A few weeks ago in this space we discussed the value of “stuff” and how some pitchers can get away with missing their spots when they throw hard enough or if their pitches possess sufficient movement. Velocity, the great equalizer, we marvelled.
Carlos Santana of the Clevelands hit two home runs off Joel Carreno of the Blue Jays during the afternoon while Josh Hamilton smashed a huge bomb off Gavin Floyd of the White Sox. What do these pitches have in common? Their proximity to the geometric centre of the plate.
Like a trio of laser-guided missiles, these offerings from Carreno and Floyd homed in on the very centre of the plate with deadly accuracy. Floyd’s cookie to Hamilton rode a little higher in the strike zone while Carreno heeded the chorus of baseball fans imploring every single pitcher in the world to “keep the ball down.”
Floyd’s offering to Hamilton, a 0-1 fastball cruising in at a cool 89 mph, resulted in a majestic drive that landed well into the upper deck in right centre field, hitching a ride in the Rangers Ballpark jet stream. The ESPN broadcast was even kind enough to do some pitch fx work of their own!
Throwing a pitch like that to any hitter is dangerous, tossing such a lackluster offering to Josh Hamilton is a particularly egregious mistake. Take a look at his heat map against right-handed pitching since the start of 2010. There is no good place to miss against the 2010 AL MVP, but up and over the heart is generally bad for business.
Carlos Santana is not a power hitter of Josh Hamilton’s pedigree. His home runs, pedestrian by comparison, showcase a different set of skills. The first pitch, a 90 mph two-seam fastball that Carreno generously offered the Indians’ catcher, was pretty bad. The 3-1 count is not a good excuse for such a mediocre pitch.
The second Santana shot of the day came on a 1-1 curveball, a pitch that was too far up and “bisected the plate into two identical halves” for a hitter like Santana. Again, the Tribe’s patient catcher isn’t as prolifically powerful as Josh Hamilton but he does show a lot of power against right-handed pitching when the pitches come strolling right down Broadway.
Carlos Santana or Josh Hamilton, Omar Infante or Freddy Galvis. By the time a baseball player gets to the Major Leagues, he knows how to handle a pitch down the heart of the plate. Mistakes like these end up in the seats with alarming regularity. Throw it as hard as you like, if the location is this bad, it’s going to get banged.
Pitch fx info courtesy of Brooks Baseball, heat maps from ESPN Stats & Info