Search Archives
  • Bill Chuck - Managing Editor
  • Dave Golebiewski
  • Daniel McCarthy
  • David Pinto
  • Jonathan Scippa
Follow Us

Featured Sponsors

What's New

Mailing List
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust
Twitter Feeds

This site utilizes the MLB analytics platform powered by TruMedia Networks

Entries in Wild Card (3)


Can Lefty-Killer Liriano Tame Cincinnati's Lineup?

The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, currently holding the National League's two Wild Card spots and still chasing the St. Louis Cardinals for NL Central supremacy, begin a pivotal series tonight at PNC Park. The Bucs' ace and the winter's biggest free agent bargain, Francisco Liriano, will square off against a Cincy lineup led by on-base machines Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto and slugger Jay Bruce.

The Reds' three key lefty bats could be in for a long night against Liriano, who is mowing down fellow southpaws like no other starting pitcher in major league history. He's holding them to a .319 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 2013, lowest ever for a lefty pitcher facing at least 100 lefty batters in a season. The big league average in lefty-versus lefty situations is just .645. Tonight's game could come down to whether Choo, Votto and Bruce can lay off Liriano's slider.

No National League starter this side of Madison Bumgarner throws his slider as often as Liriano (36% overall), and he relies on that high-80s missile even more against lefties (42%). He locates his slider off the outside corner to left-handers, just close enough to the edges that hitters feel compelled to swing once Liriano has bullied them into a pitcher's count.

Pitch location of Liriano's slider vs. lefties, 2013

Lefty hitters can't resist those tantalizingly close sliders, chasing them out of the strike zone 43% of the time. Liriano's chase rate with his slider against lefties is seventh-highest among starters, comfortably topping the 36% average and beating the likes of Clayton Kershaw (41%), Derek Holland (37%) and Chris Sale (35%).

Lefty hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Liriano's slider, 2013

Thanks to such an expanded strike zone, Liriano has a .076 opponent slugging percentage when he unleashes a slider to a lefty batter. That's best in the bigs and over 200 points below the MLB lefty-on-lefty average (.285).

So, how do the Reds' left-handers match up against the game's ultimate lefty hit man? Votto and Bruce probably aren't sweating Liriano. Choo, by contrast, must be drenched.

Votto has handled same-handed pitching over the past three seasons, posting a .908 OPS in 573 plate appearances against lefties. In fact, no qualified lefty hitter has a higher OPS against lefty pitching over that time frame. He's nearly platoon-proof in part because his Gandhi-like discipline extends to those tempting lefty sliders. Votto has chased just 28% of the time since the start of the 2011 season. Votto's patient approach has helped him slug a respectable .364 versus lefty sliders.

Bruce hasn't been shut down by lefties, either (.770 OPS in 602 PA). While he's much more of a free swinger than Votto overall -- who isn't? -- Bruce has chased lefty sliders off the plate 29% of the time. He's slugging .327 versus lefty sliders from 2011-13.

And then there's Choo. Maybe he wears that batting helmet with double ear flaps because he's wistfully thinking about taking up switch-hitting: Choo has a .617 OPS versus same-handed pitching in 569 PA from '11 to '13. He also shows good discipline versus lefty sliders (29% chase rate), he just can't hit them (.138 slugging percentage). Might be a good night for Choo to come down with a sudden case of Liriano-itis.


NL Wild Card K-Factor: Kris Medlen

The Atlanta Braves have managed to do what this year's Boston Red Sox team could not; they erased their failure to clinch the NL Wild Card in 2011 by making a strong run into the playoffs. They now have a one game, loser goes home playoff against the same team that knocked them out of the running last September: the St. Louis Cardinals. You can bet that Atlanta will be gunning for some retribution on Friday as they take the field in front of their home fans looking to take down the defending champs.

St. Louis sends RHP Kyle Lohse to the mound in the midst of a career season for the veteran starter. On the other side, Atlanta will throw young phenom Kris Medlen. Fresh off Tommy John's Surgery, Medlen was relegated to bullpen duty to start the season, being used in mid to high-leverage situations in a bullpen that featured both young fireballers lefty setup man Johnny Venters and right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel. 

On July 31st, Medlen was moved to the rotation, and every fifth game since then, the Braves have won a game. In those twelve starts, Medlen broke a long standing record winning each of the past 23 games he started. The major factor in this game is going to be if the young gun can stand the heat of the post season and continue posting zeroes on the scoreboard. Let's take a look at what Medlen has done since his first start of the season.

Just looking at his overall stat line is a quite a marvel:

12 starts, 0.97 ERA, .801 WHIP, .191 AVG against, .218 OBP, .265 SLG, .483 OPS, 9.04 K/9, 84 K to only 10 BB

Medlen's AVG against since becoming a starter July 31st

Since his first start, Medlen has given up less total bases than he has struck men out (79 TB). His strikeout pitch has been the fastball, reaching back for a little extra 48% of the time. His preferred location: down and away from right handers, and inside on left handers. 

St. Louis hitters have had only 22 total PAs versus Medlen this year, making him a mystery to most of their offense. The key matchup for Medlen will be versus Matt Holliday, whom he has already struck out once this year on a changeup. So far this season, Holliday has victimized offspeed pitches down and in averaging .333 and hitting 7 extra base hits.

Holliday versus Down and In Offspeed

If Kris Medlen can continue to control the plate with all three of his pitches then the Braves can look forward to increasing the win streak to 24.


Brett Myers' Improvement

Brett Myers of the Houston Astros has pitched to a 1.41 ERA over the last month, 5th best of any Major League starter.  In that six game span, Myers has gone 4-0 holding opposing batters to a line of .180/.273/.484.

One reason he's been so dominant has been his improved performance against lefties.

Brett Myers vs. LHB

Myers managed to keep the ball away from lefties more over the last month, and they were unable to do much against him.   They hit just .177 compared .302 prior to August 27th.  Lefties also saw a drop in slugging percentage against Myers, falling from .509 to .278.

Brett Myers vs. LHB

Myers is scheduled to pitch the last game of the season against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday. While the game will mean essentially nothing to the Astros, the Cards are just one game back of the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves. Brett Myers performance tomorrow could play a large role in determining which team will be sitting home in October.