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• Cliff Lee(notes) does not have to fool hitters. He simply executes the same relentless plan virtually every time he takes the mound, and that is this: first-pitch strikes; cutters for strikes at will on the corners; the occasional curveball or changeup -- usually with two strikes, and often finishing a hitter off. That has been the formula behind his 7-0 record and 1.26 ERA in 8 career postseason starts.
• As with many great starting pitchers, Lee tends to get stronger as he goes. He is averaging over 8 innings per start in postseason play. About the only time Lee’s been vulnerable in October is the first inning, when opponents have hit .294 against him; they’ve batted just .152 after the first inning in those eight postseason starts. One more thing to watch from a purely statistical perspective: Lee has recorded 24 outs and allowed 0 hits in the fourth inning during the playoffs and World Series going back to last year.
• When Tim Lincecum(notes) broke into the league in 2007, his electrifying fastball drew most of the attention. He averaged 94 mph with the pitch, and 67 percent of his offerings were those blazing heaters. His best pitch today is not the fastball, which now clocks in at 91 mph and is used just 54 percent of the time. Lincecum’s sharp slider and exceptional changeup are his most feared weapons these days. Opponents hit just .162 against those two pitches this season.
• Lincecum is opposite of Lee when it comes to getting ahead of hitters. His first-pitch strike rate of 56.3 percent was well below league average (59 percent), while Lee pumps first-pitch strikes 70 percent of the time -- the highest rate for a starting pitcher in 2010. Still, the Giants ace has a knack for getting the count back in his favor. More than half of the plate appearances against Lincecum this season have ended with him ahead in the count.
Rangers hitters who match up well vs. Lincecum
Tim Lincecum loves to work up in the zone with his fastball. Though Hamilton has chased his share of high fastballs, he could punish Lincecum if the Giants right-hander doesn’t elevate it high enough. Hamilton clubbed 10 home runs and owns the league’s fourth highest slugging percentage against high heaters.
Besides having at least one hit in 10 of 11 postseason games to date, Kinsler’s slugging percentage is .714 since last year against other right-handers who use a changeup as often as Lincecum.
Rangers hitters who could struggle
The de facto captain of the Rangers is a tough out and hard to bet against, but Young’s .187 batting average against breaking pitches doesn’t bode well against Lincecum, who is not afraid to use his slider more than his heater against hitters who struggle with breaking pitches.
Lincecum really feasts on hitters who chase pitches out of the strike zone and Molina could be easy prey because of his tendency to do just that. Molina chased 30 percent of pitches out of the zone (23 percent is league average).
Giants hitters who match up well vs. Lee
Not only has Juan Uribe faced Cliff Lee more than any other Giants hitter, he’s also had the most success. Uribe is hitting .350 in his last 20 at-bats versus Lee, with a home run and only one strikeout. Since 2006 he’s 5-for-11 versus Lee (.455 BA) on pitches in the bottom half of the strike zone on early counts.
Huff improved as a first-pitch hitter this year (.436 BA, 6 home runs). The best chance to hit Lee is usually his 0-0 pitch—opponents hit .336 on the first pitch and .215 on other counts.
Giants hitters who could struggle
Playoff opponents have been helpless against Lee’s fastball up and away, getting no hard-hit balls on any of his 40 pitches in that zone. Andres Torres has swung-and-missed 71 percent of the time versus high outside heaters in the postseason.
Burrell typically takes pitches early in the count struggles after reaching two strikes (.169 BA). Lee has retired 87 percent of batters who reached two-strike counts this postseason.
Image of the day...
Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum relies on getting hitters to chase his outstanding slider and changeup. So far this postseason, hitters have not been able to lay off those two pitches with two strikes. Twenty-three of Lincecum’s 30 strikeouts in the playoffs were non-fastballs, with only 3 of those punchout pitches located in the strike zone:
• The Texas bullpen has worked out of jams to get to the World Series. With runners in scoring position and less than two outs, they’ve held postseason hitters to a .174 average with no extra-base hits (.277 league average).
• Javier Lopez(notes) has the least dominating pure stuff in the Giants bullpen with a fastball that barely reaches 89 mph. But with a sidearm delivery and a slider that is very tough on left-handers, he’s been lights out in the postseason, allowing just 1 hit in 15 at-bats.
• Nelson Cruz(notes) has been on fire in the postseason. Yankees and Rays pitchers located 23 percent of their offerings to Cruz over the middle of the plate, and he took full advantage by going 6-for-11 (.545) with three home runs against those pitches. The rest of the Texas lineup saw just 16 percent of pitches right down the middle.
• The Rangers beat Rays phenom David Price(notes) and Yankees workhorse CC Sabathia(notes) en route to the World Series. Now they’ll face MLB’s best pitching staff. The Giants led all other clubs with a 3.36 team ERA. We looked at the Rangers hitters who fared best in the regular season against the toughest pitchers in the league. A surprising name rushed to the top of the list -- platoon outfielder David Murphy(notes) had the team’s highest batting average (.353) against the top 10 pitchers in the AL this year. Murphy was 18-for-51 with six extra-base hits against the likes of Price, Felix Hernandez(notes), Jered Weaver(notes), Trevor Cahill(notes), and others who ranked in the top 10 in ERA.
• Cody Ross(notes) hit three home runs off inside fastballs on his way to earning NLCS MVP honors, but a changeup can give him a reason to smile too. He’s hitting a team high .361 against changeups this season with five doubles and three homers. The Giants hit .244 versus changeups as a team.
• Perhaps his last name should be "Poisey". Giants rookie catcher Buster Posey(notes) has been poised, patient, and has battled through some great at-bats in his first postseason. He normally swings at 27 percent of first pitches and hits well on 0-0 counts (.422 batting average), but Posey has offered at just 6 first-pitch offerings (15 percent of PA’s) since the NLDS. He is averaging 4.6 pitches per plate appearance and all 11 of his postseason hits have come on the third pitch of the at-bat or after.
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