Has The Solarte Party Come To An End?

After a hot start in Tampa this March, I was one of Yangervis Solarte‘s biggest doubters. A career minor leaguer rarely starts hitting major league pitching out of no where, and the small sample size of spring training wasn’t enough to disprove over 2,800 plate appearances in the minor leagues. But the infielder kept hitting, and by the second week of the regular season, I stopped doubting him and enjoyed the show. Solarte showcased bat speed, contact, an eye at the plate, and he was extremely versatile with his ability to switch-hit and play nearly anywhere on the infield.

None of this has changed. Solarte still has the same ability he did in April, but my fear was that we’d quickly learn something about Solarte that would finally expose a weakness. Either that didn’t happen or he made adjustments quicker than it could catch up to his statistics, because Solarte kept up his hot bat for two and half months between March, April, and mid-May.…

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What Makes Betances So Good?

Bill Kostroun

Bill Kostroun

There are many ways to get a batter out, and while some pitchers rely on sheer stuff to blow away a batter, most other pitchers rely on a combination of their pitch movements, velocities, and location to methodically confuse hitters. A pitcher like Mariano Rivera didn’t rely on a repertoire of disorienting pitches, he simply threw a cutter with incredible late horizontal break over and over again. Meanwhile, when a pitcher like Andy Pettitte lost velocity, he learned to throw with different movements and speeds to play up some of his declining pitches. Today, Masahiro Tanaka uses both styles, throwing a high-rising four-seamer, a hard breaking sinker, and a brutal splitter that make each subsequent pitch look like they’re moving even more than they really are.

Unlike Rivera, and much more like David Robertson, Dellin Betances uses more than one pitch. When a reliever, the right-hander used to throw a sinker and a changeup, but as a reliever he’s stuck with his two strongest pitches in his four-seamer and slurve.…

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Can Chase Whitley Save The Rotation?

Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America

Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America

With CC Sabathia out until July and Ivan Nova recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees have two of their projected five starting pitchers out for the foreseeable future. Michael Pineda could be back in two weeks, but despite a hot month of April, questions still linger about the state of his shoulder, velocity, control, and now his teres major.

The rotation is left in the hands of a dominating Masahiro Tanaka and scuffling Hiroki Kuroda. David Phelps and Vidal Nuno have each had their good and bad starts, and it looks like Phelps might be able to contribute something above average. Chase Whitley is the final piece to the puzzle, and as the season goes on, he could prove to be the most important.

Susan covered Whitley’s interesting amateur and minor league history last week, and the biggest takeaway from Whitley’s minor league numbers is that they’re very good. He owns a low 2.64 ERA, an 8.6 K/9, and a low 2.9 BB/9, both of which have improved in 2014.…

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Dellin Betances Says Hello

 

Get a gander at that right there.  That’s Dellin Betances‘ pitch location plot from last night.  In case you missed it and somehow started reading this post before any kind of game recap, Betances was brought in with 2 on and 2 out in the bottom of the 5th inning.  He got a groundball out to finish that inning and then proceeded to strike out the next 6 batters he faced in order to get through the 7th.  It was downright murderous.

By the simple counting numbers, Betances’ 2.1 perfect innings worked out to 27 pitches, 20 strikes, and 8 swings and misses.  Most of those were on the curveball, which Betances used to register all 6 of his strikeouts, and that location plot gives you an idea of how they were moving last night.  The Mets hitters were so baffled by it that they almost couldn’t swing.  4 of the 6 Ks were looking.  It was like Betances had the ball on a string.  …

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Explaining Sabathia’s Home Run Problem

Jeffrey Phelps/AP

Jeffrey Phelps/AP

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about CC Sabathia’s 2014 adjustment on the mound, which included a more sinker-heavy repertoire and a move to the far right side of the rubber. Both of these adjustments indicate that CC Sabathia is looking for ground balls and strikeouts, as it’s generally believed that the break on a sinker plays better from the third base side of the mound for an aging left-handed pitcher. So far, Sabathia’s peripheral stats look great, but the results have been mixed. He owns a 48.3% ground ball rate, with his sinker generating 12% ground balls this season, a 9.39 K/9 and a 1.96 BB/9. These are great peripherals reminiscent of the old Sabathia, however his HR/FB rate is now at 23.3%, meaning nearly one out of every four fly balls are home runs.

