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Entries in CC Sabathia (15)


The Fantasy Baseball Diary: Roy Halladay

Last year Roy Halladay had a down year compared to his standards. However, could you pick out 2012 in a lineup without the typical surface stats such as wins and losses?

Each row represents one year of performance between 2009-2012. 

If you guessed B, you’re correct.

For your reference A is 2011, C is 2009 and D is 2010.

I was surprised to see there wasn’t a big difference between last year and his three previous years. However, upon closer inspection there were concerning trends about 2012 when compared to average of the three years prior: the strikeout rate (K/9) decreased 6%, walk rate (BB/9) increased 66%, home run rate (HR/9) increased 49% and the velocity has decreased year-over-year from 93.74 mph in 2009 to 91.15 in 2012.After a subpar season, Halladay is looking to bounce back in 2013.

The biggest difference about 2012 was he generated more fly balls and less ground balls, which could be the reason for the increased number of home runs allowed.

Do more fly balls equate to more runs?

If we all can take out our sabermetric textbooks we’ll see ground balls are a pitcher's best friend. Ground balls create 0.05 runs per out, fly balls create 0.13 runs per out and line drives create 1.26 runs per out. Therefore, by increasing his fly ball rate, he increased his run expectancy.

Can Halladay generate more ground balls?

The decrease in ground balls coincides with the decreased effectiveness of the cutter, the pitch he throws 40% of the time:

It’s easy to point out the decline of velocity as the reason for the cutter becoming more hittable, but check out the location of the cutter in 2012 compared to the three years prior. Do you notice any differences?

Compare the differences in pitch location of Halladay's cutter:

The cutter was thrown more frequently up, in the middle of zone. Combine that with a decrease in velocity, it’s no surprise opposing hitters feasted on the cutter.

Will Halladay bounce back?

Prior to last year, Halladay was seen as the best pitcher in baseball because of his superior command, the ability to mix his pitches and to change speeds. Overall, the 2012 season was a mixture of bad luck, injuries and drop in ability, which created a perfect storm of mediocrity. The days of Halladay providing the value of a fantasy ace are no longer in play, but if he can locate his cutter he can still be a great pitcher.

Currently he’s going as the 20th (80th overall) pitcher overall at Mock Draft Central, right behind C.C. Sabathia and just ahead of Yovani Gallardo. That’s too early in the draft because there’s no upside with that pick.

For the pick to be valuable Halladay would have to hit Bill James’ projections:

There are still too many question marks to take him 20th, but if he slips beyond the 27th pitcher (C.J. Wilson), he’ll be a tremendous value.


Another CC- performance by Sabathia

The Yankees have given CC Sabathia a lead in each of his last five starts including last night's against the Tampa Bay Rays. Sabathia has given that lead back in each of those games including last night's 6-4 loss and the Yankee Universe has to be wondering if their team makes the postseason, how long can they last with an ineffective CC Sabathia?

CC has not been brilliant all season.

In his first 15 starts, the Yankees went 11-4 and Sabathia went 9-3 in spite of his 3.45 ERA. He surrendered 10 homers and struck out 105 in 107 innings. Batters hit .257 and slugged .400 against him.

Sabathia then went on the disabled list and didn't make his first start after the All-Star break until July 17. From that date through last night, a series of 10 starts, the Yanks have gone 4-6 and CC himself is 4-3 and the hefty lefty has a bloated 3.91 ERA. He's given up 11 homers in just 69 innings while striking out 64. But batters have hit only .234 and slugged .407.

One of Sabathia's problems has been the decreasing effectiveness of his fastball since the 2009 season and the numbers and the graphics tell the story.

Sabathia's 2009 fastball:

When you look at these graphics remember you are looking for colors in the orange-red range reflecting high batting success. As you can see here, batters were only hitting Sabathia's fastballs on the fringe of the strike zone. This resulted in a .248 batting average on a pitch that averaged 94.1 mph. He allowed nine homers among the 114 hits off the pitch. He recorded 64 whiffs on fasballs.

Sabathia's 2010 fastball:

We can see the orange/red colors more dramatically here in the strike zone as batters hit .262, a jump of 14 points. He gave up nine homers and 98 hits on the pitch that averaged 93.6 mph. He struck out 60 batters.

