Previewing Weaver at Yankee Stadium

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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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

16 Responses to “Previewing Weaver at Yankee Stadium”

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  1. Xeifrank says:

    I think the wild-card in all of this will be the game time temperature when Weaver pitches and the effect that the cold will have on 1) the movement of his four seam fastball, and 2) the effect it will have on the ball being able to carry and the hitters to put good wood on it.

    vr, Xei

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  2. glp says:

    Since the new Yankees Stadium appears to be a great home run park for left handed batters, would it make more sense to have the left handed Kazmir pitch game two? Plus given the fact that Weaver didn’t pitch too well in two appearances there this year, Kazmir might be a better idea (he hasn’t pitched in the new stadium yet).

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    • Dave Allen says:

      Oh yeah, I had forgot that Kazmir is a lefty. I like the idea of having him go at Yankee Stadium, since, as you point out, it seems to really favor LHBs.

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    • KW says:

      A lot of yankees lefties are very good at hitting lefties. The main advantage of using a lefty would making Tex hit as a righty. Other than that tho, their lefties’ BA vs lefty pitching is almost even with them hitting right handed pitching

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  3. Steve says:

    i wouldn’t get too cute about it.

    you want your best pitchers to pitch the most games possible.

    Weaver is better than Kazmir.

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  4. Kampfer says:

    Weaver might be the better pitcher, but not by a wide margin.
    It maximizes Angels’ chance by starting Kazmir in place of Weaver, but either way I think the Yanks is the huge favourite to win it all.

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  5. Kris says:

    Start Saunders in game 2. Groundball pitcher (by Halo standards), lefty, ERA of around 2.55 in his last 9 starts during which he went 8-0. Including 8 1/3 vs the Yankees with 2 earned runs about 3 weeks ago.

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  6. Kevin S. says:

    If you start Kazmir in Game Two and Weaver in Game Three, you get Weaver again in either Game Six or Game Seven, depending on whether they got to a four-man rotation or not. Either way, he doesn’t dodge NYS.

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  7. Daniel says:

    Looks like Saunders is probable for game 2, which is the right decision, IMO.

    Saunders is a lefty, a decent groundball pitcher, and has been very good since his return from the DL. Kazmir definitely looked off against the Sox, enough to make me wonder whether there are lingering arm problems. Yes, Weaver is a better pitcher than Saunders overall, but the platoon advantage and GB/FB tendencies are probably enough to make it a worthwhile switch.

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    • ineedanap says:

      Yeah, Kaz’s slider really wasn’t working against the Sox. But he should be ok for the series.

      So it looks like the two GB guys, Lackey and Saunders, will start in HR friendly Yankee stadium. While the two FB guys, Kazmir and Weaver, will start marine layered (depending on start time) Angels stadium.

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    • Steve says:

      but is there any “platoon advantage” against the Yankees? the Yankees hammer lefties. this is the most underrated aspect of Cashman’s offseason maneuvers, replacing the lefties Abreu and Giambi with switch hitters in Swisher and Teixeira. yeah, i know, it’s not exactly rocket science to sign Mark Teixeira, but nonetheless this is what you’re left with if you’re a LHP:

      Jeter – R
      Damon – L
      Teixeira – R
      A-Rod – R
      Matsui – L, but hits LHP extremely well
      Posada – R
      Cano – L
      Swisher – R
      Cabrera – R

      there’s not much of an advantage there.

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      • Dave Allen says:

        Against a LHP those switch hitters will bat as RHBs and it is harder to hit HRs at Yankee Stadium as a RHB. When they are batting as LHBs they can pull fly balls into the short porch in right. As RHBs they would have to go the opposite way, which is harder, to get the short porch. I think this is why it would be better to have a lefty throwing in Yankee Stadium.

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  8. John F. says:

    Hm. Perhaps we’ll see a lower GIDP out of Jeter?

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  9. Gilbert says:

    “Surprisingly, this is case for Weaver’s.”

    Did you mean to say “this is NOT the case for Weaver’s”? The graphs seem to line up.

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  10. SteveP says:

    Kazmir being a lefty would only neutralize Damon. Matsui and Cano, the other two Yankee regulars that bat lefty, both have higher SLGs vs lefties than they do vs righties. Damon slugs lefites at a pretty decent clip too, though not as well as he handles righties. Of course the small sample size exception applies, but it does appear that Saunders ground ball tendencies would be the best attack to neutralize them.

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