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Dukes and the Deuce

January 30, 2010

Reading the Hot Stove rumblings about Elijah Dukes and his problems with the curve ball got me thinking…  How bad can it be?  After all, he is a major leaguer.  So, I dug in to the 2009 season database to find out.

I retrieved every “payoff pitch” (ball put in play, strike-out, walk, interference) that Dukes faced last season.  He had 416 Plate Appearances, and 364 At Bats.  Then I categorized each payoff pitch by pitch type – Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider, and Cutter.  (The MLB data breaks pitch type into finer granularity, but there are accuracy issues. Also, some pitches are categorized as other, meaning the MLB spotters didn’t get the pitch type entered, or an intentional walk was issued. If you are really interested in the details, check out BrooksBaseball.net.) Here’s the results for Dukes’ 2009 season:

I know – I checked the numbers over and over.  Elijah Dukes hit .107 against curve balls last year, and .202 against sliders.

It seemed like a really low number, but to be sure I compared Dukes averages against the major league average.  Here is the result:

Elijah Dukes hit 100 points lower than the major league average against curve balls in 2009.  He slugged 200 points lower than the major league average.  Think about it – these results include AL pitchers hitting in NL parks during interleague play, NL pitchers hitting every day, young players playing so teams can cut payroll (see Pirates, Royals, Marlins), old players playing past their prime to goose their HOF numbers (see Gary Sheffield – NY Mets), and everyday starters.

I thought it would be fun to compare those results with Zimmerman:

and Dunn:

So it leaves you to wonder, without improvement, how long will Dukes play right field for the Nats?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2010 12:10 AM

    good stuff. thanks for putting me in your blogroll, i added you to mine.

  2. February 1, 2010 1:28 AM

    What if you control for count? Any hitter would do worse against a curveball on an 0-2 count than on a 3-1, where he can sit back and wait for a hanger.

    That’s the key for most hitters. There are very few, very special hitters who can consistently get hits off good major league curve balls. But then again, there are very few pitchers who can consistently throw their curveball for strikes when they have to. So most hitter’s deal with the curve by spoiling the good ones getting ahead in the count, not by being “better at hitting a curve ball.”

    My analysis says that Dukes slipped quite a bit in terms of plate discipline, saw many fewer hitter’s counts, and that explains the problem with curve balls.

    • February 1, 2010 2:09 AM

      At the end of the day you are exactly right. Dukes’ problem is that he isn’t fouling off the curveballs. He’s putting them in play or missing them all together. Good point regarding count. I have the info in the database. What would you like to see – a summary by count of ABs when the “payoff pitch” was a curve ball?

  3. February 2, 2010 7:09 PM

    There is obviously a lot to learn. There are some good points here.

    Robert Shumake Fifth Third

  4. February 6, 2010 1:23 PM

    Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

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