Throughout spring training I’ll be highlighting “things to work on” for certain key players this year.
Vinnie Pestano is coming off a near perfect season.
He set a franchise record for holds (36) and carried a sub-2.00 ERA into mid September before stumbling down the stretch (along with everyone else in an Indians uniform).
But even though Pestano’s performance earned him the honor of becoming the first setup man mentioned in a primetime sitcom, there are still areas in which he could improve in 2013.
While Pestano has earned a reputation for being equally nasty against both righties and lefties, in reality there is some room for improvement against left-handed batters.
In 2012, Pestano was dominant against lefties when jamming them inside.
Of the 112 times lefties swung at an inside pitch from Pestano, only 39 were put in play and six resulted in hits.
Think about that stat for a minute. 112 swings. Six hits. That’s hard to fathom.
Pestano’s 18-to-1 swing-to-hit ratio led all right-handed pitchers when throwing inside to left-handed batters.
But why is this stat being mentioned in a piece about Pestano’s flaws?
Well, as dominant as Pestano was when throwing inside to lefties, he didn’t take full advantage of his strength. Only 36 percent of Pestano’s pitches to lefties were inside, while 42 percent were on the outside portion of the plate.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but the stats show that it’s not working for Pestano.
Compare his heat map against outside pitches to the one posted above for inside pitches.
Lefties hit .325 against Pestano’s outside pitches in 2012. And of the 13 hits he allowed, seven went for extra bases. That’s more extra-base hits in 76 swings on outside pitches, than total hits on 112 inside pitches.
Obviously every pitcher needs to find the right balance in his pitch selection. Even the most dominant pitcher will be exposed if he relies too heavily on his strength. But the stark difference in outcomes based on the location of Pestano’s pitches seems to indicate he should try a slightly different approach in 2013.