There’s an awful lot you can learn from the way that a player gets pitched. Often, you could just look at the player’s statistics, I suppose, but let’s make believe we live in a world without publicly-accessible performance statistics. All right, so, now we’re imagining. Last year, no regular player saw a higher rate of fastballs than Ben Revere. Why would that be? No regular player saw a lower rate of fastballs than Josh Hamilton. Why would that be? First basemen saw far, far fewer fastballs than American League pitchers. If all we had was this information, we could still interpret it, figuring out clues as to how the hitters are perceived.
Of course, it’s not just about fastball rate. You can look at fastballs, or you can look at pitches in the zone, or you can look at types of pitches in particular parts of the zone — there’s a lot you can examine. Players get pitched according to the scouting reports that teams have on those players, and since we can’t look at those scouting reports, we can use the information we have to examine them indirectly.
One thing you can do is look at a guy’s pitch patterns. Yet another powerful indicator of something can be a change in a guy’s pitch patterns. What that would suggest is a change in a guy’s ability level or approach. Yasiel Puig, for example, was pitched differently in 2014 from how he was pitched as a rookie. That’s because Puig evidently corrected a weakness against inside fastballs. If we look at drop in rate of fastballs seen, no hitter saw a bigger drop between 2013 and 2014 than J.D. Martinez. There’s a pretty simple explanation: Martinez changed his swing mechanics and became an out-of-nowhere slugger. So pitchers found themselves having to be more careful.
At the other end, Mike Trout saw an increase in his fastball rate. Opponents tried to seize a perceived weakness against high heat. Allen Craig saw an increase in his fastball rate. Opponents identified that he was missing bat speed and couldn’t get around on hard pitches in. And yet, of all the players, no one saw a bigger year-to-year fastball-rate increase than Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez was productive, and Ramirez just signed a big contract with the Red Sox, but clearly, pitchers saw him differently in the season recently completed.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.