Sunday, May 4, 2014

Masahiro Tanaka: Start Six

Masahiro Tanaka's sixth start of the season for the New York Yankees saw him going seven innings again, this time against the Tampa Bay Rays at home in New York. Tanaka gave up eight hits and three runs, along with two home runs. He didn't walk anyone and struck out five.

To start, let's look at the home runs he gave up. The first chart is the at-bat to Desmond Jennings in the first inning that ended with a home run.

 Jennings is a right-handed batter, so Tanaka went low and away with two different pitch types to start the at-bat, but then went up and in (though obviously in the middle of the plate enough for Jennings to extend his arms) with the fastball. It isn't particularly surprising that this pitch turned into a homer. What about in later at-bats against Jennings?

 Tanaka got Jennings to hit the ball twice more off of him, both for outs, and both lower and closer to the center of the plate than the home run ball. He also very clearly wanted to keep the ball away from him, and when he did, he was successful.

Wil Myers hit a home run off of Tanaka later in the game, and did it in a one pitch at-bat.
 Myers is also a right-handed batter, so this pitch was away, and nearly out of the strike zone. Compare this to how he pitched him the rest of the game:
 Tanaka had no intention of throwing inside to Myers save for one pitch that was very far inside. he kept the ball mostly high and towards the center of the plate, where he had success. He also got him to hit the ball and turn it into outs twice, just like Jennings.

Here is Tanaka's spin and speed chart from the game:
 One slider had particularly odd spin, but the chart seems relatively normal. There wasn't the large schism between splitters this time when it came to spin. Here is where Tanaka located his pitches on average throughout the game:
 He kept his splitter very low, but was barely able to get his curveball in the strike zone. This is higher and more arm side than it has been all year, and it has been a high and arm side pitch all year. The slider location is one of his better of the year, though his sinker was very arm side. His result locations show that almost everything happened arm side.
 His hits allowed were the most arm side, and he got whiffs when he was able to go glove side and low, suggesting his slider and splitter being very effective.

The following is a very basic chart that shows where he released the ball, and where his average pitch, regardless of type or result, was located.
 Clearly, he was an arm side pitcher, and worked low slightly more than high, but not dramatically so. Here is how he worked depending on the handedness of the opposing batter:
 He threw higher to lefties, and of course, more arm side. To righties, it looks like he couldn't keep the ball away from them consistently, or at least worked both sides of the plate to them. I think this has a lot to do with the sinker and curve being extremely arm side and his slider and fastball only being nominally glove side. He would probably be more effective if he pitched more on the glove side of the plate.

I was curious as to why he threw higher in the zone to lefties than righties, especially when you would think the splitter would be more of a weapon against lefties than righties. So these are the splitters he threw to lefties, labelled with results:
He obviously kept everything down the middle or arm side, but about half of them stayed in the middle or high in the zone. This lead to a couple of hits, but a couple of outs as well. Not surprisingly, none of these turned into whiffs. Instead, he got whiffs when he went at the bottom of the zone, or below it, but also threw it in the middle part of the plate.

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