This is a debate that isn’t going away, and one that could certainly lead to another scuffle this afternoon. Clearly Choo, and the rest of the Indians, feel as though he has been unfairly targeted this season. Maybe that’s so, but for right now let’s focus solely on Saturday night’s scuffle.
To determine Sanchez’s intent, let’s answer a few questions…
1. Was Sanchez trying to throw inside?
There’s no denying the fact that Sanchez was trying to come inside on Choo. As you can see from the screen grab below, Royals catcher Humberto Quintero is clearly set up on the inner half of the plate. The Royals were purposefully attacking Choo inside, but this alone doesn’t prove anything. Pitching inside is a legitimate tactic, and we have to consider the possibility that it was simply an errant pitch.
2. Is this a legitimate strategy?
Pitching inside is obviously part of baseball, but that doesn’t necessarily explain why Choo seems to be target practice for opposing pitchers this season. However, when considering the weak spots in Choo’s swing, it appears as though this approach is very much intentional and is simply good strategy on the part of Sanchez.
Take a look at Choo’s slugging percentage heat map from 2011 versus lefties. There is a noticeable cold spot on the lower inside corner. And it stretches just off the inside part of the plate, indicating that he’s willing to chase these inside pitches.
Given this scouting report, it’s hard to blame the Royals for coming inside against Choo. There is simply no incentive to attack the outer half of the plate when such a blatant cold zone exsists inside.
So far this season, Choo has been hit by three pitches and all three have been by left-handed pitchers. Based on what we know about Choo’s cold zones, it’s entirely reasonable to believe that these were simply pitches targeted inside that got away.
3. Is Sanchez typically wild?
Yes and yes. As any Giants fan will tell you, Sanchez has no clue where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. He’s a bit like Roberto Hernandez. If the roles were reversed, and Hernandez let lose a fastball that nearly sailed behind Eric Hosmer, would we think anything of it? Of course not. The ball goes where it wants to go, and that’s what makes him so frustrating and, at times, so unhittable.
Sanchez uncorks a wild pitch roughly once every 242 pitches, which comes out to about one every-other game. Every once in a while one of these errant throws is going to plunk someone, as it did Choo on Saturday.
While Choo has every reason to be frustrated by the outcome, it’s hard not to put some of the blame on him. As soon as he shows opposing pitchers that he can turn on the inside fastball, they’ll shy away. While it was nice to see Gomez and Hannahan stick up for their teammate, Choo’s best defense right now may be his own bat.
Follow Ryan on twitter @TribeFanMcC