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.
Night Game 1: Mariners vs. Blue Jays
Tonight’s first night game is between King Felix Hernandez of the Mariners and the Blue Jays’ Marco Estrada. While we tend to think of Hernandez as some great pitcher, when it comes to batters fouling off against him, then generating offense, he’s at best average (25%-29% is the average range). Estrada is close to the range as well, though he’s slightly worse.
King Felix last season had an overall 25.4% rate of offense after a foul ball. This number was bumped because he’s particularly bad against left-handed hitters. In 107 night game at-bats, Hernandez allowed 29.9% of southpaws generate some type of offense. His Blue Jays counterpart was nearly 4% points better versus lefties (26.1%), but let 32.9%, nearly one-third, of righties get to him.
This means that if the Blue Jays really want to work on getting King Felix out early (and what team doesn’t?), they will need to load as many left-handed hitters against him as they can, and encourage those batters to slap fouls. If they manage to do this, then Hernandez will be gone around inning 6. If not, he’s probably going as high as into the 8th. The Mariners need only to maintain an all-right-handed lineup against Estrada. Each batter who hits a ball foul then stands nearly a 1 in 3 shot at generating offense. The numbers all point to on obvious winner…
Night Game 2: Reds vs. Indians
For the second featured night game, I went with the Red and Indians match-up. The Reds are pitting Mike Leake against Carlos Carrasco of the Indians.
For Leake, we see a 74/286 overall rate for at-bats with foul balls turning into offense. This equates to about a 25.9% rate. It’s about average. The good thing about this average is that he’s equally effect against both sides of the dish—RHBs are at 25.5% and LHBs are at 26.4%. On the other dugout, when Carlos Carrasco hits the mound he’s looking at 36/165 batters in night games doing much of anything. That’s an overall rate of 21.8% of all batters generating offense. He’s significantly better, though, against the left side (19%).
For the Indians to get Leake out early, they’re just going to have to hit. The foul ball rates for the Reds starter are average and only one in four batters do much after a foul ball. The Reds, however, can chip away at Carrasco, although he has a much lower overall foul ball rate than Leake. All the Reds need to do is go a bit heavier on the righties. This will at least even it out some. This is a tough one to call. But I’m going with one team simply because they have some room to play with.