Fly Ball-Slanted Lewis Should Like Busch III
When Colby Lewis is on the mound, most of the action is going to take place in the air. The Rangers right-hander has the fourth-highest fly ball rate (49.4 percent) among starting pitchers. Those lofted pitches often get Lewis in trouble, as he has served up 38 home runs in 212 innings pitched (1.61 per nine frames). Luckily for Lewis, his Game Two start against St. Louis will take place in homer-hating Busch Stadium.
Lewis' fly ball-centric approach doesn't work well at Rangers Ballpark, which, according to StatCorner, increases home run production by 19 percent for left-handed hitters and 14 percent for righties. But Busch III decreases homers by 18 percent for lefty batters and 26 percent for righties. Fly balls that lead to souvenir scrums in Texas are just harmless outs in St. Louis.
The majority of Lewis' homers have been hit on fastballs (18) and cutters (seven), and of those 25 shots, 15 were blasted at Arlington. Lewis' fastball and cutter get smoked at home, but those pitches are much more effective in friendlier confines on the road. In home starts, Lewis has allowed a combined .515 slugging percentage on fastballs and cutters. On the road, hitters have slugged .394 against those pitches.
In addition to park effects, part of the reason for that slugging discrepancy appears to be pitch location. Lewis does a better job of keeping his fastball and cutter down in the zone when he's sporting away grays.
At home, Lewis has thrown 35 percent of his fastballs and cutters up in the zone:
Batters pulverize those belt-high pitches at Arlington, slugging a whopping .716 on high heaters and cutters:
On the road, Lewis has thrown slightly under 31 percent of his fastballs and cutters high in the zone:
And when Lewis does leave a fastball or cutter high in the zone in a road start, it doesn't hurt him near as much as in hitter-happy Rangers Ballpark. Opponents are slugging a modest .375 on Lewis' high fastballs and cutters when he's on the road:
Lewis has been an immense bargain since he returned stateside, providing about seven Wins Above Replacement while earning a little over $5 million and pitching exceptionally in the playoffs (a 2.37 ERA in 38 combined innings in 2010-2011). But as an extreme fly ball pitcher, he's more effective outside of Texas. By lining up Lewis so that he starts on the road (coincidence or not, he started away games against Tampa Bay and Detroit), Texas maximizes the chances that he gives them five strong innings before the club call upon a deep, dominant bullpen.