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Bucs Breakdown: Ian Kinsler’s home run off Richard Rodriguez

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

In the biggest win expectancy (WE) shift from last night’s game, the Padres Ian Kinsler drove an 80 MPH slider from Richard Rodriguez over the left field wall in the bottom of the sixth to give San Diego a 4-2 lead.

The Padres would go on to win the game 4-3.

Once the game reached the bottom of the 6th inning, the Pirates were in front of the Padres 2-1, with the latter’s WE at 37.7%

Rodriquez got Manny Machado to pop out, then Eric Hosmer hit a 93 MPH four-seam fastball for a single. With one out and one on, Alex Dickerson was retired after hitting a fly ball which was proceeded by a free pass given to Wil Myers.

With two on and one out, Kinsler came to bat with the Padres holding a 36.8% WE. His home run then gave the Padres an 83.8% WE; a shift of almost 50%.

Rodriguez dropped the slider right into the middle of the plate where even the modest of hitters would tee off on.

Kinsler’s wOBA on sliders is .299; not great but not terrible. His exit velocity based on zone location isn’t very intimidating, either. You can see from that chart, Kinsler has yet to make contact in the exact quadrant (middle/low middle) that the slider entered, though it did broach the middle low zone where his average exit velocity is 82 MPH.

Kinsler’s exit velocity in that location, overall, is right around 89 MPH. He hit the pitch given to him by Rodriguez 101 MPH under a 25-degree launch angle. As you can see from the gif above, it was a perfect swing for that pitch.

Rodriguez started Kinsler off with a 93 MPH four-seamer away. At that point, Diaz came to check on him and even the broadcast booth commented on his perceived lack of control.

Rodriguez came back with another 93 MPH four-seam fastball that Kinsler took for a strike. And why not, considering the seemingly erratic nature of Rodriguez’s pitch locations last night.

That pitch might have been the best one he threw all night. Great freeze pitch with ‘back-door’ run with on-point command.

On pitch three, Rodriguez got Kinsler to swat at another fastball, this time up and away in the shadow of the strike zone. His swing was late and he fouled the pitch off.

With his timing a few MPH off, Rodriquez adjusted his velocity and went with a slider which was around 13 MPH slower than the four-seam. The strategy made sense, since Kinsler could have been gearing up for another fastball by modifying his timing to hit the pitch effectively.

Even so, there was a problem with this approach. Mechanics and delivery aside, Rodriquez made the slider fairly easy to identify. Look at the previous fastball trajectory (from Kinsler’s POV), the far right red, and the yellow trail of the slider. It appears that it was clear early enough for Kinsler to adjust.

Going back and looking at the home run gif, its hard to tell if that was the spot both Rodriguez and catcher Elias Diaz agreed upon. Either way, it was a big mistake and Kinsler made them pay.

Was his release point off, thereby causing the pitch to hang higher than intended to ultimately drop in the heart of the zone? Possibly but it would appear (for this game, anyway) that his release points and extension were pretty consistent last night.

The home run was enough to secure the victory and give the Pirates their second straight loss which knocks them 4 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.