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Karstens Gets that Sinking Feeling

Jeff Karstens of the Pittsburgh Pirates starts the week with the second best ERA in the National League.  His pitching improvement helped put the Pirates in contention in the NL Central.  Karstens changed his pitching philosophy in 2011.  In the past, he threw mostly fastballs:


2008-2010 wOBA Pct
Totals 0.348 100
Fastball 0.381 46
Change Up 0.306 15
Curveball 0.249 16
Slider 0.343 15
Cutter 0.564 2
Sinker 0.402 6


Let me point out that PITCHf/x classifies that last pitch as a sinker, but given the velocity and spin, the pitch is more likely a two-seam fastball.  In 2011, Jeff features that as his main pitch:


2011 wOBA Pct
Totals 0.290 100
Fastball 0.318 23
Change Up 0.299 12
Curveball 0.176 14
Slider 0.266 17
Cutter 0.000 0
Sinker 0.319 34


Note that the fastball and hard sinker still present batters with the best chance for offense.  Batters are no longer able to sit on the fastball; Karstens has them guessing more.  In addition, Karstens uses the pitches in different situations.  In hitters counts, Jeff goes to the fastball.  During previous seasons, he would also feature the fastball in pitchers counts, but this season, he features the sinker when he's ahead.

Karstens isn't throwing his pitches any differently.  My changing the mix, however, he's forcing batters to learn new patterns, and while that happens Jeff thrives on the mound.


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