ALCS and NLCS Foul Ball Predictions: Of Giants, Nationals, Royals & Orioles, Whose Starter’s out First?

The 2014 postseason continues with the Championship Series’. So far the predictions with a +/-1 are incredibly accurate. 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 either a night game or a day game, depending on when it is being played, and at-bats that included 1 or more foul balls. The following data comes from our foul ball database that draws from Retrosheet.org.

All percentages represent a combination of batters who got on base themselves, helped force an error, a wild pitch, a steal or otherwise generated offense.

 

ALCS: Game 1

 

KC v Orioles

Baltimore is starting Chris Tillman in the first game of the series. In 2013 night games, Tillman did fine when a batter slapped a pitch foul, in general. But his numbers aren’t near Shields’ for left-handed batters.

Against right-handed batters last season, Tillman allowed something to happen 29.7% of the time, edging out Shields. This translates into allowing 42 of 141 batters to create some play after hitting one or more foul balls against him.

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On the other side of the plate, he did marginally better. Facing 161 southpaws, he allowed only 45 to create a play, or a 27.9% of at-bats.

 

What this means for the Royals is that they can run a mixed lineup to help build the pitch count. It’s really that simple; as long as they swing away and make sure to foul off at least one pitch per at-bat they’ll improve their odds of generating offense.

 

 

The foul ball numbers for Royals starter James Shields aren’t significantly different than Tillman’s with respect to right-handed hitters. They are significantly different, though, against the left side.

 

Shields allowed more right-handed batters on base percentage-wise than Tillman, but he shuts down left-handed batters after they slap one or more fouls. 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 Tillman, Shields was able to shut down more left-handed batters after one or more foul balls than righties. Shields’ numbers versus left-handed batting is far superior to Tillman’s though. 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.

 

Prediction: If the Orioles run a right-handed heavy lineup against Sheilds, he’ll be gone in 6. Tillman is situated well with both numbers being sub-30%. He’ll do fine regardless of the lineup. I see him lasting a minimum of 7 full innings.

 

 

NLCS Game 1

 

 

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, 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 Nationals 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.

 

 

 

Adam Wainwright is on the hill for the Cardinals in the first game. Statistically, Wainwright is more successful against right-handed batters after one foul than he is against lefties, but when you look at the 27.3% (35/128) for right-handed batters versus the 22% (29/132) against left-handed batters with at least one foul, it seems teams should avoid swinging for contact alone.

 

Instead, the Giants need to put a predominantly right-handed order against Wainwright, then just wait out the pitches.

 

Prediction: If the Giants stack themselves with righties and simply wait for the best pitch instead of swinging for contact, they will most likely get Wainwright out within 7 innings. If they don’t, look for Wainwright to get himself as far as the 8th. Bumgarner will go 7 as well, but not much more.