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July 18, 2014 6:00 am

Working the Count: The Tanaka Postmortem


Noah Woodward

Can we find anything that should have been predictive in Masahiro Tanaka's pre-injury performance?

“I want to apologize to the Yankees organization, my teammates and our fans for not being able to help during this time.” —Masahiro Tanaka, 7/11/14

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Which pitchers like to hold pitch types in reserve for their second and third trips through the order?

Last week, Clayton Kershaw put on quite a show. He struck out 15 Rockies out of the 28 he faced, and he threw a first-pitch strike in 21 of those at-bats. He faced each Rockies hitter (with the exception of Corey Dickerson) no more than three times, and he set down all but one of those hitters every time.

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Which hitters have the quickest and slowest bats, according to PITCHf/x?

A few weeks ago, I set out to delve into PITCHf/x data in order to identify the league’s quickest and slowest bats. We typically think of “slow bats” as those belonging to hitters who have long swings and have trouble catching up to hard fastballs. Timing is a vitally important aspect of hitting, and the few miles per hour that set major leaguers apart from lower-level professional players can be the difference between solid contact and a swing-and-miss.

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The book on Abreu said that he'd struggle against inside heat. Has the book been right?

When the White Sox signed Jose Abreu for $68 million over six years, responses ranged from optimism to skepticism about how the Cuban rookie’s swing might fare in the United States. In this year’s Baseball Prospectus Annual, for instance, we wondered whether Abreu possessed a swing that could “be tamed by well-placed fastballs on the inner half.” Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook included another knock: “Some scouts worry about his double toe-tap stride and average bat speed, fearing they will inhibit his ability to catch up with premium velocity on the inner half.”

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Can we detect signs of impending injury in the start BEFORE a pitcher's fateful outing?

Last week, I wrote about Jose Fernandez, his attorney’s comments about the cause of his season-ending injury, and warning signs that preceded his exit from his final start of 2014. After I wrote that article, I began to think more about the righty’s second-to-last start. Could this injury have been prevented a week earlier? I also took to heart a popular criticism of the “injury zone” research supporting that article. Some argue that it doesn’t identify injury risk in time to actually prevent a ligament from tearing, and that it instead picks up on injuries that have already occurred.

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Does PITCHf/x suggest that the Marlins' injured ace should have been pulled from his final starts sooner?

In a statement released last Friday, the attorney for injured ace Jose Fernandez—who underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament the same day—accused the Marlins coaching staff of not picking up on an “unanticipated change” in his delivery caused by discomfort in his second-to-last start preceding the surgery.

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Does pitch sequencing affect the size of the called strike zone?

Link to Part One

From time to time, we’ll hear that a hitter was called out on strikes on a pitch that was “too close to take.” This statement implies that the pitch wasn’t a strike, but that it had a shot at being called one.

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Searching for evidence of the existence of the make-up call.

On June 5th, 2013, Mike Aviles came up to bat in the top of the ninth with his Indians trailing the Yankees by two runs. With Joe Girardi watching anxiously and Mariano Rivera warming in the bullpen, CC Sabathia was working hard to go the distance. Sabathia had been roughed up a bit, but he was commanding his fastball well. He had managed to keep the complete game in reach by allowing only one walk and striking out eight hitters through as many innings.

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Investigating the young Marlin's top-secret approach at the plate.

Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich looks like he’s 14. But you never notice once he steps in the batter’s box. Yelich doesn’t take a willy-nilly approach to hitting. In fact, his mature approach might earn him the title of “student of the game” (whatever that means). In a recent interview with FanGraphs’ David Laurila, Yelich had this to say on his strategy at the dish:

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