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Instant Analysis: Pavano and Pettitte Duel, Yankees Sweep

(Note: OK, it wasn't "instant" per se, but in my defense I started late last night and I was very tired. However, it got done, so enjoy!)

With last night's final Mariano Rivera cutter for the evening, the last cutter Mo or anyone else will ever pitch in the Metrodome, the Minnesota Twins were eliminated from the 2009 American League playoffs by the New York Yankees in a rough, but ultimately unsurprising sweep. The Twins provided us a great run to the postseason and an amazing season by catcher Joe Mauer, but they fell short tonight, unable to punch through more than a singular run despite seven hits.

Tonight's game was highlighted by two excellent starting performances by the Yankees' Andy Pettitte and the Twins' Carl Pavano, he of the former "most injured Yankee ever" status. I figured we'd dive into some Pitch f/x charts to witness the two performances.

(Note: I'm not Harry Pavlidis, if anything because 1) I'm a Marlins fan, not a Cubs fan, and 2) I can't do the magic Harry does with his Pitch f/x work, but I would like to take a stab at this game's pitchers, so bear with me, folks! By the way, Harry or anyone else, if I'm missing something, feel free to smack me with it in the comments section!)

Both Starters Were Dealing

Both Pettitte and Pavano were looking great this evening. Pettitte finished with a line of 6 1/3 innings, seven strikeouts and only one walk, while Pavano one-upped him in the strikeouts/walks department, striking out a season high nine batters while issuing no free passes to the bases. Pavano was tagged for five hits, though only two really mattered (more on that later), while the Twins mustered only three hits on Pettitte, two of them after two outs in the sixth inning. Until then, both pitchers were more or less cruising.

Pettitte # MPH In Zone% Watch% Chase% Whiff% BIP GB%
Fastball 37 90.4 59.5% 52.4% 22.2% 12.5% 7 57.1%
Cutter 25 86.3 56.0% 40.0% 70.0% 45.0% 6 66.7%
Breaking Ball 19 80.0% 77.8% 80.0% 33.3% 12.5% 2 50.0%
Total 81 ------ 62.5% 58.3% 38.8% 27.3% 15 60.0%


Taking a cue from Harry's piece on Cliff Lee and Ubaldo Jimenez, I measured the following things:

In zone%: Pitches in Zone/Total Pitches

Watch%: Pitches Taken in Zone/Total Pitches Taken

Chase%: Pitches Swung at Out of Zone/Total Out of Zone Pitches

Whiff%: Pitches Swung at and Missed/Total Swings

BIP: Balls in Play (includes home runs)

GB%: Ground Balls/BIP

The chart shows both a "slider" and a "curveball," but with little separation between the two and very similar speeds, I just lumped the pitches together. Gameday had a mess trying to figure what exactly passed for a cutter and what went for a "slider," so I gave it some help readjusting some of its classifications, but it is by no means perfect. Still, going along with what it said, what we saw from Pettitte was solid control over all of his pitches, particularly the breaking ball, which landed in the zone 78% of the time, though not always for strikes, as Pettitte was squeezed a good deal. Pettitte's cutter looked like his bread and butter strikeout pitch, as he got nine whiffs and seven chases out of the zone. Pettitte's fastball did what it had to do, which was stay near the zone and not get hit hard, which was perhaps the most important part of this duel.

Pavano # MPH In Zone% Watch% Chase% Whiff% BIP GB%
Fastball 49 91.3 67.3% 56.2% 6.3% 18.8% 6 50.0%
Changeup 26 83.4 42.3% 44.4% 61.5% 43.8% 2 50.0%
Slider 20 83.8% 57.1% 20.0% 42.9% 20.0% 10 70.0%
Total 95 ------ 58.3% 50.0% 33.3% 27.7% 18 61.1%


Pavano posted very similar overall numbers to Pettitte, albeit in more pitches. Both pitchers kept the ball on the ground; 11 of Pavano's 19 balls in play resulted in grounders, and the outfield of both teams had recorded only one outfield putout by the sixth inning of the game. Pavano's changeup achieved similar results to Pettitte's cutter, inducing a lot of 13 chases and seven whiffs, though got far less in terms of balls in play. All in all, Pavano picked up 13 whiffs and 12 swings out of the zone. Pavano's slider was getting a lot of contact, as only one pitch was taken for a strike and only five pitches overall were laid off; Yankees hitters were excited to swing at this offering. However, it mostly turned into a positive, as Pavano forced seven grounders and two popups on the pitch. Pavano's fastball was underwhelming but around the zone, but unlike Pettitte, two of those fastballs were punished for home runs, and that turned out to be the difference in their performances.

It's a shame the two pitchers couldn't go further than seven innings, because they were staging an excellent pitcher's duel. Pavano and Pettitte were dealing, and in these duels the smallest mistakes turn costly, and Pavano's two mistakes to Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada turned into the game winners for the Yankees. I didn't get to see it live (though I wish I did). For anyone who checked it out on TV, who looked better, Pavano or Pettitte?