Scouting report: Rays-Red Sox Game 5


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 5 of the 2008 American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.


Gotta know this…

Starting Pitchers
•The Red Sox roughed up Scott Kazmir in Game 2 of the ALCS by getting good wood on his fastball. He’s allowed a low .237 well-hit average against his heater this year, but Boston tattooed five fastballs (.455 well-hit average), all of them hit in the air. Kazmir, who normally elevates his hummer, left half of his in-zone fastballs at thigh-level, resulting in two home runs.

•He’ll need to find the handle on his heater, as current Red Sox hitters are batting .450 this year against his off-speed pitches. He’s had some success against Boston’s left-handed hitters, but their righties have been ready for Kazmir’s changeup. Red Sox right-handed batters are 5-for-7 with three extra-base hits against his change.

• Boston desperately needs a stopper, so Daisuke Matsuzaka’s turn in the rotation could not come at a better time. He has confounded Rays hitters all season. He’s faced 100 Tampa Bay batters and allowed only two extra-base hits so far. Dice-K has served up hittable pitches to the Rays, 37 percent have finished in the heart of the strike zone. He’s kept them off-stride, though, with unusual pitch sequences. Matsuzaka has been effective throwing changeups on 0-1 counts and breaking balls on 1-1 counts.

• When Rays hitters work the count, they’ve been able to get on base. They have a .560 on-base percentage against Matsuzaka after getting ahead in the count. He typically walks 31 percent of batters after he falls behind, much higher than the 21 percent league average. Dice-K’s .193 opponent batting average with baserunners is one of the lowest in the majors, so he’d rather start with a fresh count against the next hitter than risk a mistake in the zone. The Rays hit ,194 versus Matsuzaka with runners on base.

•With blowout wins in the last two games, the Rays bullpen has gotten a break. However, the Tampa Bay relief corps had trouble throwing strikes in high-leverage situations in the first two games of the ALCS. With the score tied or within one run, Tampa Bay relievers threw strikes on just 56 percent of pitches and walked 24 percent of Red Sox batters. League average strike percentage is 62 percent for relief pitchers in close games, with an 11 percent walk rate.

•Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon should be well rested, having faced only seven batters and tossed 30 pitches in the series. He’s been nearly unhittable this year against Tampa Bay with a .111 opponent batting average. Two of the Rays three hits were doubles, though, and Papelbon’s fastball was a little less lively at the end of the season. In September, his average velocity dipped below 95 mph and batters hit .364 against his heater. The Rays are hitting .259 versus hard fastballs in the postseason.

Evan Longoria has been on fire in October, slugging .813 with five home runs. The rookie third baseman hits almost all his dingers to the left side, but he knocks the ball just as hard when he goes the other way. His well-hit average is .358 to the left side and .360 to the right side. He’ll be looking for opposite field hits on Thursday facing Daisuke Matsuzaka, who does a good job of pitching outside to Longoria. The rookie is just 1-for-5 versus Dice-K. Longoria’s one hit was a well-struck opposite field double off a hanging slider.

• Not only did Carl Crawford get a hit every time he came up on Tuesday, he got them versus an assortment of pitch types – knuckleball, curve, slider and two off hard fastballs. The only pitch the left-handed hitter did not see in Game 4 was a changeup, which he hits only .231 against. He’s unlikely to see many from Matsuzaka, who’s thrown fastballs on 29 of his 33 pitches to Crawford this year. The Rays outfielder is 2-for-4 versus Dice-K in 2008.


• The Rays pitching staff induced the second-highest percentage of flyballs per ball in play this season and Mark Kotsay has done his part to increase that rate by putting 14 of 15 balls in play in the air against them this series. Kotsay started his trend of getting underneath pitches when he joined the Red Sox in late August. While with Atlanta, the outfielder-turned-first baseman hit a flyball 55 percent of the time he put a pitch in play; since coming to Boston, that rate has gone up to 70 percent. He’ll face Scott Kazmir, the Rays’ top flyball producer among starting pitchers, in Game 5.

• Sox outfielder Jason Bay has also changed his habits now that the Green Monster calls his name. Bay has put 51 percent of his flyballs in play to the left side of the field when playing at Fenway Park. He’s lifted 41 percent of his flyballs to the left side when playing away from Fenway.

Image of the day…

One glaring weakness for the Red Sox in the first four games of the ALCS is their inability to produce on pitchers’ counts. Sox hitters have managed only 4 hits on 1-2 and 2-2 counts in the series. Here’s a look:


Key Matchups…

Rays hitters who match up well vs. Matsuzaka
Akinori Iwamura     Dice-K’s countryman has hit .375 off him over their respective Major League careers. Iwamura has tattooed Matsuzaka’s fastball—hitting .615 off of it with a home run and a double.

Carlos Pena     Pena is slugging .588 off of Matsuzaka in their meetings. Right-handed pitchers really have nowhere to hide against Pena as he slugged .500 or better against fastballs, sliders, curveballs, and changeups from them this season.

Rays hitters who could struggle
Jason Bartlett     Bartlett has an On-Base Percentage of .071 against Dice-K, who has pumped 83 percent of his fastballs for strikes against Bartlett.

Dioner Navarro     Matsuzaka has limited Navarro to a .276 slugging percentage in their matchups. Navarro has not been very patient against Daisuke—chasing 8 of the 16 non-fastballs that have finished out of the strike zone.

Red Sox hitters who match up well vs. Kazmir
David Ortiz     Big Papi is hitting .417 over the past two seasons against pitchers similar to Kazmir. Ortiz is hitting .458 and is slugging an even 1.000 against lefty fastballs over the heart of the plate this year.

Dustin Pedroia     Pedroia is slugging 1.036 lifetime against Kazmir, who has gone to his fastball 79 percent of the time in their meetings despite Pedroia being 12-for-18 against it.

Red Sox hitters who could struggle
J.D. Drew     Drew has really struggled against hard throwing lefties the past two seasons—he has hit just .192 against lefty fastballs topping 90 mph in that timeframe.

Jacoby Ellsbury     Ellsbury has yet to have a well-hit ball against Kazmir in 17 at-bats. Kazmir has been successful against Ellsbury when pitching up in the strike zone, holding him to 1 hit in 10 at-bats when the at-bat ends on a pitch in the upper two-thirds of the zone.