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Anatomy of an At-Bat: Bengie Molina's three-run homer

It was a home run that probably turned the ALCS around. If the Yankees had kept their slim lead and evened the series at two wins apiece, they would've had CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes going for a win in games 5 and 6. Instead, Bengie Molina, with all of five longballs on the season (in 416 PA), took Burnett deep to left and virtually ended the game.

1. Molina guessed first pitch fastball and got one. And Burnett put it in one of the only places where he could hit it with power: The inner half of the plate. (Remember, the image below is from the catcher's POV.)


Of Molina's five homers, four were to left-field and one was to center.

2. Burnett was clearly struggling in the sixth inning, and should have been pulled earlier (a discussion for another time). His velocity was dropping, and his 92 MPH 'heater' to Molina was one of his slowest of the night - 1.3 MPH slower than his average on the night, and Molina caught up to it.

3. In five previous PA between the two, Molina had come away with just a single. That 1-5 could be misleading though - he never struck out and hit the ball hard in three of those outs (according to BRef's PBP data).

4. Every pitch Molina saw leading up to the homer was inside. He was geared for inside, and although Burnett was aiming for low and away to start the sixth inning AB, he missed (that's what Burnett does), and since Molina was looking inside, he was able to put a good swing on the ball.

5. The home run, of course, followed a walk (albeit an intentional one). And while Burnett wanted to get ahead, the Rangers had adjusted, and were keying in on the first pitch. Three of the six batters that inning swung at Burnett's first pitch. For comparison, only one batter offered at Burnett's first pitch through the first two frames (probably trying to determine if he had control or not), yet the Rangers modified their approach and swung at the first pitch eight times over the next three innings. The batters adjusted but Burnett apparently did not.

6. It's hard to blame Burnett - Molina is not a guy that often swings at the first pitch. This season, in fact, he swung at only 20% of first pitches, well below his own (31%) and the ML average (28%).