Yankees lineup, almost every player has a history of hitting the right handed pitcher, in particular Alex Rodriguez, who has 4 homeruns and a 1.371 OPS in 22 at bats.
As optimistic as I am with these numbers, most come against him when he was pitching with the Rays in his first few seasons. Since then he’s changed his pitching style. Let’s take a look at his pitch repertoire in 2012.
The four-seam has a good amount of vertical rise at around 10 inches, but also can vary in horizontal movement such that it looks like a cutter at times. Averaging 93.6 mph, the pitch combines good movement and good velocity, which he locates up in the zone to right handed batters, and away from left handers. He’s sporting almost a 10% whiff rate on the four-seam, which is extremely high for this pitch type.
Hammel has always been a heavy fastball pitcher. This season he’s thrown less four-seam fastballs thanks to a new approach throughout the Orioles system. GM Dan Duquette has emphasized that cutters are bad, and his sometime-cutting four-seam was drawing too many extra-base hits in the past. Thus, he’s now added a new fastball to prevent the high flyball outcome from his regular fastball.
The two-seam is a new addition to his repertoire. This season, he’s matched the usage of both the four-seam and two-seam at around 30% each. It lacks the typical sinking movement of this pitch type, showing only a 2 inch decrease in vertical movement, and averaging around 4 inches more of movement into right handed hitters. The break isn’t overly impressive, but he’s done a great job of mixing it with the four-seam and keeping hitters off-balanced. The results are a relatively high 7% whiff rate and a strong 13% ground ball rate when he needs a double play.
The slider is his primary out-pitch against right handed hitters, throwing the pitch 33% of the time against them, and 22% overall. It has a around a one inch sink, compared to a no-spin pitch, and 4 inches of movement away from right handed batters. At 86 mph, he’s again combining good movement and velocity, and the results have been a strong 19% whiff rate to righties and a 16% whiff rate to lefties.
Against lefties, Hammel divides his secondary pitch selection between the slider and curveball. There is plenty of sinking action on the curveball that you’d expect, but also strong movement into left handed hitters, averaging 7 inches more than a no-spin pitch. At 78 mph, the pitch shows a strong tendency to draw groundballs and limit linedrives/flyballs. He’s also sporting a 9% whiff rate on the pitch against both lefty and righty hitters.
The changeup is specifically used to neutralize left handed hitters. Compared to his two-seam fastball, the pitch drops 3 inches more vertically, with 1 inch more movement into right handed hitters, and shows a 5 mph decrease in velocity. Again, he has a solid 9% whiff rate against lefties, but only throws the pitch 9% of the time to them.
Here is the overall pitch movement in 2012 from a catcher’s perspective.
Hammel’s pitch repertoire in 2012 has been extremely solid. He sports two great fastballs, a legitimate swing and miss slider, and a decent curveball/changeup. With the type of success the Yankees had off him in the past, the right handed pitcher needs his command to return in his first game back since September 11th. As we all know, the Yankees are an extremely patient team, and if Hammel can’t locate his pitches, the Bombers will wear him down quickly. If this isn’t the case, the team will likely focus on trying to hit him early in the count due to his heavy fastball approach. The slider is a scary pitch if he has any sort of control, but the lefty heavy lineup Joe Girardi will put on the field should help in avoiding the pitch.