This morning, I included a link to a story about how Mike Trout faces a higher percentage of fastballs than any hitter in the league. That was very interesting, but once I paid a little more attention to that article, I noticed something else very interesting:
|Player||Pct. Fastballs Seen|
Take a look at that table I lifted from the post. Notice anything? Yep, Angel players are first, second, third and ninth in baseball. Considering that those four players are all ranked so highly and such different types of hitters, I've gone from interested to downright fascinated. I must investigate further.
Sure enough, through the May 29th games, the Angels as a whole have seen more fastballs, 62.9% of the time (which may not jive perfectly with the stats from the linked post as I got my numbers from FanGraphs and I don't know where his data is from), than any other team in baseball, and by a pretty healthy margin too. This is just a few players, it is systemic and I don't fully understand why.
My first thought was that Trout, Izturis and Callaspo all hit in front of Albert Pujols. They are all seeing more heaters than previously in their career, so that the presence of Albert might have something to do with it, but it doesn't explain the rest of the team. Seeing how Pujols is new to the team this year, this line of logic completely fails to explain why the Angels have faced more fastballs than most team in baseball for several years running.
Ah, I see, so this is an Angels thing. It must be because they preach an aggressive hitting philosophy, meaning they swing early in counts when fastballs tend to be thrown more often. Nope, try again. The Angels face the third-fewest pitchers per plate appearance in the American League, but right behind them in fastball percentage are the Twins and Athletics, the two teams who face the most pitches per plate appearance in the AL.
While that spoils my theory, it does set forth a new hypothesis: the Angels, like the Twins and A's, get more fastballs because their lineups all stink. It feels a bit old school to suggest that the Angels are facing more fastballs because pitchers aren't scared of them, but that sure seems to be what the data suggests. Aybar, Callaspo, Izturis and Wells all are about as fear-inducing as a kitten riding on a panda cub while sprinkling flower pedals and rainbows. Trout, well, he is an outlier of sorts, probably just because he's a rookie that teams perhaps chose to challenge early and will start to pitch differently now that they've seen the error of their ways.
Great, we've cracked it. So now what?
I don't know, to be honest. If anything this just confirms what we already knew about the anemic Angel offense. Hmm, this make me less interested now. Actually, it kind of makes me sad. Let's forget I brought this whole topic up.
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Yup, you get fastballs because you can't hit fastballs. And I'll bet a bunch of them are outside the zone, too, and these guys (excepting Trout) *still* swing at them! Wells is a surprise, though, since he can't seem to lay off the slider away.
Very interesting, maybe it's a little of both. We sucked so bad the scouting reports say to throw mostly fastballs, and no walks before Pujols comes to bat. Maybe the scouting reports are a little behind. Maybe we really need to find a consistent no. 2 hitter. I expect the numbers to change for Trout as he continues to dominate.