For those that haven't read it yet, Steve Berthiaume of ESPN wrote a decent enough article about Ben Zobrist this morning saying that he feasts on fastballs. Ok, cool enough. I think most around here know that Zobrist has much more success against straight fastballs than stuff that has a wrinkle in it. I took a bit of umbrage when Mr. B put on his analyst hat and attempted to coax some information out of Zobrist's games yesterday:
I've got him seeing five change ups from righties in the first game and another three from lefties. Game 2 saw him get another 2 from righties and only 1 from a lefty. My issue isn't to quibble with pitch classification outcomes, but to point to how absurd it is to say that Ben didn't even put a single one in play.
Perhaps it's just laziness on the part of the Worldwide Leader, but I would think they would have at least compared to the data. I'm using Joe Lefkowitz's Pitch F.x database for all this and you can download my workbook here: Zobrist v. Twins. First let's get an idea of whether or not the database has correctly identified these pitches:
The horizontal axis here shows how much the ball moved in (to the left for righties) or away (to the left for lefties). Generally a fastball (upper left for righties) is going to show similar inward movement as a change up. You can see this is pretty much ideal with the change ups being slower and showing similar movement from righties. I'm not going to touch on the left-handed changes as they're not clustered as nicely and it doesn't need to be done to make the point. Mr. Berthiaume stated that Zobrist didn't put even a change up in play in game one, but this clearly isn't the case as he very clearly clobbered a dinger off a change up from Jim Hoey in the first game. If you're curious, it's the faster homer in that cluster at 83.2 MPH from a guy that sits in the mid-90's.
Now let's take a look at where these pitches were in the strike zone:
The three balls are fairly obviously out of the regulation strike zone and that called strike sure looks like a pitcher's pitch being low-and-away to the left-handed hitting Zobrist. The two homers are about as meatbally as it gets as most pitchers want to keep their change low, not up and over the middle or middle-middle. The single was a little bit lower which probably explains the groundball that got through.
I don't know enough about Mr. Berthiaume to know if this was just him being sloppy or if he generally just shoots from the hip without doing the research, but I have to say that I will be taking his thoughts and ideas with a bit of a grain of salt from now on.
Lastly, I have Zobie seeing 76 change ups (close enough to what Steve had) coming into the double-header with only five being put in play -- for a run-scoring triple, three groundouts, and a popout. He's only swinging at about 37% of all change ups coming into these games. When he took a pitch, it was a ball roughly 65% of the time and a called strike the other 35%. When he did swing, he wasn't showing a whole lot of great results as he fouled off 32% of his swings and whiffed on a full 50%. Meanwhile, he had put a paltry 18% of his swings into play to that point. I'm sure Zobrist is having enough trouble with the change that we need to erase his good moments as well.