Scouting report: Rays-Phillies Game 5

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

INSIDE EDGE BREAKDOWN—PHILLIES VS. RAYS

Gotta know this…

Starting Pitchers
 
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Kazmir
   
• Rays left-hander Scott Kazmir faces a daunting task in taking on Philadelphia’s lefty-mashing lineup. The Phillies hit lefties (.801 team OPS) considerably better than right-handers (.757) this season. In particular, Philadelphia has creamed lefty fastballs, posting the 2nd best OPS in the National League against southpaw heat. Jayson Werth (1.240 OPS versus lefty fastballs), Pedro Feliz (1.139), Pat Burrell (1.118), Chris Coste (.948), Shane Victorino (.915) and Ryan Howard (.908) have all done serious damage when lefties challenge them. Kazmir, meanwhile, has significantly increased his percentage of fastballs thrown over the past few seasons. He’s gone from tossing fastballs 59 percent of the time in 2006 to nearly 74 percent in 2008, cutting into the use of his slider in the process.

   
• While Kazmir has shown solid control of his fastball by throwing it for a strike 66 percent of the time (64 percent AL average), he has shown far less precision with his off-speed pitches. Once his bread-and-butter offering, Kazmir’s slider was thrown for a strike just 56 percent of the time in 2008 (63 percent AL average). The lefty’s changeup could also use some refining, as he has located the pitch for a strike just 57 percent of the time (62 percent AL average).

   
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Hamels
   
• While right-handed batters often look foolish against Cole Hamels’ deadly changeup (.211 on-base percentage against), fellow southpaws have gotten on base at a .379 clip against it. Opposing right-handers have also struggled to drive the ball versus Hamels, often making mild contact versus the fastball (.421 slugging percentage against) and curveball (.255). Lefties, meanwhile, have found the heat (.484) and the hook (.522) to be to their liking. Tampa’s left-handed batters were 4-for-9 against Hamels in Game 1, while their righties were just 1-for-15.

   
• On the rare occasion where Hamels falls behind in the count, do not expect him to just lay a get-me-over fastball over the plate. On hitters’ counts, Hamels has thrown just 58 percent fastballs, well below the 71 percent average for NL lefties when the hitter gains the advantage in the count. Instead of pumping fastballs, Hamels has chosen to use his signature changeup 33 percent of the time to dig himself out of a hitter’s count. The strategy has worked out quite nicely, as Hamels has thrown his change for a strike 77 percent of the time when behind the hitter. Overall, the 24 year-old has limited opponents to a .291 well-hit average when behind in the count (.389 AL average).

     
Bullpen
 
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• With Tampa Bay possessing three lefty relievers capable of short-circuiting southpaw batters, Phillies slugger Ryan Howard seems unlikely to ever see a right-handed pitcher in the later innings of a ballgame. David Price (.077 well-hit average versus lefty batters), Trever Miller (.106) and J.P. Howell (.139) have all neutralized lefties, holding them well below the .280 AL well-hit average for left-handed batters.

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• While Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson light up the radar gun with their fastballs, right-hander Chad Durbin has fared exceptionally well with his rather modest heater. Thrown at an average velocity of 90 MPH, Durbin’s fastball has nonetheless limited opposing batters to a .654 OPS against and a .145 well-hit average. Durbin’s well-hit average against the fastball is better than that of both Lidge (.183) and Madson (.234).

 
Hitters
 
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Upton
   
• Considering center fielder B.J. Upton’s torrid postseason stretch that includes 7 home runs and a .719 slugging percentage, pitchers have every reason to fear the first overall selection in the 2002 draft. Hamels will want to be especially careful when throwing his changeup to Upton, as he has posted an astounding .630 slugging percentage versus changeups this season (.427 AL average). Upton hit Hamels’ changeup hard in Game 1, but grounded into a double play.

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Navarro
   
• Conversely, catcher Dioner Navarro may be in for a rough night at the plate should Hamels decide to give him a steady diet of changeups and curves, as he did in Game 1. While Navarro has posted a solid .848 OPS versus lefty fastballs, he has struggled mightily versus southpaw changeups (.465) and curveballs (.500). He was 0-for-3 against Hamels in the Series Opener, with all of his at-bats ending on off-speed pitches.

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Howard
   
• While Kazmir has shown a reluctance to use his slider this season, he may want to break out the pitch early and often versus Howard. The powerful first baseman has had all sorts of problems with lefty sliders, posting a paltry .188 on-base percentage against the pitch while swinging and missing an incredible 61 percent of the time. Overall, Howard has just a .294 OBP versus left-handed pitching.

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Werth
   
• Against right fielder Jayson Werth, Kazmir will want to do everything he can to get ahead in the count. Kazmir’s tendency to nibble could be costly versus Werth, who has posted a .907 slugging percentage when ahead in the count (.585 NL average). The 29 year-old has demolished left-handed pitching, posting a .660 slugging percentage versus southpaws in 2008.


Image of the day…

Evan Longoria was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Game 1 against Cole Hamels. The young Rays slugger has yet to prove he can do anything with Hamels’ deadly changeup, and Hamels is well aware of this—7 of the 9 pitches Hamels offered Longoria in the two strikeout at-bats were changes:

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Key Matchups…

Rays hitters who match up well vs. Hamels
 
Akinori Iwamura     Iwamura had the best night among Rays hitters versus Hamels in Game 1. Although he typically does not match up well against lefties who use their changeup often, Iwamura logged 2 hits against Hamels’ change (1 well-hit) and one more against his fastball to go 3-for-3 against the Phillies ace in the Series Opener.

Carl Crawford     Crawford is hitting .368 against non-fastballs this postseason which bodes well against Hamels, who relies so heavily on his off-speed stuff.

Rays hitters who could struggle
 
Evan Longoria     Longoria has posted a well-hit average of just .167 against top-tier lefties over the past two seasons. The young slugger has also struggled with lefty changeups, batting just .179 against them.

Carlos Pena     He only had 8 at-bats end with a lefty changeup in the regular season, but 7 of those were strikeouts. Pena was 0-for-3 against Hamels in Game 1.

 
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 years. This year, Kazmir surrendered a .593 slugging percentage to right-handed batters with belt-high fastballs—Burrell slugged .583 against belt-high fastballs from southpaws.

Chase Utley     Utley was responsible for the first runs of this World Series when he hit a two-run home run off of a low fastball from Kazmir in Game 1. Kazmir needs to be razor sharp with his command as he uses his fastball over 70 percent of the time.

Phillies hitters who could struggle
 
Ryan Howard     Since 2007, Howard has a well-hit average of only .150 against pitchers similar to Kazmir.

Jimmy Rollins     Kazmir should be working Rollins on the inner third of the plate frequently tonight—he held righties to a .122 batting average when he pitched on the inner third of the strike zone. Rollins hit just .184 against inside pitches from southpaws this season.