Carlos Silva Learns

Among early season performances, there is one that is the most shocking.

Carlos Silva, vs left-handed batters:

2008: .348/.381/.555, 2.19 BB/9, 4.37 K/9, 44.5% GB%, 14.6% HR/FB%, .355 BABIP
2009: .380/.436/.718, 3.94 BB/9, 2.25 K/9, 48.5% GB%, 21.1% HR/FB%, .359 BABIP

2010: .083/.081/.083, 0.00 BB/9, 3.97 K/9, 36.7% GB%, 0.0% HR/FB%, .100 BABIP

Silva, who throughout his entire career has struggled mightily with left-handed hitters, has held them to just three singles in 37 plate appearances in his first four starts. And all three of those singles came in his last start. In his first three appearances, he was perfect against LHBs, as they went 0 for 22 against him.

His line against right-handers isn’t all that much different than it has been in the past, even in his last two seasons. Nearly the entirety of the success he’s had to date can be credited to how well he’s gotten lefties out, which is just something he’s never been able to do before.

So, naturally, the first thing I did was take a look at his pitch selection. Silva’s lived primarily off of his two-seam fastball for most of his career, which is why he’s posted such large platoon splits. The pitch works against righties, but not against lefties.

Sure enough, Silva has finally decided to abandon his fastball-only approach to pitching. He’s thrown his sinker just 56.5% of the time (compared to 83.1% last year), and has replaced with his change-up, which he’s now thrown 30.7% of the time.

The change-up has the smallest platoon split of any pitch in baseball, so it would make sense that Silva relying more heavily on it would fare better against southpaws (and, at the same time, see a decrease in his GB%, which he has). To dig further, I asked resident pitch f/x guru Dave Allen to look at Silva’s pitch usage by handedness, and he found that Silva is throwing his change-up 40 percent of the time to LHBs this year, and produced this neat little graph to demonstrate how effective it has been.

He is pounding the down and away corner with change-ups and getting easy outs off of it. His change-up has been +7.7 runs through four starts, according to our pitch type linear weights, making it the most effective change-up in baseball to date.

Now, obviously, lefties won’t post a .100 BABIP against Silva all season, so there’s inevitable regression coming. But it does look like he’s finally learned that he can’t just attack them with two-seam fastballs and hope for the best. If he keeps pounding lefties with his change-up, he might actually stick in the Cubs rotation this year.

We hoped you liked reading Carlos Silva Learns by Dave Cameron!

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Bryz
Guest

The change-up has the lowest platoon split among any pitch? Then can you explain why I’ve gone through my entire childhood being told that change-ups area only useful against opposite-handed hitters? (I believe you more than these people in the past, since you likely have data to back up your argument. I’m just curious why they might have argued against you).

Joser
Member
Joser

Did they tell you “only useful” or “most useful”? Because if you had other pitches that were better, you should be throwing them to same-handed hitters. But those pitches were likely to be worse than your changeup when thrown to opposite-handed batters. The changeup makes opposite-handed hitters no better against you than same-handed hitters (facing that pitch), which is an asset; but unless it is your best pitch (or you have another pitch that shows similarly low platoon splits) you should be throwing something else to same-handed pitchers.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Bryz, these are just numbers pulled out of my ass, but here’s a hypothetical platoon split:

OPS against a RHP
2-seamer:
vs LHB: .800
vs RHB: .600

change-up:
vs LHB: .600
vs RHB: .700

curveball
vs LHB: .800
vs RHB: .600

You have to work off your fastball, so you have to throw it to lefties to set up your change-up. You don’t have to throw a change-up to righties. The curve or slider are much better secondary pitches against them, so you opt for them instead.

It’s not that change-ups are useless against righties. It’s just that, against them, there are better options, so most pitchers don’t throw it too often.

Bryz
Guest

I suppose my “only useful” comment wasn’t exactly clear. What I heard from TV analysts* was that if you were a RHP, your change-up should only be used as a weapon against lefthanded hitters. Using it against righthanders would be bad, because the pitch “broke into the hitter’s swing” or something like that.

* These guys are starting to lose my approval. I feel like the play-by-play announcers are guys that don’t do their homework on certain players, and the color guys are all former players/coaches that are convinced that everything they know is correct.

@ Dave: Yes, I did know that pitchers would use a curve/slider against same-sided hitters rather than a change-up because the breaking pitches were more effective. Thanks for the explanation with the ass data.

Ken
Guest
Ken

I’ve never understood that either, and I was a pitcher for most of my young life. I don’t understand, especially if you only have 2-3 pitches, why you would take one of your pitches away just because of the handedness of the batter? It seems to me like you’re unfairly handicapping yourself based of some archaic notion that certain batters would hit that pitch better based off of what dominant hand they use to bat with. It’s like people who tell me that “lefties have natural movement on their fastball”. It just seems to me like something old baseball people started and people have echoed without checking the facts first.