Scouting report: Phillies-Rays Game 1

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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 1 of the 2008 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.

INSIDE EDGE BREAKDOWN

Gotta know this…

Starting Pitchers
 
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Hamels
   
• The best opportunity to get to Cole Hamels may be on the first pitch. During the regular season, batters hit .302 against him on 0-0 counts, but just .215 afterwards. He threw first-pitch fastballs 54 percent of the time, but has reversed form in the postseason and gone off-speed with more than half of his first pitches. Pitching backwards has worked as first-pitch opponent average has dropped to .143 against Hamels in October, including 0-for-3 versus first-pitch non-fastballs.

   
• While Hamels is fearless about tossing changeups on any count, he prefers to save his slow pitch for deeper counts, especially 2-0, 2-2, 3-1 and 3-2. Look instead for curveballs on the first pitch and 0-2. Hamels’ deuce is nearly unhittable when he gets sharp downward break on it. Opponents bat a paltry .095 versus his curves that finish at the knees, but are slugging .722 against curveballs that stay up in the zone.

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Kazmir
   
Scott Kazmir’s changeup may not share the same ethereal plane as that of fellow southpaw Hamels, but it served him well in his last start. Kazmir pitched six scoreless innings in ALCS Game 5 while allowing only two hits. He threw changeups 16 percent of the time to right-handed batters, locating 11 of 13 for strikes. Kazmir did not throw any changes to left-handed hitters, and used a slider as his sole off-speed pitch to lefties. He doesn’t command his slider for strikes to left-handed batters – he threw only 23 percent for strikes in his last outing.

   
• Kazmir dominates by pounding the strike zone with swing-and-miss pitches. His 17 percent miss rate on pitches in the strike zone was third best in the league for a lefty. Hitters miss on 30 percent of Kazmir’s fastballs that dart to the outside at the last instant. The 92 mph velocity on his heater has hitters out in front of his 79 mph changeup. When Kazmir gets his change to fall off the table, batters miss it 41 percent of the time.

Bullpen
 
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David Price, who has been a starter throughout his college and brief minor league career, is new to the bullpen role. Phillies closer Brad Lidge, on the other hand, has 175 career saves under his belt, including five in the 2008 postseason. His main pitch is a slider that Lidge spins with both velocity (85 mph) and bite (50 percent miss rate). He’s not just a one-pitch closer, though. Lidge mixes in a hard fastball that he usually elevates up in the zone to discourage hitters from locking in on his slider.

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• After injuries shelved regular season closer Troy Percival, the Rays have tried several options – seven different relievers have worked the ninth inning during the postseason. September call-up Price’s performance may have earned him the nod, though. The lefty brings gas with his 95 mph heater, throws strikes, and keeps the ball out of play. Red Sox hitters were unable to catch up to Price’s high fastball, and they missed or fouled 70 percent of his heaters. Although he has allowed two walks, Price did not surrender a hit to any of the nine batters he faced in October, and allowed only one well-hit ball.

Hitters
 

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Utley

   
• The Phillies hit into only 108 double plays during the regular season, fifth fewest in the league. Chase Utley was one reason. He’s grounded into just four double plays despite coming to the plate 90 times with a runner on first and less than two outs. Utley’s .351 well-hit average in this situation is 100 points higher than league average. He works the count, seeing 4.23 pitches on average, rarely chases, and hits the ball in the air 70 percent of the time to stay out of twin-killing plays.

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Howard
   
Ryan Howard led the majors with 48 home runs during the regular season, but postseason pitchers have denied him by throwing a steady stream of curves and sliders. Howard can hit breaking balls – he belted nine dingers off of them– but the hurlers he’s faced in October have not made mistakes with hangers in the middle of the zone. Most of the breaking pitches he sees nowadays finish down-and-away, where Howard is 0-for-11 in postseason play.

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Peña
   
• Look for Phillies infielders to shift towards the right side of the diamond when Carlos Peña comes up against Hamels. Facing lefties this year, Peña has pulled 83 percent of ground balls to the right. During the regular season, most of those balls were softly tapped and the Rays first baseman hit just .222 on grounders to the right side. He’s scorched three ground balls to the right during the postseason, though, going 2-for-3 versus southpaws.

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Longoria
   
Evan Longoria’s rookie season has been everything the Rays hoped for, plus some. Clutch hitting has not been one of his strengths, however, as Longoria has struggled to produce quality at-bats with runners in scoring position. He’s hitting just .154 with RISP in the postseason, but is 1-for-4 in two-out situations. With two outs and an RBI opportunity, Longoria becomes more selective and looks for his pitch on the middle of the plate. He strikes out swinging 30 percent of the time, though, usually by reaching for pitches on the outside corner.


Image of the day…

The Rays have delivered 430 more pitches in October than the Phillies, yet Philadelphia hurlers have thrown more changeups and sliders in that time span. That’s not unusual given that the Rays threw fastballs a higher percentage of the time (67.2% of pitches) than 27 other clubs, and the Phillies logged the lowest fastball percentage in baseball (59% of pitches). Phillies starter Cole Hamels has dealt 113 of the team’s 234 changeups this postseason.

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Key Matchups…

Phillies hitters who match up well vs. Kazmir
 
Pat Burrell     Pat the Bat is slugging .600 against pitchers similar to Kazmir over the past two seasons. Kazmir has seen righties slug .518 off of his in-zone fastballs while Burrell is slugging .756 against in-zone heaters from lefties.

Jayson Werth     Werth is slugging .588 against pitchers similar to Kazmir since 2007. Right-handed batters are slugging .658 against Kazmir when he leaves a fastball over the heart of the plate, while Werth is slugging .667 against heaters down the middle.

Phillies hitters who could struggle
 
Ryan Howard     Howard has posted a well-hit average of just .150 against pitchers similar to Kazmir over the past two seasons. Kazmir has limited lefty hitters to a .361 OPS against his outside fastballs while Howard has hit just .200 against outside fastballs from southpaws this year.

Carlos Ruiz     Kazmir has been dominant against right-handed batters when he throws his slider on the outer third of the plate, limiting opponents to a .059 batting average. Ruiz, meanwhile, has slugged just .167 against outside sliders this season.

 
Rays hitters who match up well vs. Hamels
 
B.J. Upton     Upton is slugging .900 over the past two years against pitchers similar to Hamels. Cole works up in the zone with his fastball to right-handed batters frequently (46 percent). Upton has four home runs this postseason against elevated fastballs.

Willy Aybar     Since 2007, Aybar is slugging .460 against top-tier southpaws. Hamels is a changeup specialist, but Aybar has hit .450 this season against lefty changeups with five extra-base hits and only two strikeouts.

Rays hitters who could struggle
 
Akinori Iwamura     Iwamura has a well-hit average of .166 against top-tier lefties over the past two years. He is slugging only .208 against pitches up in the zone from lefties with less than two strikes. Hamels works lefties up in the zone 32 percent of the time before two-strikes.

Carl Crawford     Hamels has limited lefties to a .120 batting average with his low fastballs while Crawford has hit .100 this season against fastballs at the knees from southpaws.