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Tuesday, September 13, 2011
For Jerome Williams, it's about location, location, location

By Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information



Left: Primary pitch locations for Angels pitcher Jerome Williams since his recall from Triple-A.
Right: Primary pitch locations for an average major-league pitcher.

The sample is small, but the numbers are amazing.

In the three starts that Jerome Williams has made since his return to the big leagues, he’s gotten hitters to miss on 30 percent of their swings.

That’s impressive.

It’s better than the rates that Tim Lineceum (26.8), Clayton Kershaw (25.0), and Jered Weaver (23.2) have posted, though of course that’s over a full season. The only starter to maintain that rate over the full 2011 season has been Athletics righty Rich Harden, who gets misses on 31 percent of his swings.

Williams got 19 swings-and-misses in his first start of the season against the Orioles, 11 against the Mariners in his first start against them, and then 14 over the eight innings of one-hit ball in his most recent outing.

How Williams gets such an impressive swing-and-miss rate can be seen in the pair of images above. These are heat maps, which show pitch frequency using color shading. They show that Williams has been a master of pitch location.

On the left is Williams, and his heat map shows an ability to locate the highest percentage of his pitches at the belt or below. On the right is where the average big leaguer locates his pitches, based on the Pitch F/X tracking technology used in all 30 ballparks.

Of Williams' 351 pitches this season, 310 (88.3 percent) have been to the middle-third of the strike zone or below. Of the 77 at-bats against Williams in his three starts, 70 have ended with a pitch to that area, 42 to a spot knee-high or below.

That spot knee-high or below, be it fastball, cutter, or breaking ball, has proven too tantalizing for most hitters to take. They are swinging at pitches to that area nearly half of the time, a rate considerably above the big league average. And when they do swing, they've come up empty 41 percent of the time, 10 percentage points above league average.

It’s an approach that worked brilliantly and had Mike Scioscia raving after his nationally-televised start last Wednesday.

Whether Williams can maintain that sort of pinpoint location will be something to watch for, starting tonight against the Athletics.