Stat of the Day – Fastball velocity against

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OK, so this is pretty obscure and the results are so bunched together that one can’t take a whole lot from the data, but I wanted to check something and I though it was pretty interesting to see this work out mostly the way one would expect.
Here is a list of which hitters have faced the hardest fastballs this year (taken from Fangraphs):
1. Alex Rodriguez – 92.0
2. Billy Butler – 91.9
2. Ryan Braun – 91.9
4. Albert Pujols – 91.8
4. Jack Cust – 91.8
4. David Ortiz – 91.8
7. Dustin Pedroia – 91.7
7. Jhonny Peralta – 91.7
7. Ryan Sweeney – 91.7
7. Jermaine Dye – 91.7
7. Jason Bay – 91.7
7. Mark DeRosa – 91.7
7. Torii Hunter – 91.7
7. Jason Kubel – 91.7
7. Kevin Youkilis – 91.7
7. Matt Holliday – 91.7
7. Mark Teahen – 91.7
That’s the top 17. The first three and 12 of the 17 are right-handed hitters. Which makes sense, since they’ll see more right-handed pitchers and right-handers throw harder than lefties. I was actually somewhat surprised to see five left-handed hitters on the list: Ortiz, Cust, Sweeney, Kubel and Teahen.
I’m guessing part of the reason for the presence of the lefties is the lack of soft-tossing specialists in the league right now. Mike Stanton, Mike Myers, Rheal Cormier and others are all out of the league. There just aren’t many current specialists throwing in the low-80s. Brian Shouse and Daniel Ray Herrera are the only two, and even the ones who work in the upper-80s tend to throw at least as many breaking balls as fastballs when they’re facing quality left-handed hitters.
Besides the handedness, it’s worth noting the quality of the hitters above. A-Rod and Pujols are two of the game’s best, Braun isn’t far behind and Ortiz still has that reputation. Butler is the one Royal who scares pitchers, and given his career splits, he shouldn’t ever be facing left-handed relievers.
Cust is the real surprise. He’s at 91.8 this year after coming in at 90.9 and 90.8 the last two seasons. He’s known as an excellent fastball hitter, so he sees fewer fastballs than most of the hitters here (the only two of the 17 to see fewer are Pujols and Kubel). It’s probably just a fluke that he’s so high on the list. The A’s in general face harder throwers than most. Here’s the top and bottom six on a team basis (again, shamelessly taken from Fangraphs):
1. Red Sox – 91.6
1. Indians – 91.6
3. Blue Jays – 91.5
3. Athletics – 91.5
3. White Sox – 91.5
3. Royals – 91.5
25. Phillies – 90.9
26. Rangers – 90.9
27. Mets – 90.8
28. Pirates – 90.7
29. Cubs – 90.4
30. Marlins – 90.3

Blue Jays sign Danny Espinosa to minors deal

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Free agent middle infielder Danny Espinosa signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the team announced Saturday. The deal includes an invite to spring training, where Espinosa is scheduled for his first split-squad game against the Orioles this afternoon.

Espinosa, 30, was inked to another minor-league deal with the Yankees in January. The veteran infielder was competing for an infield job until the team picked up second baseman Neil Walker on a one-year, $4 million deal last Monday. Prior to his release, he slashed .160/.276/.320 with one home run through his first 12 games with the Yankees this spring. He didn’t fare much better in the majors last year, either, batting a cumulative .173/.245/.278 with six home runs and a .523 OPS in 295 PA for the Mariners and Rays.

Blue Jays starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is still dealing with a bone spur in his heel and has officially been ruled out for Opening Day, which could clear a path for Espinosa to claim a starting role in Toronto. Of course, he won’t be the only candidate under consideration — Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz are still in the mix as well, though no final decision appears to be made just yet.