Scouting report: Phillies-Brewers Game 4

Inside Edge, a leading baseball scouting and information service, will provide scouting reports to Yahoo! Sports throughout the MLB playoffs. Here’s their breakdown of Game 4 of the 2008 National League Division Series between the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies.

INSIDE EDGE BREAKDOWN—PHILLIES VS. BREWERS

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Starting Pitchers
 

Blanton
   
Joe Blanton has not lost a game in a Phillies uniform. He joined the club in July, and has gone 4-0 with a 4.20 ERA after starting off 5-12 with a 4.96 earned run average in Oakland. Blanton has been tough all year in the early innings, holding hitters to a .236 batting average in the first 3 frames while with the A’s and a .241 average with the Phillies. He’s done a better job of maintaining his form after the third inning while with the Phillies. Opponents batted .324 against him after the third inning with Oakland, but only .252 with Philly.

   
• Blanton pitched seven strong innings in his only appearance against the Brewers this season. He had his best slider working, collecting 6 of his 21 outs with the pitch and not allowing a hit against it. Saturday’s offensive hero for the Brewers, J.J. Hardy, was 0-for-3 against Blanton in the outing, including a weakly-hit flyout and groundout off of his slider.
   

Suppan
   
Jeff Suppan ended the season with several poor outings in September. He failed to reach the sixth inning in any of his 5 starts and ended up with an 8.44 ERA for the month. One of those outings was against the Phillies, and it was perhaps his worst of the year. Suppan allowed 6 earned runs in his short 3.2 inning stint. One thing he did not do well was make quality pitches while behind in the count. He threw 66% strikes while ahead in the count, but only 35% strikes when he was already behind the hitter.

   
• From 2005 to 2007, Suppan threw a fastball 62 percent of the time; this year, he backed off the heater, using it for 54 percent of his total offerings. Opponents hit over .300 against both his fastball (.304) and changeup (.336), but hit .256 against his breaking pitches.
     
Bullpen
 

   
• Phillies setup man J.C. Romero has held opposing left-handed batters to a miniscule .093 batting average against his fastball, the lowest opposing average against a lefty heater versus hitters of the same side. Getting past the Brewers’ lineup will not be an automatic for Romero, however. The Brew Crew is loaded with right-handed bats and switch hitters who will come to the plate hitting from the right side against him. Right-handed batters have hit .327 against Romero’s fastball and .321 against his breaking pitches this season.

   
• Brewers closer Salomon Torres continues to make things interesting in the ninth inning. After struggling in September and blowing 7 saves on the year, Torres began his first NLDS save opportunity by loading the bases with no outs yesterday. The 36-year-old right-hander has not shown a lot of trust in his low-nineties fastball since hitters batted .400 (18-for-45) against it last month. He’s used the heater 73% of the time this season, but only 16 of his 31 pitches in October have been fastballs. Torres has been the victim of some bad luck lately. He’s allowed 23 hits since September, but only 10 of those were hit sharply.

 
Hitters
 


Victorino

   
• The Phillies’ .266 well-hit average in the NLDS is better than their .244 well-hit average on the season, which was fourth highest in the league. Shane Victorino has been the difference-maker; the rest of the Philadelphia lineup has compiled a well-hit average of just .238. Victorino might as well start every at-bat with two strikes, as all of his hits in the series have been on two-strike counts. He strikes out 37 percent of the time on low two-strike pitches, but seven of the eight pitches the Brewers have thrown to him on two-strike counts have been middle-up. He’s put six of the seven in play to go 4-for-6 with a home run and two doubles on two-strike counts.


Rollins
   
Jimmy Rollins has seen more changeups from Milwaukee pitchers than any other Phillies hitter even though he’s a good changeup hitter (.272 batting average compared to .254 league average). The shortstop has refused to chase pitches out of the zone, however, looking instead for the high heater. Rollins has swung on four of five fastballs up, going 3-for-4.


Hardy
   
• Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, a .283 hitter on the season, broke out in Game 3 by going 3-for-4 after a quiet 1-for-6 performance in the first two NLDS games. He makes contact on nearly half of his swings, and he put the ball in play every time he came to the plate on Saturday. Hardy is a below average hitter on low balls, and he finally got some hittable pitches. All five thigh-high pitches he saw on Saturday were in the strike zone, and Hardy got good wood on four of them.


Fielder
   
• So far Brewers slugger Prince Fielder has been as invisible as a 260 pounder can get. Fielder is 0-for-10 in the series, and Phillies pitches have frustrated him with a steady diet of inside fastballs and off-speed stuff away. He’s managed to hit only two balls in the air, neither one well-struck. Blanton will likely stick to the same approach in Game 4. Facing Fielder earlier this year, Blanton threw seven off-speed pitches away out of 18 total pitches. Fielder went 1-for-3, hitting a single off a Blanton changeup that caught too much of the plate.


Image of the day…

The Phillies’ Chase Utley was 6-for-9 with seven well-hit balls against the Brewers this year when he had the count in his favor. Utley has had only one postseason at-bat end while holding the count advantage; he lined out against Brewers reliever Seth McClung. The graphic below shows Utley’s tendency to hit something hard to the right side on most occasions this year against the Brewers with the pitcher behind in the count:

Image of the day

Key Matchups…

Phillies hitters who match up well vs. Suppan
 
Matt Stairs     The veteran Stairs tends to own pitchers like Suppan, posting a well-hit average of .338 in 148 ABs vs. right-handed pitchers in the middle-tier since last year.

Pat Burrell     Burrell is 9-for-21 (.429) in his career against Suppan and was 1-for-2 with a home run and 3 walks against the Brewers starter this season.

Phillies hitters who could struggle
 
Shane Victorino     Batting .295 (28-for-95) against right-handed pitchers in the middle-tier this year.

Geoff Jenkins     Jenkins has faced Suppan more than anyone else in the Phillies lineup, but that will not work to his advantage; he’s 9-for-51 (.176 BA) against Suppan in his career.

Brewers hitters who match up well vs. Blanton
 
Ray Durham     Has 3 hits in 6 ABs against Blanton since last year.

Mike Cameron     Slugging .608 in 120 ABs vs. other middle-tier right handers since last season.

Brewers hitters who could struggle
 
Bill Hall     Reached base 28 times in 106 PAs (.264 On Base Average) versus similar middle-tier, right-handed pitchers since last year.; G2: Has only 2 hits in 14 ABs (.143 Batting Average) against Hamels since last season.

Rickie Weeks     Reached base only 45 times in 143 PAs (.315 On Base Average) against right-handed pitchers in the middle-tier since last season.; G2: Well-Hit Average of .294 (10-for-34) vs. pitchers similar to Hamels since last year.