In Game Two of the upcoming ALCS, Jered Weaver will face the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Facing the Yankees anywhere is a tough task this year — they lead the league in HRs and BBs, but are in the bottom five in strikeouts. Usually players, and teams, with lots of walks and home runs also strike out a lot. Not the Yankees, they have all the good without the bad. At least part of the reason for all those HRs is that the new Yankee Stadium seems to be quite HR-prone, particularly for left-handed batters.
So Weaver is up against a tough opponent. The added issue for Weaver is that he is one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in the game. Over half of his balls in play are fly balls, second among starters to Ted Lilly. The big culprit is his four-seam fastball, off of which 62% of balls in play are fly balls. Those fly balls are especially dangerous against a team with the Yankees’ power in a park like the new Yankee Stadium.
When I looked at Lilly I saw that his four-seam fastballs are higher up in the zone than the average four-seam fastball, probably explaining his fly ball rate. Surprisingly, this is not the case for Weaver’s.
What is striking about Weaver’s fastball is the amount of “rise” it gets. That is, the number of inches less it drops than expected from gravity — due to its backspin — as it travels to the plate.
It looks like even though his four-seam fastballs end up at about the same height as average four-seam fastballs, the added “rise” causes them to be hit in the air more often. An added benefit of this is that he has a high IFFB%, but the HRs will come, too.
Jered Weaver is a very good pitcher who gives the Angels a solid chance to win in Game Two, but his fly ball tendencies will make him prone to HRs against a team with lots of power in a HR-park. The Angels really didn’t have much choice, though; Scott Kazmir gives up tons of fly balls, too, so switching Kazmir to Game Two and Weaver to Game Three in Anaheim, a larger park, would make only a slight difference.
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