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Tigers at Yankees: The Value of First Pitch Strikes

The Tigers and Yankees throw their aces today, Justin Verlander against C.C. Sabathia.

Verlander brings his league leading 149Ks to the launching pad. We'll see if he can maintain this pace; he's 14Ks from his total last season. Looking inside the numbers, his swing percentages in the strike zone and outside the strike zone have held constant. Verlander might have learned an important lesson: he's thrown 5% more first pitch strikes than last season. That's 0-1 in an extra 25 batters.

I'd love to know what percentage of his Batters Faced reach the various counts, then we'd be able to quantify the difference between 1-0 and 0-1. Come on FanGraphs, get on that!

Meanwhile, the Yankees trot out the $22 million dollar man. He's thrown 5% fewer first pitch strikes this season, his lowest percentage since 2004. We know from watching him that his sequences seem off sometimes, and the numbers bear that out. When he goes out of the zone, batters are usually laying off, but when they do swing they are getting to it (59.9% O-Contact).

Sabathia has had fewer troubles than most in the new bandbox. His splits have settled down: .248/.310/.367 at home and .220/.284/.345 away.

Keeping the walks down is the real key, so if one gets up and away it doesn't hurt too much. The Tigers have brought the thunder against CC in his career, hitting .259/.308/.431 against his average .246/.308/.377.


Detroit Tigers @ New York Yankees

07/18/09 1:05 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers New York Yankees
Curtis Granderson - CF Derek Jeter - SS
Placido Polanco - 2B Johnny Damon - LF
Miguel Cabrera - 1B Mark Teixeira - 1B
Marcus Thames - DH Alex Rodriguez - 3B
Magglio Ordonez - RF Hideki Matsui - DH
Ryan Raburn - LF Jorge Posada - C
Brandon Inge - 3B Robinson Cano - 2B
Gerald Laird - C Nick Swisher - RF
Adam Everett - SS Melky Cabrera - CF