As many of my days start, I wake up to, or am greeted shortly after waking by a text message. These messages, at one time, came from my lovely and beautiful girlfriend, with whom I have now spent three years (Happy Anniversary on Tuesday!). More recently though, as I live in Chris Broussard’s iteration of sin, I wake up next to my girlfriend, occasionally with her telling me to shut the alarm on my phone off.
Nowadays I receive my early morning text messages from Matthias. All too often he’s responding to a late night complaint I’ve lodged about the Mariners, or lodging one of his own. We spend parts of some of those days commiserating about being Mariners fans in general, and sometimes we’ll engage in a text-based discussion or debate about something inconsequential and then start the cycle over at the end of the day. As the Mariners game began on Monday I was out grocery shopping, because of aforementioned girlfriend, and was blessed with the beginning of this message, only to receive the balance of the message later on in the evening:
The last two, as you may remember if you watched Monday’s game, came after Hamilton’s second inning home run to center field that deflected off Michael Saunders‘ glove. Saunders put himself in a good position to catch the ball, but ultimately couldn’t hang on. The pitch was a changeup, and the location was poor, as evidenced by Gameday’s Pitch F/X.
The pitch was in the lower half of the strike zone, and technically on the outer half of the plate, but relative to big league pitching, this ball was basically right down the middle. Aaron Harang gave Josh Hamilton, a guy who has been a bad hitter for most of the past 12 months, a very good pitch to hit. That may not seem like a huge deal until you consider the hyper-aggressive path that Hamilton has taken to his present mediocrity (80 wRC+ coming into Monday would look like hell in a Mariners corner outfield position at this point).
Among 161 qualified hitters this year, only Yuniesky Betancourt, Adam Jones, Pablo Sandoval, and Alfonso Soriano have swung more often than Hamilton. He’s less egregiously bad as it relates to pitches outside the zone, but he still swings at the eighth most of such pitches. One would expect that a guy that swings so much, and especially at so many pitches outside the strike zone, must have decent contact skills to remain in the big leagues. Not the case with Hamilton, who has the 14th worst contact rate of all players in baseball.
Throwing Josh Hamilton strikes used to be bad because he’d punish those strikes with regularity. Hamilton’s .171 ISO coming into Monday’s action, especially while playing his home games in a pitcher’s park, suggest that he’s still got the ability to punish mistakes, but the methodology for pitch location selection against Hamilton, and perhaps even the definition of a mistake has changed. Throwing Josh Hamilton strikes used to be bad because he hit strikes hard. Throwing him strikes now is bad because he’s prone to swinging at balls, and prone to missing them with regularity.
That in mind, Harang gave up a base hit to Hamilton just an inning earlier:
When assigning blame, or even just directing snark, there are two key pieces of information missing from this Pitch F/X data: Where the pitch was supposed to be located, and who made the decision. Nonetheless, in a world that assumes that all plans were executed to perfection (the perfect liberty to take to enable snark) it appears that Mike Zunino and Aaron Harang felt that the best plan for pitching to Josh Hamilton was to pour fastballs and changeups directly down the middle of the plate.
Let’s just blame Harang because we like Zunino, and Harang is old and looks weird.