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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Yunesky Maya's new strike zone

By Adam Kilgore
Morning brushback

After his penultimate start of last season, his first in America, Yunesky Maya said through Livan Hernandez, "I'm going to be much [better] next year." This winter, he pitched in winter ball, got into shape and, after one appearance yesterday, Maya was much better.

The most significant difference for Maya this year, even more so than an increased comfort with the culture outside of baseball, is the most basic. Maya will have a better understanding of the strike zone as drawn by MLB umpires, the concept that governs every pitch of every game.

When Maya arrived last year, he thought of himself as aggressive pitcher. What he knew as aggression in Cuba was lost in translation. Umpires allowed a larger strike zone there, and hitters were much more free-swinging, more willing to swing at a close breaking ball early in the count. Maya brought his style to America, throwing offspeed pitchers on or just off the corners. Hitters had always swung at those pitches, or else umpires had called them strikes. Now, they were balls.

maya pitch.jpg

This winter, the Nationals told Maya to trust his sinking fastball, to throw it inside and over the plate. It was only one day, but yesterday, Maya complied, and it made an enormous difference. He threw 18 strikes in 28 pitches, making the Marlins swing and miss a half-dozen times. Last year, he threw 17 pitches per inning. Of 92 qualifying starters last year, only four threw more.

"I feel 100 percent better," Maya said yesterday. "I feel more confident now that I see these guys regularly."

He was talking about the hitters at the plate. But it might have been more apt if he meant the umpire standing behind it.


In his first appearance of the spring, Yunesky Maya looked more like the pitcher the Nationals signed last summer.

The Braves have forged a new identity around Jason Heyward, Dave Sheinin writes.

By Adam Kilgore  | March 3, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning brushback  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Roger Bernadina's strong start, Bryce Harper's near miss, Nationals pitchers stay under control
Next: Today's Nationals lineup, travel roster


Another example of bad writing from Kilgore. Can someone interpret this bit for me? I'm totally befuddled.

"He threw 18 strikes in 28 pitches, making the Marlins swing and miss a half-dozen times. Of 92 qualifying starters last year, only four threw more."

Posted by: FeelWood | March 3, 2011 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Another example of FeelWood being a jerk. Always critizing and editing, but saying next to nothing about baseball.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | March 3, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

@FeelWood - I'm not sure I'm following you, what part did you feel was unclear?

Here's the whole paragraph (you left out a sentence):

He threw 18 strikes in 28 pitches, making the Marlins swing and miss a half-dozen times. Last year, he threw 17 pitches per inning. Of 92 qualifying starters last year, only four threw more.

What's not clear about that? 28 pitches, 18 strikes. Of those 18 strikes, 6 were swing and misses, which means 12 were strikes the batters just looked at. Last year, Maya threw 17 pitches per inning. Only four pitchers threw more pitches per inning last year.

I'm trying, but I'm not seeing anything unclear there. I honestly had no trouble at all with that 'graph, and thought it contributed to a very interesting post.

Posted by: Section220 | March 3, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Maybe his issue was with "qualifying"? I mean, in a fishwrap article, you'd need to throw in a sentence about what that means, but that's fine on a blog.

Posted by: Section406 | March 3, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I didn't leave out a sentence in my quote. Kilgore put that sentence in AFTER I left my comment. In other words, jcampbell1, had I not been a jerk and made that comment, Kilgore's article would have made no sense. Surprised you don't see the value in that.

Posted by: FeelWood | March 3, 2011 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the sentence "Last year, he threw 17 pitches per inning." was missing from the post until FW pointed it out? At any rate, I'm encouraged by the progress Maya is making, and now I have a tidbit I didn't have before about the Cuban strike zone and the definition of aggressive. Nice post Adam.

Posted by: nationalsanthems | March 3, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

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