Monday, October 22, 2012

Ryan Vogelsong's work in the kitchen

Ryan Vogelsong has already had a career that is worthy of a movie script. Most folks already know the story of a guy who was originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants way back in 1998, was traded to the Pirates where he pitched four ineffective seasons with that team and saw his career come to a screeching halt after the 2006 season. He would be lost to the world for four major league seasons. He tried a comeback in 2010 and the Phillies signed him and waived him. The Angels picked him up that same season but he never saw major league action. And then the Giants gave him an invite in 2011 and the rest is the stuff of legend. His 27-16 record for the Giants with an ERA around three the past two seasons is enough to make that movie. But now it turns out that he could also host a cooking show on television because he was in the Cardinals' kitchen all night as he won his second straight gem of the NLCS.

Vogelsong was so good last year that it seems silly that he might change the way he pitched in 2012. But look at these heat maps (courtesy of on how he has pitched to right-handed batters:

The first thing you notice in the top heat map (2011) is that he lived on the outside part of the plate. Very little of his pitches were inside. While he still threw the bulk of his pitches on the outside of the plate in 2012, he threw much more inside to right-handed batters and also elevated the ball much more often.

It was this kind of change that helped him against several of the Cardinals top right-handed bats, the ones that do a lot of damage for the Cards. The first two are Allen Craig at bats, the second is against pinch-hitter, Shane Robinson and then two David Freese at bats, one of them a strikeout:

(courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

Note: The heat maps and strikezone plots are from the catcher's perspective. The right-handed batter would be standing on the left side of the pictures.

As you can see, Vogelsong lived in the kitchen of these right-handed batters. One batter's charts that weren't shown were Yadier Molina's. Molina grounded out meekly on a first pitch fastball inside. And then he did the same later in the game after a few more pitches seen.

Vogelsong really struggled coming down the stretch in August and September. He had a 2.36 ERA in the first half but that ERA ballooned to 6.32 in August and 5.34 in September. Part of that can be seen as his BABIP against exploded in those two months. After being in the mid-.250 range for most of the season, his BABIP shot up to .365 in August and .358 in September.

And there was some trepidation about him starting in the post season the way the last two months of his season started. But he finished the regular season with a couple of good starts and pitched well against the Reds in the NLDS in his only start.

Now after his two brilliant starts in the NLCS, he has a 2-0 record with a 1.42 ERA in three post season starts with a WHIP of 0.895. To say he is having a great post season run would be a vast understatement. And it simply adds a new story line to what has already been a movie-turning career. After his work in the kitchen against the Cardinals, a cooking show on television should not be far behind.

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