I only managed to catch an inning and a half of tonight’s Red Sox victory (not by choice this time) and I figured I’d take an in-depth look at what I saw. Specifically, Manny Delcarmen’s pitch selection through his 1-2-3 inning of work. His first batter was as easy as it could get: one pitch, one out. Bobby Crosby bats right handed, Manny Delcarmen throws right handed. This is always to the pitcher’s advantage because the ball tends to move towards the end of the baseball bat. So Delcarmen simply went with a fastball away and got Crosby to swing at it. Easy out.
The next batter was Eric Patterson, a lefty hitter. Delcarmen started him off with a fastball, down and away. This is a good starting pitch because it moves the ball away from the hitter’s wheelhouse and again keeps the ball at the end of the bat, where outs are more likely. Manny followed that up with two balls, both down. The first was a breaking ball away, probably trying to get him to chase an off-speed pitch thrown to the same area of the plate that he had just seen called for a strike. He missed his location, but he had a pitch to waste after all. When he missed with that, he went back to the fastball and went inside on Patterson. My guess here is that he was mostly working to keep the eye level of the batter focused down to make any future pitches thrown higher harder to hit. He then proceeded to do just that, getting Patterson to watch a strike up and in. He then went for the strikeout with a curveball down and in, keeping Patterson guessing as to what part of the plate he would throw to. He fouled it off, so Manny just went back to the fastball going up and inside to get him to ground out to the shortstop. The key to success here was constantly moving between outside and inside, up and down.
The last batter was Adam Kennedy, another left-handed batter. Delcarmen missed with his first two pitches, both fastballs that were too high. He generally kept to the inside part of the plate. I’m not sure why he started inside this time, although keeping the ball high and inside takes it out of the lefty’s wheelhouse, minimizing the chance of a big hit. He stayed up with the next pitched and this time he hit his spot, going outside this time. I don’t know the batting percentages for Kennedy, but my guess is that he has more of an uppercut style swing that makes throwing low to him dangerous (think David Ortiz and how dangerous it is to throw low and inside to him). The count was now 2-1, kind of a hitters count, but not really. The last pitch was just a straight fastball down the pike, probably designed to challenge Kennedy and see if he could hit it. While he made contact with it, he didn’t get nearly enough it, rolling a grounder towards first that LaRoche was able to field cleanly and flip to Delcarmen for the final out. This at-bat was mostly about staying out of the power areas of the hitter’s zone. It was also a reminder that the best hitters in baseball fail 7 times out of 10, and this was just one of those times for Adam Kennedy.