October 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
When it comes down to it, all that really matters when attempting to analyze one game is the starting pitchers and maybe a couple relievers. A starting pitcher has a greater effect on a single game than anyone else unless it comes down to a high-leverage play late in the game, which is certainly possible considering these are two very good pitchers meeting.
But if you’re looking for the one big key to the game, look to see how hitters might fare against Kris Medlen and Kyle Lohse. Ben already did a great job letting you know what to expect from Lohse. One key for me:
“One interesting note is that despite throwing his sinker at such a high rate, his 40% ground ball rate is not something to write home about. This is where I believe the Braves will have to take advantage. Since he is such a high contact hitter, they will have to get a hold of the sinker and put it in the air. Lohse has done a solid job of limiting home runs this season, and the game will be played in a slight pitcher’s ballpark, so pushing one out of the stadium will be difficult. Even so, if they can elevate his sinker slightly they could put balls into the gaps and rely on rallies to score their runs. Lohse is going to throw strikes, so being aggressive is likely the best way to attack the sinkerballer. Even though his strikeout rate is higher than usual, compared to the rest of the league it is not entirely impressive. The Braves will make contact, they just need to hope the ball lands where the fielders aren’t.”
The key for Lohse is weak contact and control/command. He doesn’t have a great strikeout or ground ball rate, but he avoids walks and home runs and throws a solid chunk of innings. His BABIP the past two seasons has been .269 and .262, which should give a good idea of how he succeeds.
Beating a pitcher like Lohse requires an offense that doesn’t play into his game. As Ben said, being aggressive is probably the way to go. It allows the Braves to catch the occasional Lohse sinker left up, as well as avoiding counts where hitters would play into Lohse’s hands and have to pound a fastball into the ground. His walk rate means the Braves can’t wait on the free pass or even deep counts all the time.
The Cardinals offense has been one of the best and most consistent all season, ranking second in the league in total fWAR, third in wOBA and first in wRC+. They’re righty heavy in the middle of the lineup with Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina, but pitchers also have to deal with Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay around them.
Medlen has actually fared better against left-handed batters because of the extreme success of his changeup, but the split is minor. His wOBA against RHB is .239 compared to .230 against LHB, and he has a 2% advantage in K% against LHB. Medlen induces far more ground balls against RHB because of his curveball, and in turn, he has allowed the majority of his home runs to RHB because of missed command (although five is hardly a large number).
Some Cardinal wOBA’s against RHP/LHP:
Molina – .359/.427
Holliday – .358/.431
Craig – .353/.427
Freese – .359/.380
Jay – .350/.315
Beltran – .350/.361
Carpenter – .362/.335 (340 PA)
The Cardinals’ average wOBA against RHP among its usual starters (or those with the most PA’s) is .355. The average against LHP is .385. Among RHB in the Cardinals lineup, the lowest wOBA against LHP is still higher than all against RHP except Carpenter’s in a smaller number of PA.
Regardless of the minor difference in Medlen’s numbers between RHB and LHB, the Cardinals thrive against LHP but are much more tolerable against RHP. This combined with the Braves facing a right-handed pitcher means two factors leaning in the Braves’ favor.