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Entries in world series (12)

Thursday
Oct252012

Sandoval Hacks His Way Into History

Babe Ruth. Reggie Jackson. Albert Pujols. And now, Pablo Sandoval. The Panda joined those legendary sluggers last night by hitting three home runs in a World Series game, hacking the Giants to an 8-3 win over the Tigers in Game 1.

Sandoval punched two 95 MPH fastballs from Justin Verlander over the fence, chasing an 0-2 pitch high out of the strike zone in the first inning for a 421 foot center field shot and then going the opposite way in the third frame when the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP tried to hit the outside corner. In the fifth, Sandoval clubbed an Al Alburquerque slider 435 feet to center.

  Location of Sandoval's HR in Game 1

Sandoval has now gone deep six times during the postseason, and four of those shots have come on pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. The Panda has long been a free swinger, chasing the third-highest rate of pitches (41.7%) during the regular season. But he has expanded his already Bay-sized zone in October, chasing half of pitches thrown off the plate. That is, by far, the highest mark among hitters with at least 30 plate appearances during the playoffs:

       Highest Chase Rate in 2012 Playoffs

BatterChase Pct.
Pablo Sandoval 50.0%
Robinson Cano 41.5%
Derek Jeter 40.3%
Prince Fielder 40.2%
Angel Pagan 40.0%
Miguel Cabrera 37.0%
Matt Holliday 36.8%
Delmon Young 36.7%
Curtis Granderson 35.0%

 

Sandoval's three homers last night came on two of the game's toughest pitches. Verlander limited batters to a .389 fastball slugging percentage during the regular season, sixth-lowest among AL starting pitchers. Alburquerque held hitters to a .094 slugging percentage on his slider, fifth-lowest among AL relievers.

If Sandoval goes deep twice more during the World Series, he will tie Barry Bonds, Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran for the most homers ever hit during a single postseason. Pitchers beware: ball or strike, Sandoval's coming up swinging.

Wednesday
Oct242012

Cain is Able: Gets it done on the Hill and at the Dish

The San Fransisco Giants completed a three game run against the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals to punch their ticket to the World Series, and they did it on the back of their pitching staff. Zito and Vogelsong spun two gems to force a game seven, and Matt Cain took over the rest. 

Let's do an inning by inning breakdown of how Cain stiffled the Cards.

 

1st INNING

Cain struck out Jon Jay swinging with a nasty 2-seamer at the letters. He gave up a bloop single to Beltran, but managed to strand him in scoring position with two weak fly balls.

 

2nd INNING

The second was a little shakier for Cain, as he allowed runners to get to second and third with two outs before getting Lohse to lineout on a great leaping catch by Brandon Crawford. Cain also showed off his skill at the plate in the bottom half, as he knocked a hanging slider back up the middle for an RBI single to put the Giants up 2-0.

 

3rd INNING

After allowing a leadoff single to Jay, Cain settled in and got three straight outs to retire the side. To this point in the game, Cain had  only struck out two batters, inducing five fly balls and only two ground balls while walking one. Let's take a look at his pitch location through the first three innings.

Cain's Pitch Locations through 3 innings of NCLS Game 7

Coupling this with the contact rate of hitters, it is easy to see that his command of his pitches was excellent.

 

Contact rate versus Cain through 3 innings of NLCS game 7As you can see, the spots that Cain was hitting most frequently were a virtual dead zone for Cardinals hitters through the first half of his outing. Even though Cain wasn't striking out hitters at a high rate, he maintained good control of all of his pitches and continued to induce outs.

 

4th INNING

Cain gave up a leadoff single before retiring three straight via fly out, strikeout, and ground out respectively. At this point, the game had gotten completely out of hand, with the Giants leading 7-0, it was Cain's job to get outs. When this happens, a pitcher can begin to focus on pounding the strikezone, attacking hitters, and pitching to contact. 

 

5th INNING

Cain retired the side in order, forcing a ground out, a lineout, and a fly out. One important thing to notice during this outing is the amount of line drive outs to this point in the game: three; any one of those could have landed for a hit early and completely changed the dynamic of the game, but every pitcher knows how to appreciate a hard hit ball right at a fielder.

 

6th INNING

After hitting the first batter and allowing yet another line drive out at the second baseman, Cain gave up a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield. He settled down to punch out David Freese for his last batter of the day.

Cain's pitch location from the 4th to the 6th inning

As you can see, Cain's location shifted more towards the middle of the plate. Usually this is asking for trouble for a pitcher, but as mentioned previously, Cain had been given a big lead, and his excellent compliment of pitches led to a very successful outing and a trip to the World Series. This will be the Giants' second trip in the past three years, and they will ride the success of their starting pitchers as far as it will take them.

 

Friday
Oct192012

Adam Wainwright's Wicked Curve

Adam Wainwright has both tested his reconstructed elbow and tortured hitters with his curveball this postseason. Wainwright, who stretched the Cardinals' NLCS lead over the Giants to 3-1 last night, has struck out 20 hitters overall. Seventeen of those whiffs have been on curveballs. Simply put, Wainwright has left a curveball high in the strike zone about as often as TBS has run a Bruce Springsteen-less commercial break.

The 31-year-old righty has unleashed 75 curveballs this postseason. Just four of those curves, or about five percent, were located in the upper third of the strike zone. For comparison's sake, starting pitchers threw 18% of their curves high in the zone during the regular season, and they have done so about 14% during the playoffs.

Against righties, Wainwright is placing his curve low and away:

Wainwright's curveball location vs. righties

 

He's mixing it up more against lefties, throwing low-and-away curves for strikes but also burying pitches in the dirt:

Wainwright's curveball location vs. lefties

Those earth-bound breaking balls have produced most of Wainwright's strikeouts:

Location of Wainwright's strikeouts with his curveball

Hitters have gone just 2-for-26 against Wainwright's hammer this postseason. If the Cardinals do finish off the Giants, Wainwright's curve could be in for a challenge against the Tigers. Detroit has a collective .427 slugging percentage against curveballs thrown by righty pitchers this season, far above the .335 major league average. Just don't expect Wainwright to hang one, Miggy and Prince.

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