Scouting ALDS Game Two Starters

A look at the pitch selection and pitch outcomes of ALDS Game Two starters. See ALDS Game One starters and NLDS Game One starters.

TEX: C.J. Wilson, LHP: 7.50 K/9, 4.10 BB/9, 0.44 HR/9, 3.35 ERA, 3.56 FIP

The left-handed C.J. Wilson throws a low-90s four-seamer and two-seamer (combined 49.2%), a high-80s cutter (18.6%), a low-80s slider (12.1%), a low-80s changeup (11.7%), and a mid-70s curveball (8.5%). This is how the classification comes out, but reports say that Wilson claims to throw the gyroball, which in reality is probably a hybrid of some of the more common pitch types. His breaking balls move toward right-handed batters, while his two-seam fastball breaks toward left-handed batters sharply. As a result, Wilson uses his two-seamer much more frequently against LHH (44.8%) than against RHH (20.9%). The changeup is utilized more against RHH (14.5%) than LHH (3.4%).

LHH struggle mightily against Wilson, and part of that has to do with not being able to put the ball in play and whiffing. The slider and cutter are his most effective pitches at getting whiffs. The two-seamer induces groundballs when put into play (52.0% for RHH and 66.1% for LHH), while the cutter results in pop-ups when thrown to LHH (16.7% of pop-ups put in play). Finally, Wilson finds himself behind in the count (31.3% of pitches) more often than ahead in the count (25.6% of pitches).

TB: James Shields, RHP: 8.28 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 1.50 HR/9, 5.18 ERA, 4.24 FIP

The right-handed James Shields throws a low-90s four-seam fastball and a high-80s two-seam fastball (combined 46.1%), a low-80s changeup (24.9%), a mid-80s cutter (15.5%), and a high-70s curveball (13.5%). His curveballs move down and toward left-handed hitters, while his fastballs and changeups have slight movement to right-handed hitters. His changeup is excellent at getting swinging strikes (27.1% of RHH and 17.4% of LHH), a pitch that RHH especially like to chase at.

A notable split is that his curveball is put in play by RHH (19.5%) more than LHH (13.5%). RHH hit line drives off 29.4% of curveballs put in play (31.4% for LHH), while they hit groundballs off 61.5% of changeups put in play (46.1% for LHH). Finally, Shields finds himself ahead in the count (28.8%) slightly more than he does behind in the count (26.5%).

NYY: Andy Pettitte, LHP: 7.05 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, 0.91 HR/9, 3.28 ERA, 3.85 FIP

The left-handed Andy Pettitte throws a low-90s four-seamer and a high-80s two-seamer (combined 57.0%), a mid-80s cutter (20.4%), a mid-70s curveball (15.4%), and a low-80s changeup (7.2%). His curveball has horizontal movement toward RHH, but is more of a 12-6 curveball, while his two-seamer and changeup can move horizontally in the other direction. Pettitte uses his standard fastballs the same way against both RHH and LHH, but uses far more changeups against RHH (9.6% vs. never) and more cutters against LHH (31.7% vs. 16.6%).

In terms of plate discipline, batters whiff the most on Pettitte’s cutters, especially LHH (whiff on 29.9% of cutters, 17.3% for RHH), which explains the cutter usage split. The changeup is usually a pitch that gets swinging strikes, but RHH put Pettitte’s changeup in play (26.6%) far more than they whiff (9.8%), suggesting that his changeup has not been particularly useful or is more of a setup pitch. When looking at the batted ball splits, curveballs stand out as they induce pop-ups frequently (20.7% of curveballs put in play for RHH, thrown rarely against LHH). The two-seam fastball also induces groundballs. Finally, same as Shields, Pettitte is ahead in the count (28.7% of pitches) slightly more often than behind in the count (26.9%).

MIN: Carl Pavano, RHP: 4.76 K/9, 1.51 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, 3.75 ERA, 4.02 FIP

The right-handed Carl Pavano throws a low-90s sinker and four-seamer (combined 57.1%), a low-80s changeup (21.9%), and a mid-80s slider (20.5%). His sinker is his most used pitch of all, which breaks sharply toward right-handed batters. Pavano doesn’t own a pitch that has huge break in the other direction, nor does his slider have particularly large vertical movement.

Still, Pavano has enjoyed success this season, a lot of it due to his mix of sinkers and changeups. His changeup gets 15.7% of RHH and 16.1% of LHH to whiff, while his sinker is used to pitch to contact (28.4% of RHH and 24.1% of LHH put sinkers into play). 57.1% of sinkers put in play are groundballs for RHH (45.2% for LHH). But his changeup induces even more groundballs (59.2% for RHH, 66.7% for LHH). Not only does his changeup induce the most whiffs of any pitch, but when put in play, they are more often groundballs than any other batted ball type. Finally, the key to Pavano’s revived success this season, he has steered clear away from being behind in the count (22.5% of pitches), finding himself with an advantage ahead in the count (32.5%) much more often.

We hoped you liked reading Scouting ALDS Game Two Starters by Albert Lyu!

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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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does Andy Pettitte’s curveball really have “much more horizontal movement (toward the RHH) than vertical movement”? Are you just looking at the pitchf/x numbers for this (which don’t include the effects of gravity)? Watching him pitch, he frequently throws a pretty long, sweeping breaking ball.