Was a changeup low the right pitch to Morales?

Late comeback not enough as Pineiro foils Yanks
It helps to have an Army medic nearby when you're choking
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Considering all the backlash, Javy Vazquez wasn’t all that bad yesterday. I know, sounds crazy, but it’s true. He allowed just two runs through his first five innings of work, both of which came in the third inning when Erick Aybar singled in Brandon Wood (who singled and stole second) before being doubled in by our old buddy Bobby Abreu. Javy allowed another run in the sixth when Kendry Morales doubled in Torii Hunter, and the fourth run charged to him came while he was sitting in the dugout; Al Aceves had come on and allowed a two out, worm burning single back up the middle to noted power hitter Maicer Izturis. The overall line isn’t pretty (5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), but his first five innings were just swell before his pitch count approached triple digits. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s nothing to cancel your season tickets over.

But what if that double to Morales could have been prevented through a different plan of attack? I certainly am not privy to the Yanks’ scouting reports and what not, but I thought the pitch selection to Morales in the 6th was a little questionable. Clearly, Javy missed his spot on the payoff pitch, which was the biggest mistake of all:

You can see where Jorge Posada set up, and where the pitch went. So yeah, he definitely missed his spot. It happens, But what if the spot and the pitch call were different?

In his first two at-bats, Vazquez threw Morales six fastballs, six changeups, and one slider. He went FB-CH-CH-FB-FB in his first at-bat, getting him to ground out on a pitch off the plate. Morales took a changeup for a strike and a fastball for a ball in the 3rd, but Bobby Abreu ended the inning mid-AB when he was caught trying to steal third. Javy went FB-CH-CH-CH-FB before retiring Morales on a slider way off the plate (foul pop-up to third) when he came back to the plate the next inning.

So after giving him first pitch fastballs in each of his two previous official at-bats, Javy broke out the change and got Morales out in front for a swinging strike one in the 6th. The second pitch was a slider well off the plate, further out than the one he popped up in the 4th. Javy came right back with another change, and again Morales was out in front for a swinging strike. So that’s two swings and misses on changeups in the first three pitches of the at-bat.

Pitch four: changeup in the dirt. Ball two.
Pitch five: changeup in the dirt. Ball three.

So now the count is full, and Morales has seen six straight offspeed pitches going back to his last at-bat. Vazquez and Posada went with a fourth straight changeup, which Javy left up in the zone and Morales did what good hitters are supposed to do with a belt high changeup.

I can’t help but wonder if a fastball would have been a better call in that spot. The effectiveness of the fastball-changeup combination is dependent on the separation between the two pitches, meaning the difference in velocities. Obviously things like location and arm speed matter, but in general it’s the separation. The last two changes Morales saw were clocked at 80mph, and Javy’s fastball averaged 89 on the day, topping out at 91. So basically you had a ten mile an hour separation between the two at that point in the game, which is almost exactly what you want.

So, at that moment, after three straight changeups and six straight offspeed pitches down in the zone, a high fastball may have made the most sense. The art of pitching is all about disrupting the hitter’s timing, and some high cheese after that much slow stuff changes both Morales’ timing and his sight level. An 89 mph fastball after so many 80 mph pitches doesn’t look like 89, it looks like 99. Morales isn’t the most disciplined hitter, so if you get it high enough, he might swing through it Melky Cabrera-style. As you can see, he definitely had no problems offering at the high heat last season…

(h/t Texas Leaguers)

If Morales takes the pitch, then you’ve walked him and set up the double play for a good but inferior hitter in Juan Rivera. That ends Javy’s day and he gets booed off the mound for walking a guy, but he leaves a very winnable 2-1 game.  If Morales tomahawks it into the rightfield stands, then you tip your cap to him.

Again, I’m no expert. But after getting a steady diet of offspeed pitches down in the zone and on the outer half, a fastball up at eye level may have been the way to go when trying to finish off Morales in the 6th. It’s easy to look in hindsight and say the pitch selection was questionable, but if Javy buries the change and Morales swings over it, then this post doesn’t exist. Such is the nature of day-after analysis.

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Late comeback not enough as Pineiro foils Yanks
It helps to have an Army medic nearby when you're choking
  • Frank

    Once the count got to 3-2, Morales should have been intentionally walked to set up the DP with Rivera.

    • Chris

      No. You don’t intentionally walk a guy that has 2 strikes on him.

  • Rose

    Did Javy just not have confidence in his fastball last night? Lack of control with it? That’s really the only reason you would call for a 4th off speed pitch to an MVP caliber player of Morales’ ability.

    • bexarama

      He said he didn’t have a good fastball working.

  • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

    If Javy hits his spot, we may not even be talking about this. However, I agree that he went to the changeup one too many times.

