Mujica Loves His Fastball and So Does Upton

Justin Upton’s solo homer in the eighth was icing on the proverbial cake. His blast to left-center extended the Diamondbacks’ lead to 5-3, which turned out to be the final score on Wednesday evening in Phoenix.

The result of Upton’s confrontation with Padres right-hander Edward Mujica may have been interesting, if predictable, in terms of its impact on the final outcome. Perhaps even more interesting, if maddening, was the way in which this result was achieved.

Before we go there, if you knew nothing else about a player beyond the fact that he is 22 years old and coming off a season where he hit .300/.366/.532, what assumptions might you make about his hitting tendencies? Might you assume he could hit a fastball? I might.

In fact, empirical evidence supports this theory. Few hitters punish fastballs with Upton’s regularity:

Only one guy in all of baseball is worse at hitting sliders than Justin Upton, and that’s Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Padres. Why Upton still sees fastballs is beyond me.

And beyond the fence.

I’m not too handy with gathering PITCHf/x data, but I can muddle my way through the basics. Here is a quick look at Mujica vs Upton:

  1. Fastball, 91.7 mph, ball
  2. Fastball, 92.4 mph, ball
  3. Fastball, 93.3 mph, ball
  4. Fastball, 92.9 mph, foul
  5. Fastball, 94.3 mph, swinging strike
  6. Fastball, 94.1 mph, foul
  7. Fastball, 93.4 mph, home run

Whose idea was it to work this sequence, and why did they think it would succeed? That is either stubborn, stupid, or both.

Not that it made a difference on Wednesday, but the Padres can’t be doing stuff like this. They lack the talent necessary to overcome such critical mistakes. Play smart, guys; you need every advantage you can get this year.

Tagged as: , , , , , ,

8 Responses »

  1. Wow! I wasn’t watching the game… Seven straight fastballs to one of the best young hitters in the game? Suicidal much?

  2. This was Mujica’s first batter (thanks to Black’s love of the LOOGY). He fell behind him 3-0. If he didn’t think he could throw his slider for a strike or well enough to get Upton to chase, then it makes sense to keep throwing him fastballs. I’d rather him take a chance with a fastball than concede first base.

  3. yeah, it was brutal…

  4. 4 Ks in 4 PAs for Blanks yesterday … was he chasing pitches outside the strike zone?

  5. It was equally frustrating to see Chris Young get a meatball to hit in the sixth off of Correia. Chris Young is a strikeout machine yet he gets a fastball grooved to him. It was very vexing. I am vexed.

  6. I see what you are saying Ben but a guy can’t keep throwing that straight fastball in the vicinity of the plate that many times without getting torched, either a runner on or a run in. Once he got two strikes on Upton, he had to throw a slider or a change or something else for one of those pitches.

  7. LM: yes, he did…

    re: Mujica, he did throw his sliders for strikes after giving up the home run. Oh, his locations for the said fastballs were bunched up together. It was a horrible non-sequence of pitches.

  8. oh, Padres pitchers (I mean you, Mujica), pay attention: