This series covers one day and one night game pitching match-up for each day, and predicts which starter has the FoulBallz Foul Ball advantage: Which pitcher will leave the game first based on the 2014 foul ball numbers. How can the opposing line-up drive the starter out early? We’ll see.
The foul ball match-ups for today are:
Day Game: Los Angeles Angels vs. Baltimore Orioles
In the featured day game, the Angels send Garrett Richards against Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez. This match of is lopsided to say the least.
The Angels’ right-handers are looking at a 43.3% offense conversion rate against Jimenez in day games. Their southpaw counterparts are fairing well too, with a 38.3% success rate after slapping at least one foul ball against Jimenez. The Angels are looking at a combined foul ball conversion rate of 40.3% against the Orioles’ starter.
The Orioles are facing struggles if they try to foul off balls. Richards had a 2014 overall average of only allowing 22% of batters to generate offense (balks, walks, hit-by-pitch, single, double, etc.) after one foul ball.
While both pitchers have limited daytime pitching experience to draw on from the 2014 season, one thing is clear: The Angels want to hit foul balls; the Orioles want to have clean hits. Based on the foul ball rates, though, the Angels can get Jimenez out quickly simply by slapping away pitches. This will drive up the pitch count quickly, and get the Orioles starter out of the game in 5 innings. Based solely on the numbers and the general managing trends related to pitchers, Richards will be in for at least 6, probably 7, innings.
Night Game: Boston Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners
The match-up between the Red Sox’s Steven Wright and the Seattle Mariners’ James Paxton should be a nice, reasonably even duel foul ball-wise.
For the Mariners to get to Wright and get him out early, they are going to have to avoid fouls less than the Red Sox, but still go with clean hits. With a low foul ball conversion rate of 26.9% in night games last year, Wright is a force to be reckoned with.
The Red Sox are facing a pitcher with an even better rate at converting outs after a foul ball. Seattle’s Paxton gets an out 77.1% of the time after a foul ball is hit in an at bat.
These numbers mean that the lineup doesn’t matter at all. What matters is avoiding foul balls and taking more pitches. It seems the antithesis of what I should be saying, but sometimes hitting fouls is NOT the best strategy. Given the records of the teams, I have to give the nod to the Red Sox in this foul ball match up, in spite of the fact that Paxton’s foul ball conversion rate is so low. For such an even match-up, it comes down to which team has the better batters. That said, Paxton will be out in 6. Wright will be too.
ADVANTAGE: Red Sox barely claim the advantage