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 3 of the 2008 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies.
INSIDE EDGE BREAKDOWN
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• Matt Garza has allowed hitters to put more balls in play this year than he did last season, but at the same time, opponents have produced a lower batting average against him thanks in part to an improved Tampa Bay defense. In 2007, opponents batted .184 off Garza on weakly-hit balls, well above the .154 league average. That dropped to .142 this season.
• The third and fourth batters in the Phillies order, lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, are slugging .568 on the year opposite right-handed pitching. Garza has been unusually effective versus these lineup spots, allowing only a .321 slugging percentage against left-handed hitters batting third and fourth. Facing lefty power hitters, Garza throws more curves and he elevates the fastball. Lefty three-hole and cleanup batters swing and miss on 54 percent of his high heaters and hit just .143 against his curveball.
• The Dodgers roughed up Jamie Moyer for six runs in 1.1 innings in his last start. He made some quality pitches but ran into one of the best clubs in the league at hitting soft-tossing southpaws. Unfortunately for Moyer, the Rays are even better. Tampa Bay hit .310 and slugged .467 against similar pitchers this year. Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist could be particularly challenging for Moyer; both are hitting over .400 versus lefties who serve up fastballs under 87 mph.
• Working ahead in the count is crucial for Moyer. He allows a .190 batting average when he's ahead, and .384 when behind, and his 194 point difference is much greater than the 136 point league average split. With his low-voltage stuff, Moyer is susceptible anytime a pitch catches too much of the plate. In pitcher's counts, he locates the majority of pitches out of the zone and tries to get batters to chase. When he falls behind, Moyer locates 60 percent of pitches in the zone, where opponent well-hit average is .283 compared to the .257 league average.
• Veteran Dan Wheeler is the only Rays reliever who saw action in both of the first two World Series games. Between his Tampa Bay stints, Wheeler spent parts of five seasons in the NL, so he's familiar with most Phillies hitters, who have a combined .226 career batting average against him. Wheeler entered both games in mid-inning with two runners on base. He's pitched much better this year in that situation, allowing a .034 average with multiple runners compared to .207 when fewer than two men are on. Wheeler throws more breaking balls with multiple runners; opponents have no well-hit balls against his breaking pitches with multiple runners on base this year.
• Righty Ryan Madson is a strike-thrower who has performed better against right-handed batters this season by locating fewer pitches in the zone. He tinkered with his changeup and now uses it more as bait than as a strike pitch. In 2007 Madson threw most of his changes in the zone to righties. This season, he's getting them to chase almost half of changeups out of the zone, usually garnering a swing and miss. Madson now strikes out 22 percent of right-handed batters (15 percent last year) while allowing fewer walks. He retired the side in order in Game 1, including righties Jason Bartlett and B.J. Upton, to set up the save for Phillies closer Brad Lidge.
• Evan Longoria has come back to earth against Philadelphia pitching by going 0-for-8 after clubbing six home runs in the two league series. He smashed high pitches for a 1.214 slugging percentage versus the White Sox and Red Sox, but the Phillies have kept the ball down and shown Longoria only five pitches above the belt-line so far. With an even mix of fastballs and off-speed stuff, Phillies pitchers have kept him guessing as Longoria has swung through 63 percent of low pitches.
• Batting ninth in the Rays order, shortstop Jason Bartlett doesn't have much pop in his bat, but the Phillies have approached him as if he were a slugger and thrown few hittable pitches to him. They've induced Bartlett to chase high fastballs, but he has been able to put the ball in play on early counts. He's 2-for-3 in the series, getting hits on 0-0 and 1-1 counts.
• The Phillies have scuffled throughout the postseason with runners in scoring position, and Jayson Werth (0-for-10) has struggled more than others. Hitting in the two-hole in the first two games, Werth has struck out seven times and put only three balls in play with RISP, none hit with authority. He's been far more aggressive when runners are in scoring position, swinging on 53 percent of pitches compared to 42 percent in other situations and has fallen quickly into unfavorable counts in many of his at-bats. Werth, who is ordinarily a .400 hitter when ahead in the count, has ended only one RISP at-bat on a hitter's count during October.
• Shane Victorino is batting .325 in the postseason and went 4-for-8 in the first two World Series games. His strengths are making contact and avoiding strikeouts, and the switch-hitter has amplified both skills for the playoffs. He puts the ball in play on 57 percent of swings, and he has missed only twice in 14 two-strike at-bats. Victorino stole 36 bases during the regular season and swiped three bags in the NLDS, but he has not tested Dioner Navarro's quick arm in the World Series. The Rays catcher thwarted 38 percent of stolen base attempts this year, second best in the league. However, Victorino has disrupted the focus of Tampa Bay pitchers -- the following batter has reached base three of the four times Victorino has been on first.
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Much has been made of the Phillies' struggles with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the World Series. For shortstop Jimmy Rollins, hitting with runners anywhere on the bases has been a problem the entire postseason. Here are Rollins' 18 postseason plate appearances with runners on base:
Rays hitters who match up well vs. Moyer
Upton has an on-base percentage of .383 against soft-tossing southpaws over the past two seasons. Moyer uses his changeup 26 percent of the time to right-handed batters -- B.J. hit .381 against lefty changeups this season.
Since 2007, Bartlett is slugging .714 against pitchers similar to Moyer. Bartlett hit .451 against fastballs softer than 90 mph from left-handed pitchers.
Rays hitters who could struggle
Tampa Bay's All-Star catcher posted a well-hit average of just .176 against lefties similar to Jamie Moyer. Navarro struggled with lefty changeups this season, posting an OPS of just .460 against them.
Moyer works lefty hitters down in the strike zone 56 percent of the time and has held lefties to a .135 batting average with pitches at the knees this year. Meanwhile, Peña hit just .167 against pitches in the bottom third from southpaws this year.
Phillies hitters who match up well vs. Garza
Since 2007, Howard is slugging .538 against hard-throwing right-handers. Garza's favorite in-zone location to lefties is middle/away (23 percent), and Howard posted a 1.210 OPS against middle/away pitches from righties that finished in the strike zone.
Garza struggled to pitch effectively when hitting the lower third of the zone with his fastball to lefties -- left-handed batters hit .328 against his low fastball this year. Dobbs is especially good at hitting the low heater (.339 BA vs. right-handers this year).
Phillies hitters who could struggle
Ruiz has hit just .186 against hard-throwing righties over the past two seasons. Also, Ruiz hit a meager .157 against inside pitches from right-handed pitchers, while Garza limited right-handed batters to a .209 slugging percentage with his inside pitches.
Jenkins posted a well-hit average of just .125 against sliders from righties this year, and Garza limited lefties to a .382 OPS with his slider. Jenkins has a well-hit average of only .205 against pitchers similar to Garza over the past two seasons.