The Process Versus Jered Weaver; A Danks Theory | The Process Report

The Process Versus Jered Weaver; A Danks Theory

Coming into his start on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Jered Weaver had allowed 34 earned runs in 138 innings this season. Just two days after being perfected by Felix Hernandez, it looked as if the Rays’ offense was in for another rough night. Seeking any possible advantage against Weaver, Joe Maddon reached into his unconventional bag of tricks and pulled out The Danks Theory.

Facing Weaver, a right-handed pitcher, Maddon started seven right-handed batters. He did this with four left-handed options on his bench including starting first baseman Carlos Pena. Weaver has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for several seasons now, holding the league to a .622 OPS since 2010. Meanwhile, despite his right-handedness, he has been even tougher against lefties (.593 OPS) than righties (.653 OPS).

Looking at his arsenal, Weaver is a true four-pitch using a fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. According to fangraphs.com pitch values, his fastball has historically been his best pitch followed by the changeup, curveball, and slider in order of effectiveness. Breaking down his pitch selection by hand, Weaver likes to attack left-handed batters with fastballs, changeups, and curveballs. Against right-handed batters, he primarily uses a fastball/slider combination with a few changeups sprinkled in.

Although it bucked conventional wisdom, in theory, Maddon’s right-handed heavy lineup gave his team the best chance for success based on the data available. In addition to righties hitting better against Weaver over the last three seasons, he attempted to minimize the usage of his his best secondary pitches – curveballs and changeups – by leaving lefties on the bench.

While success against Weaver was anything but guaranteed, Maddon’s lineup worked to perfection on Friday. Tampa Bay scored nine runs off eight hits and two walks in three innings against the Angels’ starter. The seven right-handed batters in the lineup combined to go 7-14 against Weaver, racking up 11 total bases. Leading the right-handed charge was B.J. Upton, who smacked two hits off Weaver including a solo home run.

In total, Weaver threw 58 pitches on the night. He threw 31 fastballs (one appears to have misclassified as a changeup), 11 changeups, 11 sliders, and five curveballs. Of the 58 total pitches thrown, 43 were to right-handed batters. Righties saw 24 fastballs, 10 sliders, eight changeups, and a renegade curveball. Based on the data, getting Weaver to throw his slider more against right-handers appeared to intended goal of the lineup. If that was the case, the results – four hits on 10 sliders – say mission accomplished.

The tinkerer, the mad scientist, the smartest man in the room. All of these terms have been used to describe Maddon’s managerial style in a derogatory light. In reality, Maddon is simply well-informed, and unafraid to go against the grain, doing so with little regard for outside perception. It does not always work, and when it does not, he certainly takes plenty of blame for it; however, it is his willingness to be different that is partially responsible for the team’s recent success and it was this thought process that worked against Jered Weaver on Friday.



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