Why are hitters slicing up the Big Potato?

Jose Valverde is throwing the same mix of pitches he did last year, when he was perfect as a closer despite giving up his share of baserunners. However, hitters are far more aggressive and making far more contact with his pitches so far this year.

That’s what the pitch data on fangraphs.com is showing, at least.

You might remember that Valverde changed his mix of pitches last year, going from the near-even mix of fastballs and splitters he used in his first season in the American League back to the fastball-heavy arsenal he used for a lot of his career. On average, he has stuck with that so far this season, though his mix has gone up and down from one outing to the next.

According to the pitch f/x data through MLB.com Gameday, disseminated through Fangraphs, Valverde went from throwing fastballs with less than half of his pitches in 2010 to 78.4 percent in 2011. Through Sunday, he was at 76 percent this season. His splitter, which comprised more than half his pitches two years ago, was at 20.5 percent last year and 21.5 percent entering play Monday.

The difference isn’t in what he’s throwing. It may be in how he’s throwing it, though the velocities are generally the same. There’s definitely a difference in how hitters are reacting to it.

Fangraphs uses two different sets of data — one for Pitch f/x, another that takes that data and adds a human element from Baseball Information Solutions — but they say much the same thing. Hitters are swinging at a higher percentage of pitches outside the strike zone. In the case of the BIS criteria, it’s 36.1` percent of his pitches. And when they do, again according to BIS, they’re making way more contact than they did a year again, nearly 70 percent.

When they swing at pitches inside the strike zone, the contact rate is huge — 89.4 percent according to Pitch f/x, 87.5 percent according to BIS.

STATS Inc. breaks down swings and misses by pitch type. According to STATS, hitters missed on 23.1 percent of their swings against Valverde’s fastball, and 31.9 percent of their swings off the split-finger, including 63 percent of swings on splitters outside the strike zone. So far this season, they’ve missed on just 18 percent of swings off the fastballs, and 28.6 percent of swings off the splitter.

The overall contact rate, too, is at a career high. About 80 percent of the swings hitters are taking at his pitches make contact. His career rate is just over 70 percent.

Valverde’s strikeout rate has been dropping for several years, but he more than made up for it with the ability to get ground ball and fly ball outs. The rate of contact and the hit totals are suggesting he’s not benefiting from that like he used to. And as everyone has noticed, when guys get base hits off of Valverde and get on base, they usually end up on second. If they’re not there already, they can steal the base against him. Do that often enough, and guys won’t need big hits to get to him.

Does that mean he’s done? Not likely. Sure, he’s 34 years old, but that’s not exactly twilight for late-inning relievers.

Does that mean he has to approach American League hitters like he did the National League for his two seasons in Houston before he signed with Detroit? That might be the better question.

14 Comments

According to Morosi , Valverde´s selection of pitches against Dunn was way wrong:
“He displayed curious pitch selection during the outing: eight consecutive fastballs, followed by six consecutive splitters.”

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/mariano-rivera-brian-wilson-jordan-walden-closer-injuries-inconsistency-050612

Sounds like two things:

The stuff doesn’t have the nastiness he did last year and before. That and perhaps as the above comment mentioned, he falls in love with either pitch and sticks with it way too much.

He’s missing with his location. That pitch to Dunn, if you’d asked Adam where he’d like a pitch, he’d say right where Valverde threw it.

Man, it’s like we’ve got to club a pitcher to death to get two lousy runs. Raburn missed a double by an inch. That DP shot off Cabrera’s bat could have extended a big inning. Worse still, I think they could have hit that Beavan guy if he hadn’t been injured.

I know Rich there is just no logic to why these dudes can’t score runs. These pitchers we are seeing are hittable and they are making them look like the next coming of Cy Young? Inexplicable?

This is ridiculous.

You’ve got to be kidding me? Can we please get Dotel out of there? its pretty dang clear he is hurt or something? Geez! CAN anybody on this team close a freaking game! Can anyone hit the damn ball?

I shut it off. Couldn’t watch. You knew what was going to happen. Tonight, I can’t stand Jim Leland.

1st of all I think Leyland is a brutal manager, but how was this his fault? Benoit and Valverde were tired so he went with his next best. Coke then Dotel then Below when Dotel got into trouble. How do you put this on Leyland? What would you have done differently? Thrown Ballester???

It got to the point where it was punishing Dotel by keeping him in. After 2 walks, that should’ve been it. After the wild pitch, it certainly should have been it. Putting in Below with a tie game, nobody out, and a runner at second, you were basically asking Below to end the game mercifully.

There is not one damn enjoyable thing about watching this team! May need a Tigers break. 2008 anybody?

Maybe people will stop bitching about Valverde after watching Dotel blow it. There is no such thing as an automatic closer. Yes Valverde gives us a heart attack but he’s been getting the job done. No closer/reliever is perfect. It happens. That’s baseball.

Mr, Leyland and Valverde have a plan and we will just watch it play out. He has had three games in April where he has allowed three hits. Two of those outings were non-save situations. If you want to see a tough April look at what happened to him in 2008. The first three game series in May this year was against the White Sox. Very important. He pitched in all three games and we won two of them. Therefore, he had to miss the game last night. The innings pitched by the back end of our bullpen must be closely monitored. .

no need to panic yet, good news is our starting pitchers are back and throwing well, the runs will come and we will be able to consistently get 4-5 runs a game where Valverde or who ever is in there can give a little and we still win. Its May still! but I am starting to get mad over Raburn playing every single day, makes no sense, 3 SO last night

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