Cust breakout?

Jack Cust went 4-for-4 with a home run and two walks last night. Is that the end of his April slump?

In the last few days after publishing an article on Jack Cust’s April 2008 hitting, I have learned a few things about Cust from contributors to other discussion boards.

In the Oakland A’s clubhouse at Scout.com, shirls442000 made the following post:

Did anybody watch the hour long Baseball Tonight on Sunday? My buddy called me to tell me they did a segment on Cust – saying (and showing) that his bat speed was very slow to start the year but that recently he had regained his bat speed of years past and to expect a break out soon. In other words a fastball hitter who can’t catch up to fastballs is not much good and that is what he had been early on. I did not see the segment but wondered if anybody did and can add some detail to these generalities.

I didn’t see that Baseball Tonight segment, so you’re hearing it third-hand from me, and you can take that for what it’s worth. I would be curious to hear from any of you who did see the piece on Cust on Baseball Tonight about what specifically they showed about his bat speed.

Later in the same thread, livethedream added the following observation:

There are so many times I’ve been watching and Cust gets his fastball down the middle and just swings right through it. It’s not like there haven’t been pitches for Cust to hit this year. Go back and look yourself. He got at least one meatball a game the past two weeks. He just didn’t seem to quite get around on it. You’ll also notice if you watch that he fouled a ton of balls off to left field, which also suggests he just wasn’t getting around on pitches. Now watch the last four games or so. Everything is lined from left-center on around, which is more in line with what he normally does.

Again, take it for what it’s worth coming second-hand from me.

However, I would like to present a little bit of PITCHf/x data for Cust from the last two games of the series with the Angels which were not included in my article that was published on Wednesday. In those two games, Cust collected three singles, a double, a home run, and three walks in 10 plate appearances.

How did the Angels pitch him? Cust faced six right-handed pitchers: Ervin Santana, Justin Speier, Nick Adenhart, Dustin Moseley, Darren O’Day, and Chris Bootcheck. Collectively, they threw him 32 fastballs, six sliders, two change-ups, and one splitter.

Wednesday night, Justin Speier struck out Jack Cust with a fastball, slider, splitter, fastball, slider sequence. Otherwise, the remaining pitchers had no luck with him. Santana also showed him some off-speed stuff, but he threw two sliders and two change-ups for three called balls and one swinging strike.

The rest of what Cust saw the last two days was fastball, fastball, fastball. He took 18 of 32 fastballs for a ball. One was called a strike, and he swung and missed at another. He fouled off six fastballs and put another six of them into play.

Here are the strike zone locations of the fastballs he saw the last two days in Anaheim. The chart is from the catcher’s perspective.

Cust Fastball Pitch Location April 30 and May 1

He did his usual good job of laying off pitches out of the strike zone, and in these games he did a better job of putting the bat on the fastball.

And here is what he did with the pitches he put in play.

Cust Balls in Play April 30 and May 1

He pulled the ball and hit it hard. That would seem to be a good sign, one that has been missing most of the last month, even though it comes from a very small sample of two games.

I don’t know whether Cust’s April slump is over. As Yogi Berra supposedly said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

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