Scouting NLDS Game One Starters

Dave Allen and I broke down the best arms for each team in the playoffs over at ESPN Insider. You can see Dave’s article on the AL aces here and mine on the NL aces here.

CIN: Edinson Volquez, RHP

The right-handed Edinson Volquez throws a mid-90s fastball and a mid-90s sinker (combined 56.7%), a low-80s changeup (22.8%), and a high-70s curveball (19.1%). His sinker breaks horizontally unlike the traditional sinker, while his curveball sinks both vertically and toward left-handed batters. Volquez uses his changeup more often against LHH, while utilizing his curveball and sinker against RHH. His changeup is his best pitch at getting swinging strikes, with RHH whiffing 29.6% and LHH whiffing 22.0% of the time against. He pitches to contact with his sinker, the pitch that is put into play the most (26.7% for RHH, 17.8% for LHH). It’s actually his curveball that has the highest groundball percentage, while the sinker induces both flyballs and groundballs. Finally, Volquez’s pitches are behind in the count (31.6%) more often than ahead in the count (25.5%).

PHI: Roy Halladay, RHP

The right-handed Roy Halladay throws a mid-90s four-seam fastball and a low-90s sinking two-seam fastball (combined 37.4%), a low-90s cutter (34.2%), a high-70s curveball (16.9%), and more recently, a mid-80s changeup (11.5%). His curveball has more horizontal movement than vertical movement, but is able to break towards LHH and away from RHH, while his other pitches can go in the other direction, especially the two-seam sinker. Halladay has improved his changeup, increasing the use of it this season (from 4.6% to 11.5%). He uses the cutter and changeup more against LHH, while utilizing the sinker and curveball more against RHH. He gets the most swinging strikes from his changeup (22.4% for RHH and 17.9% for LHH) and curveball (25.6% from RHH and 13.1% from LHH) than all the other pitches. If batters want to put the ball in play, they should look at swinging at the four-seamer, two-seamer, or even cutter instead of the changeup and curveball. The sinker, however, induces the most groundballs, but LHH hit a lot of groundballs off the cutter as well. Finally, Halladay controls the count very well, finding himself ahead of the count 32.2% of the time compared to behind in the count at 22.0% of the time.

ATL: Derek Lowe, RHP

The right-handed Derek Lowe throws a high-80s sinker (60.5%), a low-80s slider (16.1%), a mid-80s changeup (15.5%), and a mid-80s cutter (4.5%). His famous sinker has sharp break, and gets both horizontal and vertical movement from his slider. Lowe uses his changeup more often against LHH while increasing the use of his primary pitch, the sinker, against RHH. RHH are much more susceptible to whiff on Lowe’s sinker (22.8%) than LHH are (3.2%), but both hitters will hit a groundball on 60% of sinkers put in play. Finally, Lowe is behind in the count (31.5% of pitches) more often than ahead in the count (23.7% of pitches).

SF: Tim Lincecum, RHP

The right-handed Tim Lincecum throws a low-90s two-seam fastball more often than his four-seam fastball (54.6%) and also throws a nasty mid-80s changeup (23.0%), a high-70s curveball (13.9%), and a mid-80s slider (8.5%). His changeup is clearly his deadliest pitch, which has movement in addition to its sharp decrease in speed. His curveball has sharp vertical drop, while his fastballs seem to ‘rise’ more than the average fastball. Lincecum mixes his changeup more often against LHH, using it 26.4% of the time compared to 16.6% against RHH. He uses his curveball and slider more often against RHH. But Lincecum gets batters to swing and miss the most by far with his changeup (24.9% for RHH, 27.8% for LHH). LHH whiff on his slider as well, but also put the ball in play. The changeup induces pop-ups quite a bit against RHH (10.8% of changeups put in play), while his slider gets groundballs (53.8% against RHH, 63.6% against LHH). Finally, Lincecum sees himself behind in the count and ahead in the count roughly the same number of pitches (29.3% and 28.6%, respectively).

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Albert Lyu (@thinkbluecrew, LinkedIn) is a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, but will always root for his beloved Northwestern Wildcats. Feel free to email him with any comments or suggestions.

6 Responses to “Scouting NLDS Game One Starters”

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  1. MB923 says:

    Percentage of Volquez beating Halladay are probably pretty low. I usually like series that go the distance, however I think that is the series that will most likely have the sweep.

    Although crazy stuff has happened in baseball history, so we shall see, hope it’s a great postseason.

    I also hope of course the umpires do their job this time. Awful in the postseason last year, awful this year in the regular season. Uhhh

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  2. Chris G says:

    Volquez is an interesting case. His overall 2010 numbers are poor. What’s important is that his is coming off Tommy John surgery.

    I’d argue that his 2010 total numbers are less than meaningless – they’re deceptive. It’s hard to say that he’s back with certainty, but you can learn a lot more from looking at his game logs than his overall stats: He had one decent start in his debut, then lost his command entirely for five weeks (7 starts, 25 BB, 27 K in 29 IP. 7.14 ERA).

    With five other starters pitching well, the Reds sent him down to triple A to work on his release point. In three starts (23 IP) there, he cut the walks to 8, and struck out 21 and only allowed 5 hits.

    Called back up to the Reds in September, and was lights out in four starts: 27.2 IP, 1.95 ERA, 17 H, 8 BB, 31 K. Essentially, he turned opponents into Juan Castro: .183/.248/.194 (441 OPS).

    It’s a tiny sample size, but this is also a guy who rolled into the 2008 all-star game with a 2.29 ERA and a 12-3 record. It’s not that long ago that he was nearly Halladay’s peer, and *if the last month means anything*, he’s showing signs of being back at that level.

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  3. BurleighGrimes says:

    File this next comment in the category of meaningless trivia, but I couldn’t help but raise a bemused eyebrow when I noticed that all NLCS starters are eighties and all ALCS starters are lefties.

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  4. Phantom Stranger says:

    Great article that helps to clarify what each pitcher has in their arsenal. It would be nice to see something like this on the closers for each playoff team.

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