Watching Alfredo Aceves throw in the bullpen would lead one to wonder how he has had moderate success as a major leaguer. He primarily throws 4 pitches, with none being particularly impressive or noteworthy. Yet, he consistently gets positive results out of the bullpen, and was an integral part of both last night’s victory and the 2009 World Championship club. So how is he doing it?
The answer is simple: Aceves effectively mixes his four pitches, and locates all of them consistently. He walked just 1.71 batters per 9 innings last season, which allowed him to post a sterling 4.31 K/BB. Let’s take a look at his outing last night to see how he attacked hitters in his 2 inning stint.
The table, coming courtesy of Brooks Baseball, shows that Aceves threw his fastball about 48 percent of the time, while using his 3 breaking pitches, cutter, curveball, and changeup 3, 4, and 5 times respectively. Other than the curveball, he was locating all of his pitches well, throwing at least 70% for strikes. As you can see, the velocity on the various pitches varied enough to keep hitters off balance. These attributes are not specific to this game, as he maintained similar ratios and velocities over the 2009 season. A look at the individual at bats shows how he used his ability to locate four pitches and change speeds to attack hitters.
Batter #1: Adrian Beltre
Beltre is a notorious first pitch fastball hitter. Aceves threw him a cutter down and away, baiting Beltre into swinging at what he thought was a fastball and Beltre lined out to Jeter.
Batter #2: JD Drew
Aceves started Drew out with a fastball on the low and outside corner, a perfect pitch. He then lowered Drew’s eye angle with a curveball down for a ball, and then came up and away with back to back changeups, with the second one inducing a groundout. This screengrab from Gameday illustrates how well Aceves locates to the edges of the zone:
Batter#3: Mike Cameron
Aceves threw Camron a cutter on the outer half that he fouled off, and then busted him inside with a FB. Cameron grounded to short, but Jeter threw it away.
Batter #4: Marco Scutaro
The scouting report on Scutaro must be to throw him fastballs, because Aceves threw him 4, to four different portions of the plate. Scutaro grounded out on a 2-1 count.
Batter #5: Jacoby Ellsbury
Aceves started Ellsbury with two curveballs down, one inside and one outside, bringing the count to 1-1. He then added some velocity with a changeup up, nipped the outside corner with a fastball that brought the velocity even higher while dropping the location a bit, and then induced a groundout by returning to the changeup at the bottom of the zone. This is another prime example of how Aceves gets outs.
Batter #6: Dustin Pedroia
Pedroia took a fastball down the middle for a called strike. Aceves then threw the same pitch but dropped it a few inches, and Dustin lifted a harmless flyout to center.
Batter #7: Victor Martinez
A curveball down and a fastball away put Aceves in a 2-0 hole, but he got a cutter over that got Martinez to foul it off. At 2-1, Aceves perfectly placed a fastball on the outside corner that evened the count. He then followed that with a changeup even further outside that Martinez chased and lofted to left for an easy out.
Aceves needed just 23 pitches to get through two innings despite Jeter’s error, and threw 16 strikes. He located well, as few of his pitches caught the middle of the plate, and he effectively mixed his pitches to keep hitters off balance. This formula served him well in his strong 2009, and continued to do so in his first outing of 2010.