August 10, 2012
The Best Pitches Thrown This Week (By Jered Weaver)
I remember this Angels-Yankees game from 2009 because MLB.tv decided to let me watch it. I was in the blacked out area for Angels games, which was unfortunate, because I had just convinced my boss to pay for my MLB.tv so I could watch Angels games. And then this game played with no restrictions. I thought maybe it was where I was sitting in the building, that I had found a 10-square-foot pocket of Southern California that was somehow outside the law, like a tiny baseball Reservation. I tried for a month but never found it again. That’s why I remember this game.
The Yankees’ lineup that day had Derek Jeter, followed by eight hitters who batted left-handed or switch-hit. This mattered because Jered Weaver was pitching, and everybody knew that Jered Weaver was lethal against righties but vulnerable to lefties, who hit .276/.335/.477 against Weaver that year. Against lefties that year, Weaver was a below-average pitcher. Against righties, he was an ace. Overall, he was not an ace.
The story of Jered Weaver’s ever-increasing success is a weird one, because against half the league Jered Weaver is exactly the same pitcher he has always been. Right-handed batters must just be baffled by this whole thing. OPS by righties against Weaver:
But against lefties, he has become something else.
To put that last number in perspective, Randy Johnson, who was so difficult to hit from the left side that superstar players refused the challenge, allowed a .571 OPS against lefties. He had two seasons with a lefty-opponents’ OPS lower than .479. (League-wide changes in run-scoring would apply here, but gimme this one. It’s Randy Johnson, for pete’s sake.) It’s not that Jered Weaver has had more success against lefties as he has improved; it's that his success, all of it, every bit of it, has come from his ability to get lefties out better than any $4 million-per-year LOOGY.
On Monday, Weaver pitched against the A’s. He allowed four hits, no walks, and struck out nine in a 117-pitch shutout. He got 17 swinging strikes, a season high. There were five lefties or switch-hitters in the lineup, and against Weaver they went 1-for-18, with a single. The best pitches this week come from those 18 at-bats.