Thursday, September 20, 2012

An Open Letter To D-Rob

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Dear Dave,

Can I call you Dave?  Is that cool?  First off, let me just say that I'm a huge fan.  I've been a fan of yours ever since you first came up.  Love the escape acts, love the high socks, love the strikeouts, love the whole deal.  But you haven't really looked like yourself on the mound lately and I think I know what the problem is.  It's the cutter.  Look, I get that Mo is a great pitcher and a great teammate, and has the reputation of passing on the secrets of his cutter to any pitcher who wants to try and learn it.  As a Major League Baseball player, I imagine getting advice from Mariano Rivera on throwing a cutter is equivalent to mere mortals sitting at the right hand of Zeus while he rules the cosmos and tosses lightning bolts down on people, and I certainly don't blame you for trying to drink from that fountain of cutter knowledge.  But it's just not working for you, bro.  You need to cut out the cutter and get back to what you do best.

You see that?  That's your location chart for every cutter you've thrown this year.  That's a lot of pitches in the meaty part of the strike zone and a lot of pitches that aren't even close.  Condense that location plot down to just August and September and looks even worse:

And condense it down to just yesterday's outing and I think you see where I'm going with this:

Now far be it for me, a lowly blogger and non-baseball player, to question your decision to throw that pitch so much or your execution of the pitch when you do throw it, but I can't help but think you'd have more success if you shelved the cutter and went back to the 4-seamer/hook combo.  Check this out:

That's your pitch location plot for every curveball you've thrown this year.  It looks a little sloppy, but that's what's great about it.  I know I probably don't have to tell you this because it's your pitch, but that curveball is a thing of beauty.  It buckles knees, breaks hearts, and misses bats.  It's the bees' knees, dude.  If it was a chick, I'd take it out for dinner and let it order the most expensive thing on the menu plus dessert.  Sure, it typically winds up nowhere near the strike zone, but that's usually after the hitter has hacked at it and missed because he thought it was going to end up in the zone and didn't anticipate all that late movement.  And when you're setting it up with your 4-seam fastball and its great late life, it's a thing of beauty.

If you're still reading, let me show you one more thing.  It's your monthly pitch selection breakdown:

April- 30.8% 4-seamer, 14.1% curveball, 53.5% cutter
May - 52.4% 4-seamer, 19.0% curveball, 28.6% cutter
June - 57.8% 4-seamer, 19.6% curveball, 22.5% cutter
July -  26.1% 4-seamer, 18.1% curveball, 54.3% cutter
Aug. - 15.4% 4-seamer, 14.2% curveball, 68.6% cutter
Sept.-  07.7% 4-seamer, 18.7% curveball, 71.0% cutter

Now only you know this for sure, but it looks to me like you started off the season with a pretty good mix, then leaned heavily on your 4-seam fastball when you were hurt and getting back to full strength after coming off the DL.  You probably didn't have a good feel for your stuff after being out, so you worked yourself back up to the cutter, and if you did that makes perfect sense to me.  Once July rolled around and you were feeling 100%, you started going back to the well with the cutter, and since then you've really started to set up camp at that well.

The problem is that your cutter ain't Mo's cutter.  Mo's cutter is so good because he can paint either corner with it whenever he wants to.  That's where he lives.  Mo doesn't throw cutters that catch a lot of the plate.  Check your first cutter pitch chart, you throw a lot of cutters that catch a lot of the plate, and very few on the corner.  You might disagree with me here, and I'm sure there are other who will too, but it just doesn't look like you command the cutter as well as you command your other pitches, especially your 4-seamer and curveball.  You get more swings and more swings and misses on those pitches.

If you don't agree with my assessment, check the numbers.  After yesterday you're sporting a 7.00 ERA and a 3.54 FIP in September, both your highest monthly values of the season in a month where you got regular work.  In 9 IP this month you've given up 15 hits and 2 HR, and there's still over a week left.  That's not you, dude.  That's not you at all.  You aren't walking anybody, which is a nice change of pace, but those walks are being replaced by hits and those hits are leading to a lot of runs.  I don't think it's any coincidence that you're producing these very un-D-Rob numbers in the same month that you're throwing cutters almost exclusively.

Like I said, I know pitching alongside Mo and learning from him can be exciting, and I don't blame you for getting a little caught up in it.  But Mo's like Highlander, there can be only one of him, and there's also only one of you.  So be you, dude.  Be yourself.  Be the Dave Robertson we all know and love.  Keep the pant legs hiked up and the high-sock swag flowing, and start going with your 4-seamer and curveball more.  Those are your bread and butter pitches, and those are the pitches that other teams can't hit.


Brad Vietrogoski

P.S.- If you found any of this helpful, I still haven't been to the New Stadium.  If there's anything you can do to score me some tickets, that'd be awesome.

(All charts and pitch selection percentages courtesy of Texas Leaguers)

1 comment:

george s said...

Very interesting analysis. The drop in Robertson's 4-seamer is shocking, given how effective a pitch it's been for Robertson.

-george s