The Yankees have a curveball problem

2011 Draft: High School Arms
The RAB Radio Show: May 4, 2011
That's a split, but I can't find a picture with a curveball grip. So sue me. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

I wrote this post late last week, after hitting coach Kevin Long made some comments about pitchers throwing the Yankees a lot of offspeed pitches and their need to adjust. He was right of course, the Yanks were getting a ton of soft stuff, but that wasn’t a problem when it came to sliders and changeups. They were still hammering those pitches. The curveball though, that was a different story.

At the time, the Yankees were dead last in the American league at 2.22 runs below average for every 100 curveballs thrown their way, and after last night’s game that number sits at 2.24, still last in the AL by a mile (the Twins are second worst at 1.50). Other teams are aware of this weakness and have been pretty much all year (at the time of last week’s post, the Yankees saw more curves than all but one other AL team), and it was on full display last night. Brad Penny threw 19 curves out of 98 pitches on Tuesday (19.4%) compared to just 15.8% curves in his first six starts. Same deal with Justin Verlander on Monday; he threw 24 curveballs out of 127 pitches (18.9%) after throwing just 16.8% curves in his first three starts. This goes back through the weekend and last week as well.

Luckily the Yankees face Max Scherzer tonight, and he doesn’t throw a curveball at all. He’s a fastball (63.3%), changeup (21.3%), slider (15.3%) guy and the Yanks’ still rank among the league’s best against each pitch. As I showed in the post last week, these struggles against curveballs are not an ongoing thing with his group of players, it’s been isolated to this season. So I guess it’s time to ratchet up the pitching machine, set it for curveballs, and go to town in the cages. They just have to work their way out of it, that’s all.

2011 Draft: High School Arms
The RAB Radio Show: May 4, 2011
  • Monteroisdinero

    Luckily, Freddy Garcia pitches for us now. We also have some hitters who have trouble catching up to a fastball.

  • OldYanksFan

    “We also have some hitters who have trouble catching up to a fastball.”

    That’s true, but when that happens, you have guys ‘guessing FB’ and getting ready to swing early. I think that’s why we are less successful against off-speed stuff.

    It seems to me, Po and Jeter are sitting FB. ARod has never been good against off-speed stuff with movement, especially a curveball.

    I think this is a major issue, especially as we start seeing the same teams for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th time. They will catch on, and it could hurt our ability to score.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Being able to throw 2 pitches of different speed for strikes in any count will give most teams trouble.

      But not for Bartolo who throws 2 pitches-same speed!

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      ARod has never been good against off-speed stuff with movement, especially a curveball.

      List of different types of pitches ARod is not good against:


      [End of list]

      • Accent Shallow

        Anecdotally, His Rodness seems to have trouble with guys who bring the gas.

        I don’t recall offspeed stuff giving him trouble.

        • Mister Delaware

          Anecdotally, I remember a certain 94.1 mph fastball from Joe Nathan he turned the F around.

          • Ori


      • ROBTEN

        ARod: good at baseball.

      • Tom Zig

        Well in a small sample he is pretty bad vs the changeup and cutter.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Damn-Maris can’t hit the offspeed stuff either and still stuck at 2HR’s on May 4th. ARod could, at his current pace, easily hit 60 this year.

    35 will be fine though.

  • Jose the Satirist

    I’m really confused on Fangraphs. Go to the splits for March/April here:

    The Yankees are positive in both wCB and wCB/C on that page. Then select May for the months split. That is also positive for both those stats. Yet you go back to the full season and the Yankees are negative for both wCB and wCB/C?

    It seems there is a bug reversing the sign of wCB and wCB/C on Fangraphs. I would take the data with a grain of salt because it could very well not be calculated correctly right now.

  • JFH

    Perhaps they will petition Jobu for help.

  • Cuso

    The irony is that Scherzer is no walk in the park for them to face.

    If he’s accurate low in the zone with his sinking change tonight, fuhgedda bout it.

    Lefties can’t hit that pitch at all when he’s on.

  • Tom Zig

    Last year it was the changeup, this year its the curve.

    • Cuso

      tonight, like I said above, it was the changeup