Pitch Analysis of Jake Westbrook ALCS Game 3 – Red Sox vs. Indians
In game 3 of the ALCS between the Red Sox and Indians, sinkerballer Jake Westbrook gave up 7 hits and 3 walks to the Red Sox but managed to keep them to 2 runs due a whole lot of grounders and some well-timed double plays. Twice with the game on the line, he invented pitches that he doesn’t throw normally and threw off Boston with them. Here’s a breakdown of how he was throwing and the pitches he made in key situations. First, an overview of the location and movement Westbrook had tonight (from the hitters perspective):
Westbrook was not given the right side of the plate all night (incidentally, my unpire ranking system has the home plate ump, Brian Gorman with the 15th smallest zone among all umpires on that side of the plate). He left the ball up in the zone a fair bit, but never really got hurt by it- there was only one hit out of a number of high fastballs. As you would expect, the hits the Red Sox had came on pitches that were right down the middle, but that’s normal for a sinkerballer- there were just as many groundball outs that came on those pitches. Now for his pitch movement:
As expected, most of Westbrook’s pitches were sinkers, with a handful of sliders (bottom right), cutters (middle) and changeups (down and to the right of the main blob) mixed in, although rarely for strikes. His sinker has a couple of inches less movement than Halladay’s, but it’s not bad and varies a fair amount from pitch-to-pitch. Notice that the pitches with the greatest amount of downward movement were balls (low) fouls or grounders, while the ones that didn’t sink as much were all those high called strikes. Most of the Red Sox hits came on pitches that were right in between the two extremes. Jake also mixed in some other kind of pitch that is the same velocity as his normal pitch but dives straight down instead of tailing away like a two-seamer/sinker.
Here’s a closer look at some of the pitches Westbrook made in big situations, which are marked by crosses on the same graphs that follow (ground balls are also shown with brown dots):
- 1st inning 0-1 pitch to David Ortiz, one out: Double Play. It’s one of his better sinkers right down the middle of the plate and low. Ortiz ripped the pitch but Cleveland had the crazy shift on and it went for a rare 4-5-3 (second baseman-third baseman-first baseman) DP.
- 2nd inning 1-1 pitch to Jason Varitek, nobody out, bases loaded: pop-up. What the heck was that?! Either Westbrook improvised and brilliantly outsmarted the catcher at his own game, or something slipped and he got lucky. It ended up right down the middle at 88 mph, more like his cut fastball but it moved horizontally about half as much. There just isn’t anything else he threw the entire night that moved in the same way. (Maybe it was Dave Stieb’s famous “dead fish”??)
- 2nd inning 2-1 pitch to Coco Crisp, one out, bases loaded: double play. Right after Varitek’s pop-out, Westbrook got out of the jam with this pitch. It’s another sinker for a high strike, left high and away from Crisp that he slapped and rolled right up the middle for another double play.
- 6th inning 3-2 pitch to Manny Ramirez, one out, 1st and second: double play. Another innovation? It’s one of those weird straight sinking fastballs that Westbrook throws every once in a while. It came in at 91 mph so it wasn’t a changeup, but it didn’t cut back inside like a cutter or tail away like his normal sinker- it just moved straight downwards like his changeup, and Manny hit it hard and straight down.
All in all, Westbrook was pretty hittable against the Red Sox, but he made some very nice pitches in pressure situations and let his sinker do its thing. In two important situations, he innovated and threw pitches that were like nothing else he’d showed Boston all night. But mostly the Sox helped him out by leaving a lot of high pitches go by while bashing his better sinkers into the ground, and the Cleveland defenders did the rest.