Anthony Swarzak's Fastball Also Rocks, But For Different Reasons

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Anthony Swarzak #51 of the Minnesota Twins in the dugout following his eight inning pitching performance in their game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 28, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Twins defeated the Angels in ten innings and Swarzak pitched seven no-hit innings. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Yesterday I brought up Scott Baker's fastball, and how great it had been this year and how it was quite possibly the primary source for the success he's had in 2011. And other than a couple of walks and a three-run homer last night, he was successful. But tonight's starter is Anthony Swarzak. And his fastball has worked for completely different reasons.

There's nothing that screams dangerous about Swarzak as a pitcher. His fastball sits in the lower 90s, which isn't bad. His curveball and changeup aren't really menacing enough to make that fastball a setup pitch. His swinging strike percentage is abysmal, so of course hitters make a lot of contact. More than 50% of his balls in play in 2011 have been fly balls, which is just playing with fire.

Only Jose Mijares has a higher well-hit average on fastballs (.439) than Swarzak (.333), and yet Swarzak's fastball results are second only to Phil Dumatrait. Alarm bells should be going off here:

Pitcher Avg Slg Well-hit Avg
Anthony Swarzak .167 .278 .333
Carl Pavnao .323 .441 .267
Twins Pitcher Average .274 .427 .236
Nick Blackburn .263 .424 .220
Scott Baker .217 .391 .205
Brian Duensing .328 .400 .172

In spite of being the hardest hit in the group, Swarzak's fastball is currently toting the best batting average and slugging percentage against. We could break this down further, where we might find that Duensing's weakness versus right-handed hitting and advantage over left-handed hitting may skew his results, but the issue is crystal clear: something in Swarzak's fastball has to give.

More after the jump.

A big part of what gives will depend on if Swarzak can keep his pitches out of the middle of the strike zone. For a guy who doesn't miss many bats, this is extraordinarily dangerous.

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Against lefties Swarzak is placing the ball in relatively normal locations. But there is way too much pink in the middle of the strike zone against right-handed hitters, especially considering that Swarzak only has three pitches and he only two of them to righties. He'll go to the fastball 64% of the time to right-handed hitters, and between the curveball and that very hittable fastball guess what I'm sitting on. Dead red baby, right down the heart of the plate. Only that breaking ball is ending up low-and-away, and I don't need to worry about hitting it.

One of the reasons why Swarzak was successful in his start last week is because he was able to move the ball around. He was still around the strike zone a lot, but by mixing up his location a bit more he was able to keep hitters off balance and, as a result, mixed the luck that's accompanied his fastball with some favorable contact. Well, favorable for Swarzak.

Compare at-bat result locations for Swarzak's two starts this season.

Location
via www.brooksbaseball.net

Location
via www.brooksbaseball.net

In his April start, Swarzak obviously left a lot of attractive offerings over the middle of the plate and high in the strike zone. A few days ago he was a bit more in-and-out. Less predictable is good.

If Swarzak can manage that again today, the Twins might actually be in a position to win the game before the bullpen blows it.

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