Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Is Casey Janssen Outsmarting Everybody? (With gifs!)

Probably not.  But let's get our imaginations going anyway, no?

Desmond Jennings struck out in the above still.  He did not swing the bat once.  According to Pitch Trax or whatever the fuck you wanna call that thing on the corner of the screen, there is one pitch inside the strike zone, and four outside of it.  Typically, when a player doesn't swing the bat in a given plate appearance that sees four of five pitches outside the strike zone, that player will saunter to first base.  In this case, Jennings walked back to the bench, shaking his head in disbelief at striking out.

Basically, Casey Janssen has been getting some calls, and it's part of the reason why he's gotten something like 25 straight batters out.  And it wasn't just this at-bat either.  Next hitter was Kelly Johnson:

That's a bad call.

So what's my point?  Well, let's get some pitch f/x up in this shit.  Marty Foster had a horseshit zone Tuesday night, as evidenced here, but it was consistently horseshit, and for both sides.

Is it just possible that Janssen noticed Foster's aggressive zone from the bullpen and decided to exploit that? Let's have a look at several other appearances.

May 6: Mike Everitt has a pretty consistent zone, and does a pretty good job if you consider the loose definition of the strike zone that pitch F/X has, with their typical zones for LHH and RHH.  I want to focus  on LHH zone for this one, specifically, the little shaded zone that is technically a traditional ball, but tends to get called a strike more often than not.  First the zone:

and now Janssen, vs. LHH-- who happens to be Kelly Johnson, again.  Johnson struck out looking, naturally:

Nothing egregious, but nibbling effectively for certain.  When you consider the zone for the rest of the night, those calls are pretty consistent.  If it was a strike on the first pitch, it may as well be a strike on the third and fifth pitches as well, especially if it's been a strike all night long.  And now for a huge gif of the three strikes in question.  Just because.  I've left in examples of body language.  Note not only Johnson's severely rustled jimmies, but also Janssen walking off the mound, very cocksure of what he has just done to a former friend and teammate.


April 15:

Tony Randazzo is pretty consistently wide against lefty hitters, and Janssen gets himself a couple of calls.  First, Randazzo's LHH zone, then Janssen's zone v LHH, with two pretty generous called strikes:

May 10

Last one.  Janssen threw 11 pitches in this outing, and got 7 called strikes.  Good lord.  Dana Demuth's zone against lefties:

Again, pretty stretched out.  Janssen, against Fielder, Martinez and Dirks-- all lefties:

I'll point out that this game was played outdoors, in Detroit, in the rain, in early April.  It was probably fucking cold and the umpire may very well have been ready to just go home.

Janssen has been so effective to this point that he's thrown an average of 12 pitches per appearance, which doesn't exactly lend to a whole lot of data.  Eliminate swings and called strikes that are very clearly good strikes (i.e. takes), and we're getting a little short on evidence either supporting or opposing my theory.

I suppose the absence of certain data is probably a bit glaring.  An umpire with a more conservative zone should theoretically lead to Janssen being slightly more aggressive within the strikezone, but I don't really see that much in the rest of the pitch F/X data for Janssen's appearances.

Ultimately, it's hard to say whether or not Janssen is doing all of this purposely, or if he's just getting a few extra calls here or there.  It's certainly possible that he's seeing some bigger-than-normal zones and is expanding his zone, but I don't think there's any real way of quantifying it for sure.  

I do plan on keeping my eyes peeled, since Janssen is pretty much must-see TV right now.  Considering a perfect game, of which, 23 have ever happened in the majors, is 27 consecutive outs, Janssen is doing something pretty special so far this season.  Janssen has retired 25 straight batters, leading back nearly a month ago.  Yeah, maybe he's getting a bit of help from the umps, but maybe, just maybe, we've got ourselves a nerd with some pinpoint accuracy, a sharp eye from the bullpen, and the wherewithal to exploit an edge.

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