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 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.
NLDS Game 1
Cardinals vs. Dodgers:
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 Dodgers need to put a predominantly right-handed order against Wainwright, then just wait out the pitches.
Prediction: If the Dodgers 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. The Dodgers need to ask themselves: Do we want Wainwright in for 6-7 or 7-8 innings?
No surprise. The Dodgers have called on Clayton Kershaw to get them through Game 1. The foul ball stats for Kershaw are a bit reverse for him in comparison to Wainwright. For Kershaw, he’s worse—though marginally—against left-handed batters, letting those at-bats result in the batter getting on base via a hit or walk or something else like a balk or other error 27.1% of the time. He fairs slightly better against right-handed batters by getting out nearly 75% of batters in some way—strikeout, fly, ground out, etc.
The Cardinals have it tough with Kershaw as we’d naturally assume considering his general dominance, but if they want to bug him a much as possible, they need to run a lefty heavy line up against him and try working the count by laying off swinging a junk pitches.
Prediction: It’ll be an uphill battle for the Cardinals regardless of their lineup, but if they load it heavy with left-handed batters, they can probably get Kershaw out within 6 innings. If they ignore this, look for Kershaw to go as many as 7-2/3rds innings.
SF Giants vs. Nationals:
The Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg’s numbers against right-handed batters is nothing short of amazing. He shut down righties in day games last season, allowing only 13 of 61 to create offense, or 21.3% of the time. However, he’s at about what seems to be the average for the first game postseason starters. Against left-handed batters during day games, Strasburg allowed more to generate offense per plate appearance than those on the other side of the plate. Having faced 67 south paws, he allowed 22 to generate offense; that’s nearly 1/3rd of lefties, or 32.8%.
This data means the Giants need to definitely load up their order with as many lefties as they can in order to drive up the pitch count and increase their chances of producing offense.
The Giants are trotting out Jake Peavy. Peavy has the advantage in foul ball percentages in this match up. He faced 50 right-handed batters and only 10 managed to generate some type of offense. A left-handed batter, on the other hand, fared better per plate appearance with one or more fouls. Peavy allowed 14 of the 45 he faced in day games to generate offense. That means 31.1%.
To get to Peavy, the Nationals need to do the same: Get as many left-handed batters into the game.
Prediction: Both the Giants and the Nationals have their work cut out for them in this game. With the close match-up here, even if both teams do load their lineups with lefties, both Strasburg and Peavy will last a minimum of 6 complete innings, but I suspect both will get into the 8th.
The predictions for when a pitcher will leave the game based on only foul ball percentages has been amazingly accurate. Only one pitcher has broken through the predictions significantly. In fact, all predictions have been within 2/3rds of an inning.