Bud Norris had flashes of brilliance in last night’s loss against the Brewers, including six strikeouts — four in the third inning! Norris would be undone, however, by the home run ball. Repeated issues with home runs have kept Norris from ascending to anything more than a mediocre pitcher, as he’s allowed at least 1.0 home runs per nine innings in every season of his career, nor has he ever bettered a 100 (average) ERA-.
The Brewers managed three home runs off Norris in the fifth and sixth innings last night with two coming from usual suspects in Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart as well as Travis Ishikawa’s first Milwaukee home run. Observe, a side-by-side look of the three home runs:
According to data from ESPN Stats & Information, all three of these offerings from Norris were almost as poorly placed as possible — right inside the power zones of the three Brewers’ hitters.
Ishikawa is hardly noted for his power, but much of that comes from his position. A .137 isolated power score (SLG-AVG) is perfectly normal or perhaps even a bit better than average for a left-handed hitter in San Francisco, but as a first baseman it is pedestrian at best and poor at worst. Still, like many lefties, Ishikawa is more than capable of pulling the pitch down-and-in for a home run, and that’s precisely what Norris gave him in the fifth inning:
Norris left an 84 MPH slider right inside Ishikawa’s biggest hot zone, an area of the strike zone where Ishikawa owns an isolated power (ISO) approaching .400 — for reference, Barry Bonds owns a career ISO of .309.
Hart was given a pitch palatable for lefties and righties alike; ESPN Stats & Info simply labels it as “Over the Plate,” and Hart is just one of many hitters who routinely feasts off pitches in this location:
Hart owns an ISO of .424 on middle-middle pitches like this one over the past three years. To use Bonds as a reference point once again, throwing Hart a pitch down the center of the plate is roughly as dangerous as pitching to 2002 Barry Bonds (.429 ISO) — the one who hit 46 HR the year after breaking the single-season home run mark with 73.
The pitch Weeks put into the seats is not particularly considered a power pitch — the game shot above shows it well off the plate, and although it would continue to run inside, it wouldn’t quite make it into the strike zone. Still, the high-and-outside part of the plate (and just off it) is just part of Weeks’s rather large wheelhouse:
Weeks is a fantastic high ball hitter. He owns a .400 ISO on high-middle or high-outside pitches, and even slightly out of the zone he maintains a mark over .200 (compared to an overall league average of .147). Another look at the live game shot shows that Weeks was able to get tremendous extension on Norris’s fastball. At just 90 MPH, Weeks timed it perfectly and drove it for a 411 foot bomb to right field. With another couple of ticks Norris may have drawn a pop-up or a foul to the opposite field, but there simply wasn’t enough on the pitch to get it past Weeks.
Early in the game, Norris managed to hit his spots and had the fastball velocity to blow the pitch by hitters when he needed to. As his start wound on, however, location started to slip for the 27-year-old, and three bad spots allowed the Brewers to run away with the lead and ride it all the way back to a 9-6 victory and a 9-9 record — just two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central.