  • mike c

    welcome back to the AL easy Javy, now start pitching

  • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

    Has anyone ever done a study that proves (or disproves) the notion that the batter is more likely to hit a pitch that he has seen multiple times in the same game or even the same plate appearance? We all know what conventional wisdom tells us, but we also know how meaningful conventional wisdom actually is.

    • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

      Compared to his career averages, has anyone ever done a study that proves (or disproves) the notion that the batter is more likely to hit fare better against a pitch that he has seen multiple times …

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        That’s a good question. Would PitchFX be poring over stuff like this? Anyone?

        • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

          It would take a lot of studying.

  • Chris

    After seeing 6 straight offspeed pitches, wasn’t Morales most likely looking for a fastball? Especially with a 3 ball count, the typical move would be to throw a fastball.

    • DF

      This. You’re playing a game with the hitter. He knows eventually you are going back to the fastball, and he’s trying to guess when that is. Every changeup you throw, that increases his suspicions that your next pitch will be the fastball. At some point I’m sure this effect wears off, and maybe Javy hit that point, but I understand the thought process and I don’t really have a problem with it. He just missed the spot.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      That’s a good point, but I think the larger question is even if he’s looking for a fastball, it would be difficult for him to really nail one since he’s coordinated his reactions and judgments to hitting changeups. I feel I’m not explaining this well.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    I guess we’ll never know how good Javy Vazquez can be until Frankie Cervelli catches him.

    /Dead Horse beating’d

    • http://Youcan'tincreaseyourrange TLVP

      Made me laugh

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      At least you didn’t
      /IronHorse’d

    • Thomas

      I guess we’ll never know how good Javy Vazquez can be until Frankie Cervelli Jose Molinacatches him.

      /Dead Horse beating’d
      http://bombmatt.files.wordpres....._horse.jpg (safe)

      Fixed

  • A.D.

    I was thinking potential intentional walk when Morales first came up, so would have made sense to throw a sure ball.

  • mryankee

    I am really starting to dislike Javier Vazquez, he is screwing up the mojo. Guy is an absolute stud in Atlanta and he comes here and sucks. Now we have to hope Hughes can out pitch Kazmir and then Aj out pitch Feldman on Saturday. I have more faith in the latter two than I do in Vazquez at the moment.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      You really hated Randy Johnson here didn’t you?

      • mryankee

        I loved Randy Johnson when he was throwing 98 and dominate I hate Randy Johnson when he is getting lit up like I do any pitcher. I do not also feel bad for Javy that he was booed you go to the game pay at least 200-300 for tx plus concessions take a doay off work and watch that garbage?

    • Chris

      In 2008, CC Sabathia had an ERA of 10.12 after 5 starts. Drawing conclusions about how someone’s season will be after just 2 starts is pretty ridiculous.

      • mryankee

        Well when Vazquez pitches like he should I will be on the bandwagon.

        • http://www.allposters.com/IMAGES/19/MAD_MAX.jpg gxpanos

          I love this. Do you also change your opinion on players from inning to inning? At-bat to at-bat? Pitch to pitch?

          Javy has a track record, SSS, all that. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE wait until at least early June before you start getting on and and off bandwagons.

          • bexarama

            Do you also change your opinion on players from inning to inning? At-bat to at-bat? Pitch to pitch?

            I’m not mryankee but I can tell you that his answer to this is yes.

  • YankeeMatt

    Figured I’d throw my 2 cents in…

    1.) The pitch selection might have been fine had he hit spot. A fastball high is always a good bet though – apparently it’s the most difficult ball to hit.

    2.) To the poster who suggested a walk, I disagree. I think stats would show that unless your name is Mauer or Pujols, a walk almost always is a bad idea.

    3.) While it’s unfair to judge him after two starts, do any of us honestly see him putting up CC numbers down the road? Honestly, I’d be delighted if he was a consistently average AL East pitcher (4.5ish ERA). Anything beyond that is an awesome bonus.

    4.) It’s my opinion that whole booing controversy is a waste of enery. While I am sure the players enjoy the standing ovation, and probably could do without the booing, I doubt they really care what the fans think when it comes down to it. They are getting paid handsomely for a game. Who cares what some yahoo in the bleacher thinks? If I were in their shoes, I know I sure wouldn’t.

  • KTBIRDMAN

    Javy isn’t facing the bottom of the national league order anymore. He needs to hit his spots or we wasted a trade.

  • Andy Summers

    If this is the Javy overreaction thread, he looked better yesterday than he did against the Rays, K rates were solid just needs to cut the fly balls and cut down the walks.

  • Mike HC

    I think Javy will be fine once he starts locating is pitches better but he did not look good yesterday, even through five. It was ugly.