ALCS Game 4 scouting report

By Yahoo! Sports courtesy of Inside Edge
Yahoo! Sports

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 the American League championship series Game 4 between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.

HITTERS

• Boston will start veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in Game 4. While the knuckleball is in a class by itself, the Indians did rank third in the major leagues with a .272 well-hit average against pitches slower than 77 mph. Franklin Gutierrez was excellent against soft off-speed pitches this year. The young outfielder batted .330 (35-for-106) against pitches slower than 77 mph.

• The man the Indians want at the plate with runners in scoring position and two outs is Kenny Lofton. The 40-year-old outfielder is hitting .750 (6-for-8) with a homerun in this situation. All six of his hits have come off of fastballs.

• Sixty percent of Paul Byrd's fastballs that have been put in play have been hit in the air. That should be good news for David Ortiz, who batted .519 when he was able to get right-handed fastballs airborne this season.

• One massive bat in the Red Sox lineup would prefer the heat to be turned up on Byrd's 85 mph fastball. Manny Ramirez batted .214 (12-for-56) against right-handed fastballs between 82 and 88 mph this season.

• If Byrd is able to keep his off-speed pitches down in the strike zone expect the Sox hitters to struggle. They ranked dead last in the majors with a .159 batting average against low, non-fastballs from righties. No one has struggled more than Coco Crisp, who was 6-for-60 with 25 strikeouts against these pitches.

PITCHERS

• Byrd threw his fastball 1786 times this season and a whopping 73 percent of them were strikes. That was the second-highest fastball strike percentage among AL starting pitchers.

• Which AL starting pitcher threw his fastball for a strike more often than Byrd? Boston's Game 4 starter, Tim Wakefield. The knuckleballer only used his fastball 366 times, but 279 were strikes, or 76 percent.

• Being around the zone is a good thing, but Byrd will be particularly successful if he can hit his spot down and away from right-handed batters:

Right-handed batters vs. Byrd's fastball in the strike zone (from pitcher's viewpoint)

Fastball Location
Away
Middle
In
Up
.313
.320
.333
Middle
.302
.250
.455
Down
.120
.563
.200

• Indians relievers have delivered some nasty breaking balls this postseason. Opponents are hitting only .115 (3-for-26) against their curves and sliders. Ironically, all three hits were home runs.

• Wakefield has dominated the first three hitters in opposing lineups, but has struggled against the bottom of the order:

Wakefield vs. lineup spot in 2007

Hitters 1-3 in lineup
Hitters 7-9 in lineup
Batting Avg.
.223 (58-for-260)
.318 (71-for-223)
Slugging Pct.
.304 (79-for-260)
.498 (111-for-223)
ALCS GAME 4 MATCHUP NOTES
TIM WAKEFIELD (RED SOX) VS. PAUL BYRD (INDIANS)
Indians hitters who match up well vs. Wakefield
Victor Martinez The switch-hitting catcher bats from the right side against the veteran knuckleballer for good reason. Martinez is 3-for-5 with a homer against Wakefield.
Chris Gomez The backup infielder has posted huge numbers against Wakefield in the past. His .625 career slugging percentage against the Boston right-hander ranks fifth among all active players who have faced him 20 times or more.
Jason Michaels Has hit the knuck (1-for-3 against it) and has the lowest chase rate of all Tribe hitters against it (one chase of 12 out-of-zone pitches).
Indians hitters who could struggle
Travis Hafner Wakefield performs very well against left-handed power hitters. Lefties who bat three through five in the lineup hit .122 (12-for-98) against him this season. Hafner is 0-for-7 lifetime against Wakefield.
Jhonny Peralta 1-for-6 career against Wakefield with a home run, but that came against his fastball, which he uses just ten times per game on average.
Asdrubal Cabrera The rookie second baseman gets his first taste of the knuckler and Wakefield has owned hitters who bat in the No. 2 spot in the order (.191 batting average against).
Red Sox hitters who match up well vs. Byrd
Bobby Kielty Manager Terry Francona will have a similar decision to make as he did in Game 1, when he used reserve outfielder Kielty instead of J.D. Drew. That move paid off against C.C. Sabathia. Kielty is 10-for-30 (.333) with four homers in his career against Byrd. Drew is 2-for-10 (.200) with a pair of singles.
Dustin Pedroia The rookie infielder went 2-for-3 this season against Byrd and hit .500 (15-for-30) with five extra-base hits against pitchers who have similar stuff.
David Ortiz He is 8-for-26 (.308) lifetime against Byrd. Big Papi has homered off of his fastball and is 2-for-4 in scouted at-bats ending on Byrd's off-speed pitches.
Red Sox hitters who could struggle
Kevin Youkilis Has the worst career numbers of any Sox hitter against Byrd (1-for-9) and hit .203 (14-for-64) against other right-handers with low-velocity fastballs since 2006.
J.D. Drew He's 2-for-10 (.200) against Byrd in his career, but has hit him hard three times. Byrd has had success against Drew when he pounds his fastball down-and-away, and keeps his changeup down in the zone.
Eric Hinske Byrd generally does better against right-handed batters, but the left-handed Hinske is just 2-for-10 with one well-hit ball in his career against him.