Randy Winn and a lesson in outfield positioning

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When the Yankees lose, we tend to look everywhere for someone or something to blame. Among the many perceived goats for last night’s game is Randy Winn, not just for his game ending strikeout, but because of his positioning on Jeremy Hermida’s go-ahead double in the top of the ninth. Winn was playing shallow (so was centerfielder Brett Gardner, but we like him), only to have the ball go over his head for a double. MJ Recanati went so far as to say Johnny Damon would have caught that ball, wondering if the 13-year big league vet had ever heard of no doubles defense.

I’ll give MJ a pass on that because I’m sure when he wrote that after the game he was just as livid as I was, but no doubles defense is the wrong call in that spot. Before we touch the philosophical side of outfield positioning, let’s first look at the facts. Below is Mariano Rivera‘s spray chart from 2009, courtesy of Katron.org

For further reference, here’s his 2008 spray chart as well. 2010 is a tiny sample, it does nothing for us.

Clearly, Rivera does not allow many balls to be hit to deep left field, just five total from ’08-’09. It’s the nature of the cutter. If a righty is going to hit it, he’s got to slap it the other way. If a lefty wants to hit it, he’s got to pull his hands in and muscle it out of the infield, hence all the bloops hits and shallow singles Mo gives up. Only three balls during the 2009 season were hit like the ball Hermida hit off Rivera last night, and you’re talking about 247 batters faced (130 lefties).

Furthermore, even if Mo wasn’t on the mound, just think about the situation. There were two outs in the inning, so the runners on second and third (Marco Scutaro and Darnell McDonald, respectively) were going on contact. They were going both going to score on a single, nevermind a double. You bring the outfielders in to play the percentages, cutting off the most likely event. With Mo and his amazing ability to induce weak contact on the mound, it makes even more sense to do that.

Sometimes though, you just gotta tip your cap and credit the other guy. Give Hermida some props for a nice piece of hitting. Seriously, look where this pitch was…

That’s a great pitch, a 90 mph cutter on the outer black. Hermida just went out and got it. It happens. Not very often, but it happens.

I know it’s easy to jump on Winn or the coaching staff or whoever for poor positioning on a play like that, especially since Randy kinda stinks, but in this case it’s not justified. He was positioned properly, Rivera executed his pitch, and Hermida just beat him. Simple as that.

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  • SF Yanks

    This is why I love RAB so much. I see pure logic behind every post.

    • http://twitter.com/YankeesGalaxy YankeesGalaxy

      agreed

  • rek4gehrig

    Me too. Pure logic, superb baseball knowledge and most important of all positivity.

    • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      “Pure logic, superb baseball knowledge and most important of all positivity objectivity.”

      The conclusion may be somewhat positive, but the author wasn’t looking for a positive outcome here. He’s not a cheerleader, he’s just looking at the available evidence and trying to react to that evidence reasonably.

  • Yankeegirl49

    Girardi said that’s how he wanted his outfield. “That’s how we play with Mo,” Girardi said. “We play the opposite side shallow because there’s a lot of jam shots.”

    • mko

      Just wanted to post that.

  • ShuutoHeat (Gardy = Thunder&Lightning)

    I’ve learned my lesson, I retract my little rant last night regarding Winn. But I will, NEVER EVER tip my hat and give proprs to Jeremy Hermida.

    Maybe when he pukes gold, pees out moonbeams and poops out rainbows at the same time. But not for last night’s hit, NEVAR.

    • crotch_jenkins

      But will you call him your daddy?

  • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

    He was positioned properly, Rivera executed his pitch, and Hermida just beat him. Simple as that.

    That is what you call grit. And heart.

    /that troll who never showed up before and will probably never show up again’d

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      He’ll never show up again because he’s been hit by…

      • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

        Figured as much. Also, TCWA.

  • http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/19/MAD_MAX.jpg gxpanos

    Nice post. My anger is assuaged by reason. Love when that happens!

  • JohnC

    What was frustrating was it looked like Mo had him struck out on the previous pitch, a cutter right on the outside corner, but he didn’t get the call. After that, I just had a feeling Hermida would get a hit. Thats baseball though. The real culprit was Joba though. Even with Arod’s bad throw, its inexcusable to cough up a 4 run lead there when you’re the setup guy.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Same, though I thought that previous pitch was borderline. I can see it being a ball. The pitch to McDonald was inexcusable though, it was in the zone and he swung at it. It was a double strike, strikes three and four.

  • Thomas

    My dad always had this complaint with Torre, he always commented how the OF was playing too deep and almost every hit off of Rivera was a bloop single that the OF couldn’t get to. Girardi/Thompson made the right call to bring in the OF, especially left, it just didn’t work out.

    Tip of the cap to Hermida.

  • http://newyorkstateofsports.com Matt

    Makes sense. Even before looking at the chart, I can’t remember the last time a lefty hit a tailing cutter over the left fielders head.