Sabathia's 2011 fastball:

Now instead of focussing on the orange/red end of the spectrum, start comparing the dark blue to green colors to prior years which reflect low batting averages and ineffective results. You can really see those colors disappearing as last season batters hit .286 against Sabathia's fastball that averaged 93.9 mph, about the same as 2010. However in 2010, 8% of the flyballs hit against Sabathia went for homers while in 2011 that number was up 10.9% as CC ceded 11 homers among the 91 hits he allowed. Strikeouts on his fastball were down to 52.

Sabathia's 2012 fastball:

Now I'm a tad color blind, but even I can see the scarcity of blue here as red has become the predominant color. You can also see by the location of the red in pitches down the middle, that Sabathia has not been effective in fooling or overwhelming batters in the heart of the strike zone. This season, batters are hitting .301 against the fastball that is now averaging 92.4 MPH. That's a jump of 53 points since the 2009 season on a fastball that is slowing down. He's allowed six gophers among the 74 hits, but he's also allowed 12 doubles as batters are slugging .488. He has 31 strikeouts on his fastball.

Understand that the diminishing speed of the Sabathia fastball also lessens the the impact of his other pitches as batters have a smaller differential and are less frequently fooled or can make adjustments.

One quick example of this is the Sabathia sinker: 

  • In 2009, Sabathia threw a total of 110 sinkers, primarily to righties (88). Overall batters hit .318 with no homers.
  • In 2010, the sinker became a big part of the Sabathia repertoire. He threw a total of 508 (righties: 417). Overall batters hit .326 with six homers.
  • Last season, CC threw 604 sinkers with 108 now to lefties. Overall, batters hit .313 with one homer as this proved to be a very effective pitch for him.
  • This season is another story. Thus far, he has thrown 496 sinkers with 20 per cent of them to lefties.  

You can see from the graphic below what happens when a sinker doesn't sink:

The graphic indicates very little downward movement and that means trouble. Overall, many of his sinkers have been stinkers as batters have hit .344 with seven homers to date on the pitch that averages 91.0 MPH.

The Yankees are getting Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte back, and it's not a moment too soon. They need additional consistent pitchers besides Hiroki Kuroda as CC searches for his mojo and seeks to improve his pitching grade above C-.


Comparing strike zones for Sabathia and Verlander

During last night's ALDS Game Three between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, Yankee manager Joe Girardi mentioned during his in-game interview that he thought CC Sabathia wasn't getting some borderline calls from home plate umpire Gerry Davis.  He also brought it up in the post-game interview saying of CC, “I actually thought he made a lot of good pitches tonight and I thought the zone was a small zone.”

So was CC getting squeezed? Was Justin Verlander getting a better strike zone to work with?  Or both?

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers and heat maps.

(Click image to enlarge)

The most noticeable difference here is the strikes Gerry Davis was calling for Verlander off the outside edge to lefty hitters.  Verlander also benefitted from a few strikes that were a bit high.  However, it's tough to say whether CC would have gotten any similar calls in that area since he didn't throw anything there that was taken by any Detroit hitters. The up and away strike to RHB also seems to have tipped in Verlander's favor, while CC was getting the low and away area.

So what do the numbers say?

Game 3 - Gerry Davis Strike Zone
Strike Zone Called Balls Out of Strike Zone Called Strikes
Sabathia 6 3
Verlander 5 10
Called Strike% In Strike Zone Called Strike% Out of Strike Zone
Sabathia 62.5% 7.3%
Verlander 70.6% 19.6%

So what does this tell us? Essentially, CC and Verlander missed out on about the same number of called strikes in the strike zone. However, Verlander greatly benefited from an expanded zone, getting more than three times as many called strikes on pitches outside of the PitchFX defined strike zone. Most of those pitches are likely the outside strikes to lefties you see in the above heat maps.

As for the percentages, CC was getting fewer strikes called overall in the strike zone. A 62.5% strike zone called strike rate is pretty low. During the regular season, Gerry Davis correctly called 76.8% of strikes in the strike zone, and 78.9% for left-handed pitchers. For whatever reason, he simply was not giving CC much of a zone to work with yesterday.

Granted, we are talking about a total of just 16 taken pitches in the strike zone for CC and 17 for Verlander. If CC was throwing to some borderline spots that Gerry Davis does not normally call while Verlander was not, it could explain the disproportionate results.

However, for strikes called out of the strike zone, it is pretty clear that Verlander was the big beneficiary in last night's game. Three of his strikes called on pitches out of the zone were deciding strike three pitches.