This series covers one day and one night game pitching match-up for each day (when available), 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, May 19, 2015, are:
Night Game #1: Yankees vs. Nationals
In the first night game showdown we see Yankees hurler Nathan Eovaldi pitted against the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez.
Neither pitcher is particularly effective against batter who get one foul ball or more in an at-bat. Eovaldi, who last season allowed a stunningly high number (33.6% or 85/253) of batters in night games to create offense, is still significantly worse than the already not-so-great Gonzalez. Gonzalez has a history of choking up offense too, but at a “low” rate of 29.3% of the time.
It’s clear last season wasn’t a good one for Eovaldi in terms of foul balls. I doubt it will get any better this season, so I am calling the game this way: The Nationals can get to Eovaldi early regardless of which side of the dish they are on. Southpaws are only marginally better thant the overall average. All the Nationals need to do is slap away fouls and Eovaldi is out in four innings, 5 at the absolute most. The Yankees can count on much the same as they are giving, but they will need to run a right-handed lineup against Gonzales to rattle him. If they do that, then the Nationals’ starter is history in 5.
Night Game #2: Cubs vs. Padres
The other night game showdown is between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. In this game the Cubs send Jason Hammel against the Padres’ James Shields. These two pitchers have a couple of the lowest foul ball conversion rates Hammel stands at 25.3% of batters who crate offense, while Shields is marginally worse at 27.3%.
What is interesting about the foul ball rates is that Hammel is consistently strong against both sides of the plate. Shields, though, isn’t. He is dominant against the left side of the dish, but lousy versus right handed batters. Last season he allowed a whopping 35% of righties in night games to generate offense.
While the overall rates are reasonably similar between these two, the advantage in the game goes to the Cubs. Hammel is consistent, so regardless of the lineup the Padres put against him, the result will be essentially the same—7 innings tops. But if the Cubs stack righties against Shields, then make sure to foul off as much as they can, they can wear down Shields early (within 6 innings).