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Sep 08

Max Scherzer: About Last Night (September 07)

Before I discuss the day that was for Max Scherzer, let’s take a moment to think about what kind of pitcher throws a 3-1 slider with a runner on third after the first slider of the afternoon ended up hitting the backstop and said pitcher’s location was iffy at best.  That’s kind of gutsy, right?  It makes sense to throw a slider in that count.  The batter, David Wright, is clearly looking for a pitch to drive to score Curtis Granderson from third.  After the rocky start to the afternoon, a veteran like Wright knows that a big hit-another deep fly, perhaps thinking home run here-will give the Mets confidence.  Maybe the rest of the afternoon didn’t exactly go as planned for Scherzer, but how he handled business in the first after the misplay by Jayson Werth on Granderson’s fly ball was impressive in the micro view.  Of course, if starters were measured by first innings alone, Jon Niese had another stellar outing.  Umm, well, let’s just move along shall we?
So, the home runs to Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson, and Yoenis Cespedes?  People never think of Nationals Park as a hitter’s field, but in the summer months the ball really carries, and on Monday afternoon it seemed as though anything hit in the air had a chance.  Eh.  I don’t think that’s what happened here.  Scherzer left every single one of those pitches up and out over the plate, and the aforementioned Mets didn’t miss.  Conforto drove a pitch belt high and outside to left-center, Johnson drove a changeup to right-center, and Cespedes drove a fastball just over Werth’s glove into the flowers decorating leftfield.
I’ve begun to wonder if Scherzer is a little too brazen with his pitch location.   Work with me here.  He’s striking out over 10 per nine innings.  He throws mid-90s, can mix speeds, and has as nasty a slider as there is in the game.  He’s also the ace of the staff.  He can get anybody out at any time on any count.  Why not challenge batters and make them hit his good stuff?  Maybe I’m giving the unquestioned ace status to Scherzer without really looking too deeply.  I’m like Scully in the X-Files.  I believe.  Ron Darling had an interesting observation after the Cespedes homer.  He mentioned how Scherzer’s arm came in too low and the ball just didn’t have any sink.  I haven’t broken out my protractor to find Scherzer’s arm angles, but Darling would know about these things.  With a windup as complex as Scherzer’s, it certainly makes sense that he would lose his arm slot.  After watching for this, I could see a few instances where his arm angle was different.
Thanks, Ron!  Will look for this in the future.
In Scherzer’s last start against St. Louis he survived by striking out 10 despite allowing 11 hits.  Remember how I wrote about how the Cardinals chased Scherzer out of the strike zone, helping him out?  Well, that didn’t really happen on Monday.  The Mets swung at only 22% of Scherzer’s offerings out of the strikezone, though the team did chase the slider 40% of the time.  The Mets forced four full counts from Scherzer yesterday, and Niese was the big winner by fouling off pitch after pitch in the second to work a full count from 1-2 and forcing Scherzer to throw 10 pitches for his strikeout.
Sometimes this game is hard.
It was another so-so start for Scherzer, and Darling has me now wondering if this is an issue with mechanics brought on by fatigue.  He’s now thrown 190 innings in 28 starts, and with an average of six innings per start will reach his career high of 220 innings set last season.  I’m spitballing here.  I’d imagine most pitchers are tired by this time of the year, so hey, an educated guess.
On the afternoon, Scherzer tossed six innings and allowed five earned runs on seven hits while striking out six.  It was also the third time in his last nine starts where Scherzer has allowed three home runs.

Below I’ve listed the particulars for yesterday’s game.

Pitches by Type:

##  Pitch Type Count     %
##    Changeup     7  6.86
##   Curveball     8  7.84
##      Cutter     1 0.980
##    Fourseam    61  59.8
##      Slider    24  23.5
##        <NA>     1 0.980

Pitch Type by Inning

##            1  2 3 4  5 6
## Changeup   0  3 2 0  1 1
## Curveball  1  2 2 3  0 0
## Cutter     0  0 0 0  1 0
## Fourseam  12 14 9 7 12 7
## Slider     5  6 1 3  4 5

Pitches by Outcome:

##                           Changeup Curveball Cutter Fourseam Slider
## Ball                             5         5      0       19      6
## Ball In Dirt                     0         0      0        0      1
## Called Strike                    0         1      0        7      4
## Foul                             0         0      0       20      2
## In play, no out                  0         0      0        1      2
## In play, out(s)                  1         0      0        7      3
## In play, run(s)                  1         0      0        3      1
## Swinging Strike                  0         0      1        4      5
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)        0         2      0        0      0

Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat

##           Changeup Curveball Fourseam Slider
## Double           0         0        2      2
## Flyout           1         0        3      1
## Groundout        0         0        2      2
## Home Run         1         0        2      0
## Lineout          0         0        2      0
## Sac Fly          0         0        0      1
## Strikeout        0         2        1      3

Pitches by Zone Location

##  Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##   58.82         41.18     21.86     66.30

Note: Zone % is the number of pitches thrown that were considered in the strike zone; Out of Zone is the number of pitches thrown out of the strike zone; and O-Swing % and Z-Swing % relate to those pitches out of the zone and in the zone that were swung at by batters.

Calculations: I calculated the strike zone based upon the formula provided by Mike Fast in a post for Baseball Prospectus. O-Swing % = Swings at Pitches Out of the Zone / Total Pitches Out of the Zone, and Z-Swing % = Swings at Pitches In the Zone / Total Pitches In the Zone. Fangraphs has a great explanation regarding plate discipline, and I encourage you to read about it if you get a chance. After enjoying my site first, of course.


Pitch Types by Zone Location

##  Pitch Type In Zone Out of Zone O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##    Changeup       2           5      0.00     0.500
##   Curveball       1           7     0.286      0.00
##      Cutter       0           1      1.00       NaN
##    Fourseam      42          19     0.105     0.714
##      Slider      14          10     0.400     0.571
##        <NA>       1           1      0.00      0.00

Strikeouts by Description

##                           Curveball Fourseam Slider
## Called Strike                     0        0      1
## Swinging Strike                   0        1      2
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)         2        0      0

Standard Batting Lines Against Max Scherzer

##             Batter PA AB H 2B 3B HR K BB HBP SF    BA   OBP   SLG Pitches
##  Curtis  Granderson  3  3 2  2  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.667 0.667 1.333      11
##      Daniel  Murphy  3  3 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      13
##       David  Wright  3  3 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      16
##       Erik  Goeddel  1  1 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       5
##     Jonathon Niese  1  1 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      10
##      Kelly  Johnson  2  2 1  0  0  1 1  0   0  0 0.500 0.500 2.000       6
##       Ruben  Tejada  1  1 1  1  0  0 0  0   0  0 1.000 1.000 2.000       3
##    Travis  d'Arnaud  3  2 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  1 0.000 0.000 0.000      10
##      Wilmer  Flores  2  2 0  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      11
##    Yoenis  Cespedes  3  3 2  1  0  1 1  0   0  0 0.667 0.667 2.000      11
##               <NA>  3  3 1  0  0  1 0  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 1.333       6

Pitches Velocities & Movement:

##  Pitch Type  Min Mean  Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert
##    Changeup 84.1 85.5 86.9   -8.019     1.176       -7.263       -0.1784
##   Curveball 77.2 79.0 81.1    2.532    -1.131        3.192        -2.404
##      Cutter 89.2 89.2 89.2  -0.7430     3.632       0.3813         2.308
##    Fourseam 92.2 94.9 97.5   -7.130     7.681       -6.239         6.796
##      Slider 83.1 86.7 88.8    1.137     1.862        2.074        0.8065
##        <NA>   NA   NA   NA       NA        NA           NA            NA

Note: Horizontal movement denotes average distance, in inches, from point of release to home plate (+ moves away from a right-handed batter) while vertical movement is average distance, in inches, from release point to home plate. As measured from the back point of home plate, the x-axis (horizontal) runs to the catcher’s right, the y-axis points at the pitcher, and the z-axis (vertical) runs upward.

Note 2: The corrected horizontal and vertical are based upon a paper by Alan M. Nathan from the University of Illinois nd account for the elimination of both gravity and drag. The corrected averages more accurately reflect the true movement of the baseball.


Average (MPH) Velocity for Pitches by Starters Last Night:

2015-09-08_Max Scherzer_BoxPlot

Below are the pitch locations by both batter stance (left or right) and by pitch type.

Pitch Location by Stance:

2015-09-08_Max Scherzer_Stance

Pitch Location by Pitch Type:

2015-09-08_Max Scherzer_Pitches

Pitch Locations by Batter:

2015-09-08_Max Scherzer_Batters

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