Earlier today I wrote about Vinnie Pestano’s success in two-strike counts and, in particular, his dominance of right-handed batters. While doing some research for the piece, I came across more great statistical nuggets that I could cram into one blog post, so I thought it would be worth following up with some more info on the Tribe’s star set-up man.
The first stat which I’ll share, the same one I tweeted out earlier tonight, blew my mind. In 2011, Pestano struck out 47.6% of the right-handed batters he faced, the highest rate of any qualifying pitcher in the three-years worth of data available to us. In fact, only two others pitchers in that time span eclipsed the 40-percent mark: Rafael Soriano (40.1% in 2009) and Craig Kimbrel (42.1% in 2011). And aside from Pestano and Kimbrel, in 2011, only five others pitchers were even above 30 percent, let alone knocking on on the door of 50.
Pestano’s success against righties was likely no fluke either. In 2010, albeit in a very small five-game sample, he struck out eight of the 13 right-handed batters he faced. Not too shabby.
What’s even more impressive is the fact that Pestano isn’t lucking into these strikeouts either, he’s blowing guys away. In his career, Pestano has struck out 78 right-handed batters, only 12 of which were called third strikes.
In fact, Pestano was arguably the most unhitable pitchers in baseball last year, at least for right handers. When righties took the bat off their shoulder against Pestano, they whiffed nearly half the time (48.2%). No other pitcher eclipsed the 40-percent plateau.
To fully appreciate just how untouchable Pestano was against righties last year, let’s take a look at some heat maps.
These images show the contact rate of right handed batters against Pestano (left), the pitcher with the second-lowest contact rate vs righties (Craig Kimbrel, center), and the Tribe’s next most untouchable pitcher vs righties (Tony Sipp, right).
These heat maps tell the whole story. Pestano’s dark blue region takes up nearly one-fourth of the strike zone, with only a sliver of yellow/red appearing in the lower-inside portion of the plate. And if the pitch is out of the zone, you can forget about making contact.
Even Kimbrel, the NL’s Rookie of the Year and a truly dominant force against righties, was at least somewhat human when he put the ball in the zone. Kimbrel’s dark blue zones, while significantly larger than most pitchers, primarily reside outside the stike zone (where you would expect them to be).
And Tony Sipp, whose impressive 28.0 swing-and-miss rate tied him for 20th out of 266 qualifying pitchers, isn’t even in the same ballpark as Pestano.
Hopefully Pestano can carry over this success into 2012, especially now that hitters have a year’s worth of film to study. But so far, no one’s figured him out.
In the first half of the 2011, right handers whiffed on 47.9% of their swings and reached base just 25.3 percent of the time. And as impressive as those numbers were, Pestano actually improved them to 48.5% and 17.2% in the second half of the season – no small task for a rookie who set his career high in innings pitched.
Follow Ryan on twitter @TribeFanMcC