I don't like losing to the Padres. The '98 playoffs were very difficult times. Let's just move on to the pitching breakdown.
Bud Norris - What was Bud throwing last night (besides a combination of gas and meatballs)?
Strikes / %
Swinging Strikes / %
Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball)
37 / 62.71%
6 / 10.17%
8 / 66.67%
2 / 16.67%
11 / 52.38%
5 / 23.81%
Notice a new addition to the info over at Brooks Baseball: linear weights. This "corresponds to how many runs were likely to score on a particular pitch based on average run expectancy when each pitch was thrown and what happened as a result. Negative scores indicate more effective pitches."
So, judging by this data, Norris' slider was his most effective pitch, followed by his fastball and then his change. This also helps illustrate why his change isn't used more; it's simply not as good a pitch as the other two. A more valid question could be why is he using the fastball so much and the slider so little? That's a tougher sell.
The slider was definitely working well, diving away from righthanded batters with a -5 MPH differential from the average fastball. He wasn't able to throw it very effectively for a strike, but it's also a pitch that should be diving off the edge of the plate, forcing hitters to swing over the top. Of course, if hitters know he's just going to pump in another fastball, why swing at the slider? That's a problem Norris will run into down the road.
His four-seamer was very effective and he threw it for a surprising number of strikes. That might explain how he got six swing-throughs on the pitch. His four-seamer also had good sink on it, compared to past starts. But, if both pitches were effective, why did the Padres hit him like a pinata? Let's look at two at-bats, the third inning home runs to Scott Hairston and Chase Headley.
Three pitches, three swings, contact with two of them. The pitch that was hit a mile was a changeup up in the zone on the outer half of the plate. After pumping in two sliders, Norris threw a similar pitch without a similar pattern of break. Basically, the change was slow but not different enough for Hairston to miss. The location wasn't bad, but I wonder about the pitch selection.
As for Headley's at-bat.
One pitch, a fastball in almost the same exact spot that Hairston hit his home run. Again, it wasn't a bad location. We're not talking about a mistake pitch here. Headley was probably sitting on a first-pitch fastball and was able to extend his arms on it. It seems less Norris' fault than Cash's for setting up that target again. If the pitch was supposed to be lower, then yes, Norris command could have played a factor. I'm just not sure that was the case.
* As clack astutely pointed out, I forgot to check if Headley was a switch hitter. So the fastball was high and tight instead of outside.
We talked in the past about pitchers getting beaten on mistakes. That was clearly not the case here, as the only mistake Norris made was throwing his third-best pitch to Hairston and throwing a first-pitch fastball to Headley. Neither can be considered bad form, just unlucky. Which is why it's too soon to relegate Norris to the bullpen. As much as he's frustrated me this season, he's still got a ways to go before he is considered a failure as a starter.
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