While Sabathia moved to the third base side to play up the movement on his sinker, it looks like the new approach has massively hurt his four-seam fastball.…

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Short grouse about that last pitch

The Yankees were one out away from getting out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth inning. One more strike and they would have fought into extra innings with a chance to win the game. They never got the one strike as good old Mark Reynolds hit the ball into left-center for the game winning hit. Adam Warren threw the pitch and it might have been the worst 0-2 pitch in history.

First of all, Mark Reynolds had history against him. Reynolds had been in 0-2 counts 863 times in his career. After arriving at that count, Reynolds had struck out 512 times. It works out to a 59% strikeout rate in those situations. He had a .429 OPS in those situations. The odds were all in the Yankees’ favor.

Adam Warren had been throwing 95 MPH gas. A letter-high fastball would have worked. A low fastball would have worked. A fastball on the outside corner would have worked.…

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Explaining Ichiro’s Hot Start

AP Images

AP Images

After a season where Ichiro Suzuki put up a 71 wRC+, expectations surrounding the outfielder weren’t very high for Yankee fans. It’s somewhat surprising that Ichiro has even remained in pinstripes thus far, as there was a decent amount of trade speculation the past offseason. The Yankees stuck with Ichiro, and so far he’s played in 27 of 33 games, but earned just 53 plate appearances. During that time, he’s hit a surprising .373/.396/.451 with a .463 BABIP.

When it comes to BABIP, most people assume it’s the stat of luck, but there are a lot more stats that build this number. Ichiro’s batting average on hits is surprisingly close to his career numbers, he’s hitting .333 on ground balls, .000 on fly balls, and .750 on line drives. Perhaps the line drive and ground ball averages are slightly lucky, but the lack of a fly ball average counteracts the slightly above average numbers on his other batted balls.…

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Derek Jeter And The Fastball

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Even when Derek Jeter used to struggle, he was hardly ever challenged with fastballs. Even if the shortstop’s bat speed slowed down, being late on a fastball with his type of swing was usually good enough to send the ball to right-field. Now that Jeter is approaching 40-years-old, pitchers are challenging him more than ever. But despite his opposite field swing, Jeter is getting beat by the velocity.

According to BrooksBaseball, Jeter has seen 178 four-seam fastballs and 108 sinkers out of 431 pitches (66% fastballs) so far. That number has gone up as teams have seen Jeter struggle against the pitch, and in the last series against the Rays, Jeter saw 31 four-seamers, sinkers, and cutters out of 38 pitches. 8 of these pitches were fouled off and another 8 were put in play, 5 of which were ground ball outs and 3 were fly ball outs. The good news is that Jeter swung and missed at just 2 of these fastballs.…

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Has Velocity Improvement Helped Phelps In 2014?

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America

David Phelps remains one of the most overlooked pieces of the Yankees’ pitching staff. In 2012, Phelps put together a solid rookie season where he pitched to a 3.34 ERA in 99.2 innings. His 8.7 K/9 that year surprised most fans, as he was hardly a strikeout pitcher in the minor leagues. In 2013, Phelps struggled in the beginning of the season, but once he moved to the rotation, the right-hander only had two truly poor starts out of twelve games. Phelps again opened up the 2014 season with some rough appearances out of the bullpen, but he’s since been extremely efficient as a reliever, and showed last night that he can still remain efficient as a starter.

What’s made Phelps a bigger success than we expected were the strikeouts. Despite the unusual uptick in his rookie season, Phelps has continued to put together above-average strikeout numbers. The pitcher earns these strikeouts in a number of ways, as he sports a good changeup and a strong curveball, but Phelps does not have much of a swing and miss pitch.…

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