Monday Morning Food For Thought: Didi Gregorius Vs. Left-Handed Pitching

Gregorius Spray Chart vs LHP Career

Courtesy of Texas Leaguers

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Didi Gregorius‘ spray chart against left-handed pitching for his MLB career to date.  You’ll recall that Gregorius, a lefty hitter, has been mostly underwhelming with the bat in his 724 career plate appearances.  A big reason for that has been his performance against lefties, which has been very, very bad (.184/.257/.233, 0 HR, 25.0% K rate in 180 PA).

That spray chart shows all the balls he put in play in those 180 PA, and to be honest, it’s not as bad looking as I thought it would be.  There’s not an overwhelming over-distribution of grounders to one side of the infield, there’s balls being hit to all parts of the outfield at a relatively even rate, and there’s balls being hit for hits to all parts of the outfield.  The BIP distribution is very indicative of the type of hitter Gregorius has been in his short MLB career: high contact, not much power, can hit to all fields.  …

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Tough Night For Greene Comes At The Worst Time

Greene Pitch Plot 9-2-14

Courtesy of Texas Leaguers

That’s Shane Greene‘s pitch plot from last night.  It’s not a pretty one and it perfectly reflects the ugliness of his start.  6 hits, 2 home runs, 3 walks, and 6 earned runs allowed in less than 3 innings.  Fastball command has been what’s made Greene so tough since coming up in early July, but it was his undoing last night.  Lots of sinkers either dropping into the middle of the strike zone or completely out of it.  No movement on his 4-seamer.  That’s a hard way to get by against a Major League lineup and Greene found that out the hard way.

Here’s how bad he was last night in a nutshell.  He threw 67 pitches in his 2.2 innings, 30 of them were sinkers.  He didn’t get a swing and miss on any of them.  Didn’t get a swing and miss on any of his 6 4-seamers either.  Of the 8 outs he did manage to record, not a single one of them came on a groundball.  …

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What to Watch For: Yankees vs Rick Porcello

The Yankees tonight begin a crucial three-game series against the Tigers, who are two games ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Rick Porcello, who lost to the Yankees earlier this month, gets the ball in the series opener for Detroit.

The Tigers have three former Cy Young winners and the reigning league ERA champ in their (healthy) rotation, but that “other starter” – Rick Porcello – might be the most consistent pitcher on their staff this season.

Porcello owns a 3.10 ERA in 2014 and has seen that number drop each month, including a 2.53 ERA in August. He has yet to allow more than three runs in back-to-back starts this season and his three shutouts are tied for the most in baseball.

He held the Yankees to one run over seven innings in his only outing against them this year on August 7, a game the Yankees actually won 1-0 thanks to a more dominant effort by Shane Greene.…

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Pineda’s Slider Was Straight Up Disgusting Last Night

Given the situation and the small sample size from which to choose, it’s fair to say that last night was the best start of Michael Pineda‘s Yankee career.  Facing a hot team with a sneaky dangerous lineup, Pineda looked as good as he did in 2011 in spurts, flashing mid-to-high 90s fastballs with late movement and a hard, biting slider that he threw all over the zone.  KC really only put 2 good swings on him all night: on the Moustakas home run that he left up on a tee in the 3rd and the Perez double in the 7th on his final pitch of the night.

The fastball velocity, both in terms of the number and the sustainability, was really great to see.  The Yankees don’t have anybody in their rotation right now who can throw real smoke (maybe Greene kinda when he’s feeling good), so having Big Mike up there humming 95-97 is a good way to mix things up.  …

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Inside McCarthy’s transformation with the Yankees

Where would the Yankees be without McCarthy in the rotation? (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Where would the Yankees be without McCarthy in the rotation? (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Brandon McCarthy arrived in the Bronx with a 5.01 ERA but somehow has emerged as the de facto ace of the Yankees staff over the last six weeks. He has a remarkable 2.30 ERA and four wins in seven starts – numbers that even Brian Cashman could not have imagined when he traded for the sinkerballer at the beginning of July.

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the adjustments by McCarthy that have made him into one of the most effective pitchers in the AL during the past month and a half. Hint: It’s more than just slimming pinstripes that have helped him.

