Cardinals face fastball specialist in Reds' Cingrani -

Cardinals face fastball specialist in Reds' Cingrani

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

( —  Lefties and Cardinal hitters don’t mix; at least they certainly didn’t in 2013. The team hit nearly 50 points worse against southpaws last season, with lefty hitters slightly outpacing their right-handed counterparts .242 to .237.

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Wednesday’s Reds starter Tony Cingrani has faced the Cardinals three times, twice as a starter. He won both starts, giving up a combined eight hits and five earned runs while striking out seven in each game. 

He does it mostly with his fastball. Between his limited action in 2012 and the 2013 season, Cingrani threw 1,813 pitches. 1, 495 of those were fastballs for a rate of 82 percent. That’s a staggeringly high percentage of times for starter to throw his heater, especially since he has low-90s velocity.

The secret is in his movement. According to the Pitchf/x data on Cingrani, his fastball moves more than seven inches horizontally. (Pitch data provided by Brooks Baseball). 

Because of the fastball, he draws a lot of swings, with 47 percent of all fastballs putting the bat in motion. Because of the movement, a lot of those swings miss. In 2013, he had a Whiff/Swing rate of 24.5 percent.

Where Michael Wacha is a two-trick pony, Cingrani’s elusive fastball allows him to use it almost exclusively. 

However, he does have a slider and a change- the latter of which has been reserved almost exclusively for righties.  Of the 120 times Cingrani pulled the string in 2013, 118 of them were to righties. 

The slider he primarily throws to lefties when he’s ahead in the count. Though he faced far more right-handed hitters, the percentages show southpaws see the slider far more often. 22 percent of the time he was ahead of a lefty, the slider showed up, compared to eight percent for righties. 

When righties are behind 0-2 and 1-2, Cingrani works up and away, using his slippery heater to draw swings on pitches in unfavorable locations to hitters. Nearly 20 percent of all 0-2 pitches to righties are high and outside. 

To lefties, if it isn’t upstairs it’s down and away (some of those would be the aforementioned sliders). Nearly 17 percent of 0-2 pitches and 25 percent of 1-2 pitches to lefties are low and outside.  

Cingrani was a marvel in 2013 for his ability to use his fastball so effectively. Like Wacha, 2014 will test the limits of a limited approach. 

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