The 2014 postseason is upon us. How will knowing foul ball stats help each team? That is what we are going to look at over the postseason.
All stats are from the 2013 season for night games and at-bats that included 1 or more foul balls. The following data comes from our foul ball database that draws from Retrosheet.org.
Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals:
The Oakland A’s are sending Jon Lester to the hill for the ALWC game. Lester’s numbers from last season are wicked in general, so creating a suitable lineup against him is going to be the bane of the Kansas City Royals considering he’s had another good year. Beyond all the standard data though is a glimpse into actual at-bats numbers.
Against 218 right-handed batter at-bats Lester faced in 2013 only 67 batters got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal. This means that Lester isn’t easily flustered by RHBs trying to work the count. The Royals would be best off simply waiting for “their” pitch if they decide to run a mostly right-handed lineup against him. Royals RHBs only succeeded in doing something after hitting one foul ball or more in the at-bat 30.7% of the time. At first glance, this seems to be an issue of lefty pitcher versus righty bats, but that’s not the case. He’s actually better against other southpaws when one or more fouls are swatted away.
Based on the 2013 foul ball numbers, the Royals would be better off trying to jump the pitch count with a completely right-handed lineup, because that paltry 30.7% drops to 22% when he faced left-handed batters. In this category, last season Lester faced a LHB who slapped one or more foul balls in their at-bat 59 times. Only thirteen (13) got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal.
Thus, to stand the best chance of running up the pitch count to get Lester out more quickly and to stand the best chance of getting on or otherwise forcing something good, the Royals would be best served with a full right-handed lineup.
The foul ball numbers for Royals starter James Shields aren’t significantly different than Lester’s.
Shields allowed more right-handed batters on base percentage-wise than Lester, but he shuts down left-handed batters after they slap one or more fouls marginally better than Lester. Shields faced 93 right-handed at-bats; of those 30 batters got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal for 32.3% success rate. But, like Lester, Shields was able to shut down left-handed batters after one or more foul balls. In the 115 at-bats, 25 batters got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal for 21.7% success against him.
What we should see in this game then is not only an incredible pitcher’s duel, but two teams running all right-handed line ups in order to push up the pitch count of both pitchers.
The FoulBallz Advantage goes to Lester and the A’s, though. I predict Lester will go 8 innings and Shields will last about 6-2/3rd innings.
The second Wild Card duel isn’t as even as the AL game is when it comes to the foul rates for the batters facing the pitchers.
San Francisco Giants v. Pittsburgh Pirates:
On the mound for the San Francisco Giants for this crucial game is Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner faced 171 right-handed at-bats last season. Of those, 57 batters got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal for an incredible batter success rate of 33.3%. One in three batters were able to get something to happen. However, as is the case with Lester and Shields, he shut down southpaws. If you swatted a pitch into foul territory, you had a miserable 17.6% success rate that you would get on base or otherwise create a disruption in the game. Of the 51 at-bats, only nine managed anything last season.
If the Pirates want to build the pitch count and try to get to the Giants’ bullpen and hope for the best, they need to run a full-blown right handed lineup. This way they can drive up the pitch count and stand an incredible chance of making something happen.
The Pirates have decided to start Edinson Volquez. By foul balls standards, this is a HORRIBLE idea. Last season Volquez got rocked after giving a batter something to slap away. He faced 127 at-bats by right-handed batters. Of those, fifty (or 39.4%) got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal. The news is hardly better for his performance against left0handed batters. Of the 121 at-bats from the opposite side, 44 batters got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal. That means 36.4% of left-handers disrupted his groove.
In order for the Giants to crush Volquez and get him out very, very early all they need to do is to keep slapping away pitches until they get on base. They even have the luxury of running an all right, all left or a blended lineup.
FoulBallz Advantage: Does it really need to be said?
Based on the 2013 foul ball numbers, if these hurlers keep to these numbers relatively closely, then it’s going to be a toss-up between the A’s and Royals, but I’m going with the A’s. Based on the numbers, the Giants should run away with the game, or at least win, because they should be able to get Volquez removed from the mound quickly…within 5 innings. Bumgarner will come out sometime in the 7th inning. He won’t start the 8th.
The ALDS begins Thursday, October 2. The NLDS beings Friday, October 3. Come back on those days to find out the foul ball data for your favorite team.