It is high, it is far…it is not gone
The most fundamental difference in McCarthy’s performance since coming east is his ability to limit the longball. He gave up 15 homers in 109 2/3 innings as a Diamondback, but only three home runs in 43 innings as a Yankee.…

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Brian McCann’s Crazy Reverse Platoon Split

McCann HR vs HOU

Nice looking home run swing. Against a lefty.

In last night’s game recap, I made mention of Brian McCann‘s reverse platoon split this season and how he’s hit left-handed pitching incredibly well while being downright awful against righties.  It wasn’t an exaggeration.  After last night’s game, McCann owns a .301/.345/.544 tripleslash in 103 PA against southpaws, good for a .388 wOBA and 147 wRC+.  In 275 PA against righties, his slash line is .211/.270/.327 (.268/64).

That’s an astonishingly wide OPS gap.  Almost 300 points.  It’s even more astonishing when you consider that McCann’s career OPS against righties is .834 compared to .755 against lefties, and his career batting average is 15 points higher against righties.  This isn’t a case of big variations from year to year either.  Go back through each one of his Major League seasons and you won’t find a single instance of McCann’s OPS being better against LHP than RHP before this season.  Since 2005, the formula has been that McCann hits for better average, better power, walks more, and strikes out less against righties.…

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Is The Annual Hiroki Kuroda Late-Season Fade Underway?

Hirok vs CLE

Courtesy of Getty Images

Hiroki Kuroda did not look good yesterday.  His command was off, hitters were squaring him up, and he seemed to tire very quickly around the 80-90 pitch mark in the 5th inning, an inning he was unable to complete.  Paired with a similar failure to close an inning in the 7th on Tuesday night against the Tigers, the talk of Hirok slowing down in August as he did last year is quickly picking up.  Is it warranted?  2 starts is hardly enough to say definitively, but there are some SSS numbers worth considering for either side of the argument.

Case For:

The Contact Rates- The split in Hirok’s 2 August starts is 30.6% LD/38.9% GB/30.6% FB.  That’s by far the worst monthly split he’s had all year.  It’s the first time his LD % against has been over 22.0% and the first time his GB rate has dipped below 44.0%.  This isn’t guys sneaking seeing-eye singles through holes in the infield.  …

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McCarthy Mixes Fastballs Brilliantly To Tame The Tigers

Last Tuesday was Brandon McCarthy‘s worst start as a Yankee.  Against a weak Texas lineup he didn’t have good command of his stuff and got hit around for 9 hits and 4 ER in 6 innings.  The Yankees eventually won that game, as they’ve won all 5 games he’s started since being acquired.  The 5th win came last night, when McCarthy was back on the hill and back in full command of his entire fastball arsenal.  He featured all 3 in different situations against different hitters and completely held the Detroit Tiger lineup at bay with the way used them.

Before we get to that, just a quick counting stats recap for those who either missed the game or didn’t fully appreciate how good McCarthy was last night.  He threw 116 pitches, his highest pitch count of the year and the 3rd straight start in which he threw 108 or more, and pumped in 81 strikes (69.8%).  He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 25 batters he faced and had 11 swinging strikes (13.6%).  …

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Ellsbury Is Finally Starting To Pull The Ball

The Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury with the idea of putting him on top of the lineup to pair with Brett Gardner. At least, that’s what the front office told us. To pay someone over $150 million, most teams expect more than speed and defense, they expect some top-notch hitting tools.

Ellsbury has a history of hitting well, particularly for average. If you go back to 2011, you’ll see that he’s more than just a contact hitter, he has some very exciting power. Since his 32 home run season, the power has been quieted by some injury-plagued seasons. Ellsbury went nearly 1,000 plate appearances with just 13 home runs in Boston between 2012 and his free agency.

Despite what the Yankees say, part of their $20 million plus annual commitment to the center fielder is in the hopes that he regains his power stroke, particularly in Yankee Stadium. Left-handed hitters already have an advantage in the Bronx, but when you combine that with Ellsbury’s history, it’s not hard to see why the Yankees took a huge gamble on him.…

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