Archive for the ‘ Analysis ’ Category

It’s who scores the most, but it helps to score first

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By Cary Osborne

One truth about this National League Championship Series is that the team that has scored first has won every single game.

Is that coincidental? Maybe. But consider the starting pitching we’re seeing here. Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester, in that order, ranked one through four in ERA among all starting pitchers who threw at least 100 innings this season. Jake Arrieta was 10th in the National League.

When these pitchers have a lead, the pressure appears to shift onto their opponents.

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Jake Arrieta returns to the scene of the sublime

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

David Banks/Getty Images

By Cary Osborne

Jake Arrieta, who starts for the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, again was the toughest pitcher to hit in 2016. He has led baseball two years running in lowest opponents’ batting average and fewest hits per nine innings.

But beyond the reigning Cy Young Award winner’s jump from a 1.77 ERA in 2015 to 3.10 in 2016, there are other signs that Arrieta was a different pitcher this season — which could be good news for the Dodgers, the team he no-hit in his last Dodger Stadium appearance (with a similar 5 p.m. start time) on August 30, 2015.

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Nationals Game 3 starter Gio Gonzalez is tough, but there are cracks

Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

Nationals
Trea Turner, CF
Jayson Werth, LF
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Bryce Harper, RF
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
Danny Espinosa, SS
José Lobatón, C
Gio Gonzalez, P
Dodgers
Howie Kendrick, LF
Justin Turner, 3B
Corey Seager, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrián González, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Charlie Culberson, 2B
Joc Pederson, CF
Kenta Maeda, P

By Cary Osborne

Washington Nationals’ Game 3 starter Gio Gonzalez has shut down the Dodgers in each of his last two meetings — 14 innings, one earned run. And we know about the Dodgers’ struggles against left-handed pitching.

But the Washington left-hander is not invincible, even if left-handed batters hit just one home run against him all year and OPSed .633 against him, compared to right-handers and their .756 OPS.

Atlanta got to Gonzalez pretty good on September 6, touching him up for eight hits and six earned runs. The Braves alternated left-handed and right-handed hitters in the first six spots in the lineup, and lefties went 6 for 9 against Gonzalez in that game.

However, in the 10 games in which Gonzalez allowed four runs or more, nine of the lineups he faced were predominantly right-handed.

There are three keys for Dodger hitters in this matchup, though: get ahead in the count, get on the fastball and get some runs early.
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Hill will use his curve in attempt to carve up the Nats

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Dodgers
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andrew Toles, LF
Rich Hill, P
Nationals
Trea Turner, CF
Bryce Harper, RF
Jayson Werth, LF
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
Danny Espinosa, SS
José Lobatón , C
Tanner Roark, P

By Cary Osborne

Today, one of the best curveball pitchers in the game faces one of the worst curveball hitting teams.

There’s the advantage for Rich Hill against the Nationals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

According to Fangraphs, Hill had baseball’s second-best curveball in 2016 among pitchers with a minimum 100 innings pitched. His 16.0 wCB (curveball runs above average) only trailed Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.

According to Statcast, opposing batters hit .180 and slugged .243 against Hill’s curveball. Chris Iannetta (April 9) and Jose Altuve (May 1) were the only players to homer off the pitch.

As for the Nationals, they ranked 21st in the Majors against the curveball with a .202 batting average and 23rd with a .317 slugging percentage. The league average for both were .211/.342.

There are no secrets here. Hill throws the curveball — a lot. Brooks Baseball has the percentage at 46.82 percent this season. And he’ll also bring it with his fastball — a lot: 47.05 percent of the time.

And here’s one more thing that stands out about Hill. Only three pitchers ranked in the top 20 in wCB and wFB (fastball runs above average): Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester and Rich Hill. Pick your poison, Nats.

How Joc Pederson has evolved as a hitter

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Red Sox at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Josh Reddick, RF
Adrián González, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Howie Kendrick, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Scott Kazmir, P

By Cary Osborne

Think back to Spring Training.

If you saw Joc Pederson during the first couple of weeks at the plate he looked lost.

He was clearly tinkering with his foot work, searching for timing and doing anything he could to become a better hitter.

Now if you compare what he looks like at the plate this year compared to last (see above), the biggest discernable difference is he starts with his hands closer to his body. He still has the same short step, same explosion with his hips and his finish looks similar.

But whatever he has done — whether it be changing his hand location or something more drastic that’s not clearly visible — it’s working.

Joc Pederson 2016 is a better hitter than Joc Pederson 2015.

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Is Yasmani Grandal turning the corner?

Yasmani Grandal is congratulated by his teammates.

By Cary Osborne

Just as we’ve seen others find their turning points recently — Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick for example — maybe Yasmani Grandal is joining them.

It’s not just his go-ahead three-run home run in the eighth inning on Tuesday night that says so. Grandal said there are a pair of things going right for him — he’s hitting the ball hard and maybe more importantly, he’s gotten healthy.

The turning point, he said, came about 10 days ago when the Dodgers were in San Francisco.

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Recent Kazmir makes you go hmmm

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Dodgers at Giants, 4:15 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian González, 1B
Trayce Thompson, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Howie Kendrick, LF
Scott Kazmir, P

By Cary Osborne

There are some of us who tend to look at the overall — it’s only natural — and make judgments.

So looking at Scott Kazmir’s overall — the 4.46 ERA — it’s natural to go “hmmph.”

But Kazmir offers us a pretty good comparison because in his last five starts, he has pitched exactly the same amount of innings as the previous six starts — 31 1/3 innings.

And looking at the last five starts, hmmph becomes hmmm.

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The Dodgers’ best strike and ball hitters

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By Cary Osborne

Let’s take you back to little league. Swing at strikes, good things happen. Swing at balls, bad things happen.

But how good? And how bad?

For Dodger players, we know the answer to those questions thanks to information from Brooks Baseball. And we also know the answer to if any one has success swinging at balls.

In 2015, the Dodger who had the most success on pitches thrown in the strike zone, if you go by batting average and the qualifier being 100 strikes put in play, was Kiké Hernandez. He was 41 for 113 on in-the-zone pitches put in play. But it’s close. Adrian Gonzalez had nearly triple the amount of strikes put in play and was 105 for 294.

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The outside stuff on Yasiel Puig

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By Cary Osborne

The other day, I looked at zone profiles for Justin Turner and discussed just how much he has improved with inside pitches. I thought the next case study should be the always intriguing Yasiel Puig.

The thing I see is pitchers have a specific spot where they like to cast their bait to catch Puig. In the past, they’ve caught him often. If he can resist the temptation enough, he’s got pitchers where he wants them.

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The inside stuff on Justin Turner

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By Cary Osborne

When you look at Justin Turner at the plate over the last five years, it’s been quite the evolution from 2011 as a New York Met to where he is today.

In 2011, he stood with knees slightly bent, torso with a slight tilt and bat slightly off his back shoulder. When he swung, he lifted his front leg then put his toes down and rolled over on the front side of his foot.

Now his knees are barely bent before he swings, and his bat and torso are completely upright. When he swings, he lifts his front leg to where his knee rises to his hip, the front foot lands heel to toes flat on the ground, then turns over with his weight on his ankle.

Beyond what he looks like at the plate, it’s something that he’s done at the plate that has made a vast difference for him and taken him from an average hitter to one of the best hitting third basemen in the game.

Turner has adjusted to the inside pitch.

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