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May 10, 2013
The Longest Plate Appearance of the Week, 5/10
I’ve always loved long plate appearances. If one of the best thing about baseball is the batter-pitcher matchup, and one of the other best things about baseball is that it has no clock or appointed time for anything to end, then it stands to reason (sort of) that double-digit-pitch batter-pitcher matchups would be the absolute best thing about baseball. So each Friday, I’m going to highlight the most extended sequence of the seven-day period from the previous Thursday-Wednesday. If there’s a tie, I’ll pick the most interesting plate appearance.
Hopefully we’ll learn something over the course of the season, like whether a long plate appearance is typically a sign that a pitcher didn’t have his best stuff, or a sign that the hitter had a good approach. And maybe we’ll pick up a few things about how pitchers approach particular hitters, or how pitchers keep batters guessing when they've already shown them everything they have. Or maybe we’ll just enjoy watching the long plate appearance porn. That wouldn’t be the worst thing.
There have been six 13-pitch plate appearances this season. I’m going to leave those alone, because they came before the past week. The past week’s longest plate appearance lasted 12 pitches. Here’s the relevant info:
Longest Plate Appearance of the Week, 5/2/-5/8
1. 0-0: 77-mph slider
Sale has started Moustakas with a slider almost 70 percent of the times he’s faced him. It’s not hard to see why. Sale actually misses on the inside part of the plate, but Moustakas’ knee buckles as the pitch settles into the strike zone.
2. 0-1: 80-mph slider
Sale goes back to the slider, but this time he hits his spot and gets a swinging strike.
3. 0-2: 78-mph slider
Sale tries to get Moustakas to chase with another slider, but he holds up.
4. 1-2: 77-mph slider
Yet another slider, another missed target, and another knee buckle/flinch. Sale doesn’t seem to have great command of his slider, but Moustakas still looks uncomfortable against it.
5. 2-2: 92-mph two-seamer
After four pitches low in the strike zone and 80 mph or slower, Sale changes speeds and eye levels with a two-seamer up. Moustakas is late and fouls it off the other way.
6. 2-2: 78-mph slider
Back to the slider. Moustakas is in protect mode, and this one’s a little too close to take, but he manages to make contact.
7. 2-2: 92-mph two-seamer
Sale comes inside intentionally for the first time. Moustakas is ready for it, but he’s too quick.
8. 2-2: 79-mph slider
9. 2-2: 81-mph changeup
Now Sale tries a changeup, which he worked on throwing to southpaws this spring. While he’s thrown the changeup to lefties only 16 times this season (including this one), he’s gotten 11 swings, yielding six whiffs and three fouls. This one was a little too far outside, running the count full.
10. 3-2: 83-mph changeup
Changeup again, this time off the other edge of the plate. Moustakas has looked quick inside.
11. 3-2: 78-mph slider
Slider, again on the opposite side of the plate as intended. Although he didn’t allow any walks in 7 1/3 innings in this start, and he threw 80 strikes in 119 pitches (including a nine-pitch battle with Lorenzo Cain and an eight-pitch “battle” with Chris Getz), Sale’s slider location seems shaky. But he keeps throwing the thing anyway. Either he doesn’t think Moustakas can hit sliders wherever they’re located, or he’s awfully confident in his stuff (which would be understandable, since he’s Chris Sale and his stuff is superb).
12. 3-2: 80-mph slider
The final slider is probably the worst of the bunch, but it’s the one that works. It’s also the only pitch in the plate appearances that’s out over the plate. Even though Sale didn’t hit all of his spots, all of his misses (except this one) were on (or off) the edges of the strike zone. He also never threw the same pitch in the same location on back-to-back pitches.
Sale has now thrown sliders 56 percent of the time to Moustakas, versus 40 percent overall to left-handed hitters. Moustakas has hit .176 and slugged .277 against the slider in his career. It all starts to make sense!
Thanks to Rob McQuown for research assistance.