Archive for the ‘Anatomy of a Matchup’ Category

Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout hits a home run as Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish and catcher Geovany Soto watch in Arlington, Texas

Did you know Mike Trout is a great hitter? It’s true, he can really swing the bat. Yu Darvish is a very good pitcher in his own right. He struck out more batters than any other big league pitcher last year, 277 in total. Over the last two seasons, hitters mustered only a .207 average against Darvish, which is better than all but six starters in baseball.

Mike Trout is not “the league”, of course. As such, Mike Trout gets more hits and draws more walks than even the best hitters. He hits bad pitchers and good pitchers and generally does the stuff that makes some people sick of reading his name*. While hitters as a collective turn into Drew Stubbs when they face Yu Darvish, Mike Trout turns into…Mike Trout.

Against Darvish, Trout has four home runs, six walks and nine total hits in 34 plate appearances. Of course, a 34 PA sample isn’t much to go on as far as predicting the future. But Trout’s skills and abilities provide a difficult challenge for any pitcher, even one as skilled as Yu Darvish. Luckily for Rangers fans, Darvish is not taking the manhandling sitting down. This year, Darvish plans on making adjustments and attacking Mike Trout in a whole new way.

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco Giants

Andrew McCutchen is the best player on the Pittsburgh Pirates. He might just be the best player in the National League, when awards time comes. He is the beating heart of the Pirates batting order, hitting third while posting the best numbers on the team. The right-handed center fielder lead the team in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging pecentage this year.

Already in the 2013 playoffs (five games, including the Wild Card play-in), Andrew McCutchen has reached base an astounding 12 times. In losing 2-1 to the Cardinals in Game Four, Cutch failed to reach base at all. It isn’t too much of a stretch to say as McCutchen goes, so go the Pirates.

Which is good news for Pirates fans ahead of their pivotal Game 5 against Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals tonight. Because Andrew McCutchen is very difficult matchup for the Cardinals ace.

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david price pitch

So. It all comes down to one game for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers. Well, it all comes down to one for the chance for it to come back down on one more game on Wednesday night. Regardless, the Rangers streaked into this position, winning their final seven games straight while the Rays backed in, winning on the season’s final day after losing two straight to the Toronto Blue Jays on the road.

Luckily for the Rays, they have their ace and best pitcher ready to fire tonight, sending David Price on full rest against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. These aren’t your father’s Texas Rangers, mind you. The old Rangers bashed and mashed their way to consecutive World Series appearances. The 2013 edition still scored plenty of runs, ranking in the top ten in both runs and homers, but the offense feels more organic than the old days of standing around, waiting for a homer.

The centerpiece of the Rangers offense remains Adrian Beltre, a potential Hall of Famer who posted a now-typical Adrian Beltre season in 2013 – he hit 30 home runs, played the living hell out of third base, engaged in shenanigans and possibly solved crimes with his shortstop, Elvis Andrus, and got really weird whenever somebody touched his head.

Beltre is the cleanup hitter for Texas and his is the bat most deserving of attention in the Rangers order. So how might David Price attempt to work around the free-swinging third baseman and get his Rays into the next stage of the playoffs?

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks

I know what you’re thinking – who on earth is Kevin Siegrist? The Cardinals rookie reliever is hardly a household name. Not many 41st round draft picks are. As a testament to the Cardinals incredible scouting and player development model, they plucked Siegrist out of Palm Beach Community College in Wellington, Florida in the 2008 draft and, lo and behold, have themselves a fireballing left-handed reliever some five years later.

Siegrist slowly climbed the minor league ladder, starting from short-season rookie ball all the way to the big leagues in 2013, where the 6’5″ fireballer finds himself logging important innings for the best team in baseball.

Last night, Siegrist checked in for the Cardinals with his team clinging to a 3-1 lead. Manager Mike Matheny presented his young hurler with a very tall task – get through the top of the Reds vaunted lineup. Kevin Siegrist was certainly up to the task.

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

Unless you’re a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, everything you know about Edwin Encarnacion is a lie. If you still think of Encarnacion as “E5″, you’re wrong. Not only has he made just 10 starts at the hot corner over the last two seasons, he has evolved far beyond the the league-average hitter who pounded 26 home runs as a member of the Cincinnati Reds (with stops in the minor leagues and on waiver wire in between).

Here, in 2013, Edwin Encarnacion is one of the best power hitters in the game. He is the only player with a slugging percentage above .450 who still manages to walk more than he strikes out. He has more extra base hits this season than strikeouts. Nobody else in baseball, not Miguel Cabrera or Adrian Beltre, can claim that. Just Edwin Encarnacion.

On Sunday afternoon, Edwin Encarnacion came to the plate in the seventh inning with his team down a run. The opposing pitcher, Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays, was dealing. Archer had allowed just a single hit to that point, striking out five batters without issuing a single walk. Archer was doing it with his superlative fastball, commanding the pitch and coaxing a series of lazy fly balls.

This presents itself as a good matchup for Edwin Encarnacion, who pounds fastballs for a living. 21 of EE’s 31 homers have come against the heat this season, tying him for the lead league with Miguel Cabrera. It is a matchup of strength versus strength.

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matt harvey marlins park

Matt Harvey doesn’t throw harder than every other pitcher in baseball, though it is pretty close. Matt Harvey doesn’t have the best stuff of any pitcher in baseball, thought it is pretty close. Matt Harvey doesn’t have the lowest walk rate of any pitcher in baseball, but it is pretty close.

Many pitchers have big time velocity. Many pitchers have terrific control, others have great command. It is possible to have one without the other – pitchers who are able to hit the strikezone with regularity but don’t hit their spot quite as often, resulting in hard hit balls and stuff that doesn’t show up in a raw strikeout-to-walk ratio.

In a single at bat today, Matt Harvey demonstrated the value of all three – working together to against one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters.

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How it probably felt to Gerrit  Cole

How it probably felt to Gerrit Cole

It was the unstoppable force meeting the immoveable object of prospect hype: Gerrit Cole makes his second-ever big league start against the Dodgers and phenom Yasiel Puig. Cole, with all the polish and pedigree of a first overall college pitcher and Puig, the Cuban import signed after little more than a single workout.

After a whirlwind few weeks in the big leagues, these two young players captured the interest of much of the baseball-watching world. Well, Puig captured the attention of the baseball world while Pirates fans and internet types watched Gerrit Cole closely, wondering when his results would match up with his legendary velocity and stuff.

Meanwhile, Puig seems to succeed in spite of his lack of seasoning and unrefined approach. Might the man who pounds the strike zone best the man who swings without much concern for it?

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