My latest post on Edward Mujica examined what may be causing his extremely high home run rate. To be honest, I’m not sure we can really conclude much on the issue – at least not from my analysis. Anyway, Larry and Mike made some good points in the comments, and I wanted to further investigate Mujica’s pitch location.
Conveniently enough, just yesterday Jeremy Greenhouse looked at pitchers who are able to locate their pitches on the corners of the plate, but avoid the middle. A home run – or hard hit ball – is most likely to be located somewhere in the middle portion of the plate, and probably slightly up.
Here is Mujica’s pitch location graph for 2010 (view from catcher’s perspective, measured in feet):
Mujica’s pitch location does not look that much like Rivera’s. It seems his pitches are in the middle of zone as often as they are on the corners.
Against righties, Mujica is very reluctant to go inside. Though he keeps it away from righties in general, he appears to miss off the plate quite often. And he’s still putting it in the middle of the plate at a pretty high rate. Against lefties, again, a lot of pitches are located too close to the middle of the zone.
The graphs above are just from 2010. Let’s look at his entire career. This time I’ll use the graphs created from TexasLeaguers.com:
Click for a larger image
On the left is Mujica in his career vs. all batters, the middle graph is vs. righties, and the furthest right is vs. lefties. And I am pretty sure that changeups are actually splitters, as I discussed in the previous post. Check out the comparison between Mujica and Rivera:
You can see a pretty clear area where Rivera (on the right) doesn’t go – down the middle and up in the strike zone. He’s able to locate primarily on both sides of the plate, but avoid, largely, the dangerous section in the center. Mujica, on the other hand, does not appear to shy away from the middle and upper portions of the strike zone, and that’s a dangerous place to live.
Mujica has the stuff to be a quality reliever. Even with his home run problems, he has still been pretty solid. And this ‘analysis’ is not in any way conclusive. Home runs allowed involve a multitude of factors other than location – the hitter, the environment, pitch sequence, velocity, etc. That said, if Mujica is able to avoid the middle of the plate more often, I certainly think he may see a drop in home runs allowed.