Scouting ALDS 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.

TEX: Cliff Lee, LHP

The left-handed Cliff Lee throws a low-90s four-seam fastball and a two-seam fastball (combined 63.6%), a high-80s cutter (19.8%), a mid-80s circle changeup (9.4%), and a mid-70s knuckle curve (5.6%). His curveball has huge downward vertical movement and also moves horizontally toward RHH. The more frequently-used two-seam fastball moves in the other direction toward LHH and away from RHH, as does his changeup. Lee uses his two-seam fastball a lot more often against RHH (46.5%) than against LHH (26.5%). He also uses his changeup much more against RHH (11.9% vs. 2.6%) and his four-seam fastball more against LHH (39.5% vs. 14.7%). RHH whiff on Lee’s changeups (16.9%) and curveballs (17.8%) the most, while LHH are surprisingly more disciplined (Swing% of 48.2% by LHH vs. Swing% of 52.0% by RHH). Of all of his pitches, Lee’s curveball induces the most groundballs from RHH (72.2% of balls put in play being groundballs). Finally, Lee has extremely good control at working the count, where he’s ahead in the count 36.1% of all pitches and behind the count only 18.8% of all pitches.

TB: David Price, LHP

The left-handed David Price throws a high-90s four-seam fastball and a low-90s two-seam fastball (combined 74.0%), a high-70s curveball (15.6%), a mid-80s changeup (5.5%), and a mid-80s slider (4.9%). His curveball has more vertical than horizontal movement, which breaks in the direction of RHH. His fastballs go in the opposite horizontal direction toward LHH. Price uses his two-seamer more frequently against RHH and his four-seamer and slider more against LHH. RHH whiff 12.5% of the time against his four-seam fastball and 11.3% of the time against his slider, while LHH whiff 11.1% of the time against his two-seamer. He gets groundballs off RHH through his curveball (65.0%) and off LHH through his four-seamer and slider (53.0% and 64.3%, respectively). Finally, Price also finds himself ahead in the count (31.5%) more often than behind in the count (24.9%).

NYY: CC Sabathia, LHP

The left-handed CC Sabathia throws less pitches than the other Game One starters, throwing a low-90s sinking fastball (61.5%), a low-80s slider (21.5%), and a mid-80s changeup (17.0%). His slider has more horizontal movement than vertical movement, but his changeup might be his best pitch, combining sharp movement with sharp change in speed. Sabathia uses his slider more against LHH and uses his changeup only against RHH, who whiff 16.4% of the time. For LHH, they whiff most often against his slider (18.5%), while the sinker is put in play the most. RHH hit flyballs off Sabathia (26.3%) more than LHH (20.1%), while LHH dominate the groundball percentages (56.1% for LHH vs. 49.8% for RHH). Finally, Sabathia finds himself behind in the count (28.1%) and ahead in the count (27.3%) in about the same number of pitches.

MIN: Francisco Liriano, LHP

The left-handed Francisco Liriano also throws three primary pitches, a mid-90s fastball (48.6%), a mid-80s slider (33.8%), and a mid-80s changeup (17.6%). His slider has a little bit of movement toward RHH, while his fastball and changeup move sharply toward LHH. Liriano’s slider has regained its former nastiness, and has caused 22.3% of RHH and 21.7% of LHH to whiff this season. His fastball is put in play the most by both hitters, but LHH in particular hit groundballs off his fastball (74.2%). RHH hit groundballs off his changeup (61.1%). Finally, like Sabathia, Liriano generally sees behind-in-the-count pitches (26.2%) the same number of times as ahead-in-the-count pitches (28.4%).

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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.

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I think the Lee/Price Game 1 is probably the hardest amongst all 4 of the Game 1’s to predict.