Scouting report: Dodgers-Phillies Game 2

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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 2 of the 2008 National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.

INSIDE EDGE BREAKDOWN— DODGERS VS. PHILLIES

Gotta know this…

Starting Pitchers
 
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Billingsley
   
Chad Billingsley took major strides toward becoming a front-of-the rotation stalwart during the 2008 season. The 24 year-old right-hander upped his percentage of strikes thrown with his fastball from 61 percent to a league-average 64 percent, while also dropping his curveball in for a strike 61 percent of the time (57 percent in 2007). While Billingsley’s 91 MPH fastball has been a solid offering (.756 OPS against), his two breaking balls have been nearly untouchable. Billingsley mixes in a high-70’s curveball and a mid-80’s slider with about the same frequency, and both his hook (.482 OPS against) and slider (.581 OPS against) have stifled opposing batters.

   
• While he has thrown his two breaking balls about the same amount during the season, Billingsley may be best served against the Phillies by relying more heavily upon his slider. Philadelphia has the fifth best OPS in the majors versus right-handed curveballs, with Jayson Werth (1.304 OPS versus righty curves), Pedro Feliz (1.006), Ryan Howard (.992), and Greg Dobbs (.912) obliterating curves from righties (the league average is .602). Conversely, the Phillies rank just 25th in the majors versus right-handed sliders, with Werth (.426 OPS versus righty sliders) Feliz (.454), Carlos Ruiz (.455), Shane Victornio (.500) and Matt Stairs (.542) all posting marks below the league average (.608).

   
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Myers
   
• Myers’ wildly diverging performance (5.84 ERA in the first half, 3.06 in the second half) can be attributed to drastic improvement from his fastball. While Myers has exhibited good control of his curveball and slider all year long, he threw his heater for a strike just 60 percent of the time and was torched for a .377 well-hit average prior to his demotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. After his recall, Myers upped his percentage of strikes to 64, while holding batters to a .272 well-hit average against the fastball.

   
• While his fastball has gotten better, Myers continues to rely largely upon his breaking balls and has thrown the fastball less than 50 percent of the time overall. Like Billingsley, Myers features an excellent mid-70’s curveball, which has given hitters fits this season (.496 OPS against). He shows uncanny control of his curve and slider, tossing his hook for strikes 69 percent of the time (61 percent NL average) while spotting the slider in the zone on 68 percent of his pitches (63 percent league average). Myers will have to be careful when throwing his newly-improved fastball versus the heart of the Dodgers order, as Rafael Furcal (1.072 OPS versus righty fastballs), Manny Ramirez (1.066) and Andre Ethier (.993) have all punished right-handed heat.

     
Bullpen
 
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• Though Dodgers lefty Joe Beimel features a fastball that sits only in the mid-eighties, he has thrown the pitch 81 percent of the time, and with great effect. Despite its lack of velocity, the southpaw specialist’s heater has baffled hitters to the tune of a .201 well-hit average against. Opponents have swung and missed at Beimel’s fastball 17 percent of the time, above the 14 percent league average.

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• Phillies right-hander Ryan Madson has done an excellent job in bridging the gap to Brad Lidge in the bullpen. The 28 year-old features a changeup that has been devastating, holding batters to a .088 well-hit average versus the pitch (.258 league average). He has located the pitch for a strike 68 percent of the time (62 percent league average) while also getting opponents to chase the offering 42 percent of the time, well above the 32 percent league average.

 
Hitters
 

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Ethier

   
• Retiring the outfield duo of Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez will pose quite a challenge for Myers. In addition to creaming right-handed fastballs, both have also anhialated righty curveballs. Against right-handed hooks, Ramirez has posted a 1.012 OPS, with Ethier close behind at .972.

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Furcal
   
• The return of shortstop Rafael Furcal gives the Dodgers an entirely new dynamic at the top of their lineup. Furcal possesses excellent strike-zone control, chasing just 18 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (25 percent NL average). The free agent-to-be posted a .439 on-base percentage during the regular season, and has drawn 3 walks in 12 postseason at-bats thus far.

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Victorino
   
• Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino is a tough hitter to put away. The former Dodgers prospect has swung and missed just 13 percent overall (20 percent league average), and he has used that high-contact approach to bat .249 when behind in the count (.208 league average). Victorino is one of few Phillies batters who hope to see the slider versus Billingsley, as he has posted a .500 slugging percentage versus the pitch in 2008 (.358 league average).

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Howard
   
• If the Phillies find themselves in need of a big hit late in the game, their most potent offensive force Ryan Howard may not be the best man for the job. Howard batted just .143 after the sixth inning this season. He did hit 9 of his league-leading 48 homers after the sixth frame, but of the 11 Phillies with the most at-bats this season, Howard ranked 9th with a .307 slugging percentage from the 7th inning on. The Phillies slugged .419 as a team (excluding pitcher’s at-bats) in those later innings.


Image of the day…

The Phillies’ Pat Burrell did something in his final at-bat of the NLDS that he had not done all year—hit an 0-2 slider. He hit it a long way, too. Burrelll was 0-for-9 with 8 strikeouts in at-bats ending with an 0-2 slider from a right-hander prior to belting a home run off of Brewers righty Guillermo Mota in the 8th inning of Sunday’s Division Series clincher. Mota apparently left his slider up-and-over the plate a little too much:

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Key Matchups…

Dodgers hitters who match up well vs. Myers
 
Matt Kemp     Kemp is hitting .579 against first-pitch breaking balls this season while Myers has seen his right-handed opponents hit .533 against his 0-0 curves and sliders.

Russell Martin     Martin has slugged .568 against pitchers similar to Myers over the past two seasons.

Dodgers hitters who could struggle
 
Jeff Kent     Kent is hitting a measly .083 against curveballs from right-handed pitchers this season while Myers has limited righties to a .184 well-hit average with his curveball this season.

Andre Ethier     While Ethier has hit right-handed pitching well all season, the one pitch he has struggled with has been the changeup (.220 batting average). Meanwhile, Myers has limited his lefty competition to a .186 batting average against his changeup.

 
Phillies hitters who match up well vs. Billingsley
 
Shane Victorino     Since 2007, Victorino has hit .394 against pitchers with a similar repertoire as Billingsley.

Jimmy Rollins     Billingsley has struggled to get his fastballs by lefties when on the inner two-thirds of the plate (.338 BAA). Rollins is slugging .529 against fastballs on the inner two-thirds from right-handed pitchers this year.

Phillies hitters who could struggle
 
Jayson Werth     Billingsley has made right-handed batters chase his breaking balls 38 percent of the time. Similarly, Werth has not shown much plate discipline against curves and sliders from righties— his two-strike chase percentage in this situation is a very high 55 percent.

Geoff Jenkins     Jenkins has posted a well-hit average of only .192 against right-handed pitchers with good breaking balls over the past two seasons.