Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.
— Pedro Cerrano in Major League
Every baseball fan is familiar with the Pedro Cerrano archetype: the hard-hitting batter who blasts fastballs into the next county but whose knees turn to jelly when the pitcher snaps off a breaking ball. I caught part of Major League while flipping through the channels the other day and I began to wonder, who in the majors today most resembles the Cleveland Indians’ Jobu-worshipping, cigar-smoking slugger?
To answer that question, I turned to Fangraphs’ Pitch Type Values section. I found the batters (minimum 150 plate appearances) who have been at least one run above average per 100 fastballs seen while rating at least a half-run below average against both sliders and curveballs. Here are the 2011 Pedro Cerrano All-Stars:
The Chicago Cubs dominate this list, with half of the team’s Opening Day lineup making the squad. Soriano has been in a class all his own. He’s killing fastballs but whiffing so often against curveballs (25.6 percent, 11.6 percent MLB average) and sliders (20.9 percent, 13.6 percent MLB average) that he could solve the world’s energy crisis with wind power. On a related note, pitchers are throwing Soriano fastballs just under 48 percent of the time this season (one of the 10 lowest rates in the majors) and the Cubs have seen the second-lowest percentage of fastballs among MLB teams.
The Brewers and Giants also have two representatives on the Cerrano All-Star Team. Fittingly, Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore has the worst run value against curveballs among MLB hitters with 150+ plate appearances.
This is a fun list, but it’s obviously a volatile one given the small samples involved. Are there any hitters who have shown Cerrano-like skills over a longer period of time? Here’s the list of players dating back to 2002 who meet our earlier Cerrano All-Star criteria (1+ runs above average per 100 fastballs, -0.5+ runs below average versus breaking balls) while logging at least 1,000 plate appearances. These players were liabilities against breaking stuff, but did enough damage against the “straightball” to stay in the lineup:
So there you have it: Alfonso Soriano, captain of the Pedro Cerrano All-Stars. No word on whether any of these guys offered Jobu some Macanudos or Bacardi.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.