  • larryf

    Do we know for sure it was a cutter? Does Mo throw a fastball? Don’t laugh-even Wakefield throws one occasionally. It looked very flat and straight on the replay. Either a cutter that didn’t cut or a fastball.

    • Thomas

      Pitch f/x has it listed as a cutter, not the two-seamer.

    • http://www.teamnerdrage.com dr mrs the yankee

      The Yankee Stadium centerfield camera is off-center and so you never really get a good idea of how pitches are actually moving. It skews both the movement of pitches and the strike zone. That’s why a lot of things look like strikes/balls on TV but if you check out p f/x plotting they were actually in/out of the zone.

  • lordbyron

    Thank you!

  • http://www.itsaboutthemoney.net Jason @ IIATMS

    Great job, Mike.

  • Frank

    Great post Mike. It’s easy to blame the OF positioning as the reason they lost when the fact remains there were so many other factos that contributed to the loss, most of which were layed out by Ben this morning. It’s time to move on and hopefully the Yanks can play better tonight.

  • Chris

    Clearly, Rivera does not allow many balls to be hit to deep left field, just five total from ‘08-’09.

    Taking this one step further, in the past 2+ years, Mo has given up one (now two) hits to left hand hitters to deep left.

  • http://www.teamnerdrage.com dr mrs the yankee

    Thanks for posting this, Mike.

    Even if the positioning didn’t make sense it still wasn’t on Winn, anyone crying about that is just looking for a reason to blame him.

    Anyway the only person who would have caught that ball is Hideki Matsui with his Japanese rocket sneakers…

    • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

      or Johnny Damon because Johnny Damon can do everything

  • ADam

    Randy Winn just stinks… sorry, had to say it, not his fault for the game, It’s really on Joba for not getting out of the eighth… but Randy Stinks

    • JohnC

      Thats why I didn’t agree with the decision to have Cervelli bunt. I know at home you play for the tie, but he’s been their most consistent hitter with runners in scoring position. If you had Swisher and Posada coming up behind him, maybe I could see it. But not with guys like Thames, Miranda and Winn.

  • Lex

    Yanks bounce back tonight, book it!

    • Mike Z

      This!
      The Yankees play tonight, they win tonight!!!

      • Hangoverologist

        Das it!

        /Duncan’d

  • Zack

    Hmm, so do you think Girardi has these spray charts in his book? Maybe everyone should make fun of it so much.

  • delv

    great post.

  • Mister Delaware

    Not to be a pain, but the graph isn’t showing what its purported to be showing. From the website …

    “Every location is where the ball was fielded by a player, not where it landed.”

    The 2009 spray chart isn’t showing that Winn was properly playing where balls hit off Mariano were landing, he was playing where hits were being picked up. Unless you’re betting on a ton of shorthops, it seems reasonably safe to assume that most of those light blues in mid-short LF are actually ground balls through the 5-6 hole or LDs landing within ~50 of the IF dirt.

    • Mister Delaware

      (Although I guess this still speaks to cutting off the run from 2B. Sooo … I don’t know.)

  • Ramondo

    I just wanted you to know that this was an excellent piece work!!

  • Jon in CUO

    What frustrated me was that Mo’s pitch selection was too predictable. Even Kay commented on this right before Mo gave up the double: he was simply alternating pitching inside and outside. The PitchFX data confirms it: Mo’s pitch location to Hermida went inside-outside-inside-outside-inside-outside. Hermida likely picked up on Mo’s pattern and just guessed right.

    BTW, the data is here: http://www.brooksbaseball.net/.....yamlb_1%2F

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

      but he’s been doing that quite effectively for a loooooong time. I’ve always been amazed by how predictable-yet-effective Mo’s pitching style was. It just goes to prove that in a game where you have to hit a sharply breaking baseball moving at 90+ mph, execution>>>>keeping hitters off balance.

      I’m sure everyone here who has played baseball has had at-bats where they knew what was coming and not only couldn’t hit it – couldn’t actually swing at it, because the brain doesn’t work quickly enough. Players spend years training themselves to swing at pitches on the inner half and not swing at pitches out of the zone outside. It’s muscle memory – in your head you may know what’s coming and where it’s going, but you’re not up there thinking “oh it’s just off the outside corner but it’s going to cut back over”. In fact, you’re not thinking at all, because it takes longer to properly think that out than the .45 seconds Mo’s cutter takes to get to the plate.

      • Jon in CUO

        Sure, but even Mo has to change it up from pitch to pitch. You usually see him pound a lefty in a few times before going back to the outside corner for the called strike 3.

        I think it’s reasonable for a batter to plan his strategy between pitches, especially if he’s picked up a pattern. Sometimes guys strike out on a pitch right down the middle because they had made up their mind to look for something else. To me, it appeared that Hermida was looking outside, and that’s why he was able to drive it to left.

  • Hughesus Christo

    The spray chart looks like that because Rivera is generally throwing up and in to lefties. This pitch was put in exactly the place you would want it to be… if you’re on the Red Sox. Something wasn’t right there.