Re-visiting The Danks Theory With Fangraphs Heat Maps

After being dominated by Dallas BradenJohn Danks, and Shawn Marcum in a few week’s span, Joe Maddon decided to buck conventional wisdom and go…well…Joe Maddon. Against pitchers with pronounced usage patterns and reverse platoon splits, Maddon trotted out hitters of the same-handedness against the opposing pitcher to neutralize their strongest weapon – The Danks Theory (really this dates back to Mike Mussina in the 2008 season but that information was realized after The Danks Theory was christened last year).

The decision to go reverse platoon wasn’t about neutralizing the pitcher in the sense that same-handed batters hit the pitch better, but the opposing pitcher used it less. Therefore, the Rays’ line up would see the oppositions best pitch fewer times. Take Shawn Marcum as an example.

According to pitch values on fangraphs.com, Marcum’s change-up was the most effective pitch in major league baseball last season. His wCH of 26.0 was well above the second best change-up which belonged to American League Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez (18.7). In terms of usage, he went to the change around 14% against righties and upped it to over 30% against lefties

Once again, thanks to fangraphs and their new customizable heat maps, we now have the ability to use images and not just words and numbers to see what exactly Joe Maddon was trying to do.

First, Shawn Marcum…

*Note this is from a catcher’s perspective. Pitch intensity progresses from blue (low) to Orange/Red(high).

Now, John Danks

And the genesis of the theory, Mike Mussina in 2008.

Luckily, Marcum and his dominating change-up are now the National League’s problem; however, don’t be surprised if we see Maddon continue to use reverse platoons in 2011 to take away his opponents best pitch.

About Tommy Rancel

Senior Editor/Analyst - The Process Report. Writer/Analyst - Bloomberg Sports. MLB Insider - ESPN 1040
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