Wednesday Afternoon Wallpaper: Darvish, Strasburg, Pujols, and More

by Jason Epstein

Jason Parks of Basball Prospectus is pretty sure that last night he saw Yu Darvish throw a new . . . and incredibly effective pitch against Yankee batters.

. . . Because of my familiarity with the pitcher, I’ve been able to identify his deep arsenal, one that features both a two- and four-seam fastball, a cutter, two type of curveballs, a slider, a splitter, and a straight-change, but up until tonight’s game against the Yankees, I hadn’t noticed that he was throwing what I’ve seen described as a shuuto, or a reverse slider.

I’m not certain of the classification—Gameday and Brooks Baseball classified the pitch as a two-seam fastball. I’ve seen Darvish throw numerous two- and four-seam fastballs, but I’ve never seen a fastball that moves with such violent horizontal run as the offering Darvish was throwing last night. The pitch (when thrown correctly) will start on the plate and run away from left-handed hitters and bore into the hands on right-handed hitters with intensity. It’s almost impossible to square up, and the combination of movement and velocity make it look like a slider, only with the extreme action tailing arm-side rather than glove-side.

I was confused until the seventh inning, when catcher Mike Napoli appeared to be using a different sign for the pitch than the standard fastball, placing an L between his legs when he wanted the pitch with the extreme arm-side run. The announcers referred to the offering as a two-seamer, but as I stated, the movement was way more extreme, as was evident by the catcher’s pre-pitch setup and anticipation of the pitch (he expected run). . . .

Baseball Analytics’ David Golebiewski highlights how Darvish was able to make the normally patient Yankee batters, particularly those batting left-handed, “try to poke at pitches off the outside corner,” with little success.

Via Scott Boeck of USA Today, what is it like to receive a Stephen Strasburg fastball where the sun doesn’t shine? Ask umpire Greg Gibson, just as soon as he comes up for air.

David Schoenfield of Sweet Spot is starting to believe that Albert Pujols is no longer, well, Albert Pujols.

Of course, Pujols isn’t a machine. He’s human and he’s now 32 years old. In 2008, he posted a career-high 1.114 OPS. Since then, his batting averages have fallen from .357 to .327 to .312 to .299. His on-base percentage has dropped from .462 to .443 to .414 to .366. His slugging percentage declined from .653 to .541 last season.

That’s a strong trend — three consecutive seasons in which he wasn’t quite as good as the year before, with 2011 in particular being a noticeable decline. Was he still a terrific hitter? Yes, he ranked 10th in the NL in OPS, 11th in wOBA. But the Angels didn’t sign him to be the eighth or 10th or 11th best hitter in the league. They signed him to be the best, even at 32. And Pujols still hit 37 home runs last season, and that was despite missing 15 games with a fractured forearm. So you factor in that injury, a slow start to the season (.245 in April, two home runs in May), a career-low .277 average on balls in play and maybe it was just one of those seasons.

(Schoenfield might have added too that Pujols’s 2011 numbers do not include a monstrous postseason, featuring series OPS totals of .909, 1.469, and 1.046.)

Never mind that Pujols has yet to hit a home run in the Halos’ first 17 games and posts an anemic .617 OPS, Schoenfield cites Pujols’s declining walk rate and increasing rate of chasing bad pitches over the past few seasons as the greater areas of concern.

The Common Man at the Platoon Advantage goes roster-by-roster to find the players who, while on the 25-man roster all month, have seen the least action. Who are these forgotten souls?

The Reds hosted “Bark at the Park Day.” There was no word from the club whether any Romney supporters brought their dogs via the roofs of their cars or Obama backers brought theirs covered in A.1. steak sauce and wrapped in aluminum foil.

EDIT: Courtesy of Ben Nicholson-Smith at MLB Trade Rumors, Michael Pineda suffered a tear in his right labrum and will undergo arthroscopic surgery next week. The early speculation is that he will not return to the Yankees until sometime in 2013.

Right Field

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