In the top of the second inning tonight, Travis Shaw simply destroyed the first pitch he saw from Jarred Cosart. It was a 93 mph fastball located middle-in. That’s not a great place to pitch to left-handed hitters in general. Even a worse idea to a lefty with any kind of power and a baserunner on in front of him. Before Shaw’s 434-foot missile, the San Diego Padres were up 1-0. So, you really don’t want to pitch to the hitter’s strength in this situation.
Now, I’m not an idiot. Shaw is no David Ortiz, but they do share the tendency – like many left-handed hitters – to smack the crap out of that middle-in pitch. And by smack the crap out of it, I mean an exit velocity of 112 mph. For the unconverted, pretty much accept the notion that anything hit 110 mph or harder is considered elite contact and power through the swing.
Here’s a zone profile of Shaw’s slugging percentage this season.
The raw numbers themselves don’t look like Shaw is blistering much of anything, I’ll give you that. That middle-in zone where he’s slugging .304? David Ortiz slugs .803 there, so yeah, I’m not making a comparison, but more a generalization of where not to pitch lefties.
What about Shaw’s Isolated Power (ISO) numbers in that similar zone?
Yowzer! There are some seriously dangerous zones for a pitcher to venture into. One of them is middle-in, more specifically middle-in and down in the zone. Oh hey, that’s where Cosart’s mistake was. Again, for the uninitiated, some context is necessary. If you hop over to FanGraphs, you can read up on ISO and view the handy table that breaks down the values behind the numbers.
Okay, you’re back from reading up on ISO, so you know that an ISO of .250 is considered “excellent.” Shaw’s .243 ISO directly middle-in is scraping at being excellent, but holy balls look at that .500 ISO middle-in and down!! Shaw is out-classing Ortiz by 142 points in that zone, for more context.
Now you add in the factor that Cosart allows a .191 ISO middle-in and that homer was almost destined to be.
So, really, this is just me genuflecting to my beloved Boston Red Sox. Yet, it can still be a lesson in where not to pitch lefties, especially lefties with pull power, because they will pull the shit out of that pitch.
* it should be noted that the zone profiles were only on fastballs.