Weekend Coffee with James Krueger: Inside Yonder Alonso’s 9th Inning Home Run


With two outs in the ninth inning, down by a run, Yonder Alonso stepped up to the plate against Washington Nationals’ closer Rafael Soriano. Soriano only needed 9 pitches to retire both Seth Smith and Chase Headley on strikes. Alonso, his .207 batting average and .257 wOBA posed a path of no resistance. Soriano decided to stay away from Alonso, a common strategy for opposing pitchers. His first pitch slipped, coming in around 6 inches outside of the zone. Missing your spots is never recommended, and in this case Soriano had to be extra careful. Alonso has had significant success in the middle of the plate, and middle away.

Staying away from Alonso is the preferred strategy, due to his power zone coming down and in. But again, when your control is inconsistent, trying to pepper that part of the zone is like playing with fire.

After falling behind 1-0 on a pitch well off the plate, catcher Wilson Ramos calls for a pitch in a similar spot, but closer towards the zone, hoping to play off Alonso’s aggressiveness.

Ramos sets the target right on the outside edge of the strike zone around the knees, a spot where Alonso has had considerable trouble his entire career.

But Rafael Soriano is not a good control pitcher. He’s walking 10.5% of all hitters faced so far, and his fastball is at a career low 49.5% strike zone percentage. He lives off of the good life on the fastball despite the poor command on the pitch by having a low 77.4% contact percentage, a fantastic rate for the pitch. But by throwing near an area where a hitter is known to do damage, being so fluky is not only ill-advised, it’s a good way to get a special “manager meeting” after the game. Soriano’s approach is a brave one, and has helped him become the big name closer he is known as today. But sometimes it can also be his biggest weakness.

Soriano again missed his location, and left the pitch elevated down the middle. Look at where the pitch ends up”

The pitch is the light blue around coordinate points (2.9, -.3) with a number 2 below it. Needless to say, that’s a great pitch to hit. Soriano left his pitch up right in Alonso’s wheelhouse. All of Alonso’s home runs this year have come from elevated pitches, and four of his five have come off fastballs. And Alonso made pretty hard contact once again.

The homer left his bat at 99.7 MPH at an angle of 35 degrees. It was a towering shot, reaching an apex of 124 feet. But the actual length was a little less impressive, measuring only 375 feet, even though it would be a bomb in all but five major league parks. Soriano challenged the bull, and he got what happens when you get too risky. High fastballs can help get strikeouts, but they’re also notorious for giving a pitcher a good case of gopheritis.