According to ESPN writer Mark Simon, what has made K-Rod so devastating in his career has been his combination of very effective breaking balls and change-ups in two-strike counts. In his June 4th article, Simon shows that K-Rod's breaking pitches aren't nearly as effective as they had been in the past. As a result, K-Rod is having much more difficulty getting outs this year. This is obvious for us Mets fans.
The article recalls how K-Rod was deadly in 2004 against opponents with 0-2 counts, letting only 3 out of 75 opponents get on base (.040 OBP). As of June 4th 2010, opponents now have a .308 OBP after K-Rod had gotten ahead of them 0-2. He's simply not putting them away the way he used to.
What has happened? Simon used ESPN's Insider Edge video review data to take a much closer look at what's happening when K-Rod gets two strikes on a hitter.
He concluded that while K-Rod's fastball is down from 97 mph to 91, what may be more problematic is a greatly reduced effectiveness of his breaking pitches in two strike counts.
In fact, Simon's data shows that opponents' batting averages against K-Rod's breaking pitches in two strike counts have dramatically increased over the last three years.
.115 in 2008
.286 in 2009
.333 in 2010 (as of a month ago)
Simon's conclusion suggests that while hitters were at K-Rod's mercy when he could use any of four pitches to strike you out with, it's a different story when it's just the fastball and the change up.
I will be very curious to see how effective his curve and slider are as "out" pitches from now on.