What To Watch For When Watching The Rangers
Pitchers want to pitch Prince low and away
When you look at Prince’s Isolated Power (ISO=Extra Bases/ABs) over the past 3 seasons, it’s pretty obvious how you want to attack him if you’re an opposing pitcher. The chart below really illustrates how much he struggles against pitches low and away. His numbers across the board (batting average, slugging %, and ISO) are all drastically lower in the low and outside region.
The challenge for pitchers is to keep the ball outside while still throwing strikes. If a pitch catches too much of the plate, Prince has shown that he still has the ability to punish those mistakes. If he’s unable to consistently hit the corner for a strike, then the pitcher runs the risk of falling behind in the count and either throwing a hittable pitch or walking Fielder.
Look for these trends during the game and how they might impact Prince:
A. Is this pitcher hitting the outside corner against lefties?
B. Is the umpire calling a wide strike zone against left handed hitters?
Yu Darvish pitch selection
Through the first month of the season one of the major changes for Darvish has been his reliance on his fastball against RH hitters. Through the month of April, Darvish has thrown his four-seam fastball close to 61% of the time against righties. His previous high in any month of his major league career was 48%.
In addition to throwing more fastballs, he has also mixed in his curve 18% of the time, throwing it more often than his slider (18.75% to 14.29%). This is really interesting because Yu has traditionally thrown his curve very sparingly against right-handed hitters.
Darvish is an especially difficult pitcher to profile because he can throw so many different pitches. If he feels his fastball isn’t particularly strong in the 1st inning, he has the ability to alter his approach significantly. An increased reliance on his curve provides him another option to keep hitters off balance.
When people talk about Darvish one of the things they mention is how particularly deadly his slider can be. But so far in 2014, Darvish has thrown it extremely sparingly to lefties. In fact, according to BrooksBaseball.net, the slider is the pitch he has thrown the least against LHH. Here is his breakdown of pitches to lefties so far from Brooks Baseball:
In Darvish’s starts look for him to establish his fastball early against both righties and lefties. As the game goes along, he tends to become primarily a 3-pitch pitcher against RHH, relying on his fastball, curve and slider. Against LHH you can expect him to throw fastballs early and more curves late, all the while knowing that he has a vicious slider in his back pocket that he is rarely using for the time being.
Martin Perez and his change up
Perez has been nothing short of amazing so far this year. His performance is a large reason why the Rangers are currently in a good position as we approach the end of April. When people talk about Perez the thing you hear the most about is his change up, and rightfully so. He currently sports a .077 BAA when he throws his change, which is filthier than my college dorm room. He tends to use it much more often against RHH than LHH (18.9% to 7.94%), preferring instead to use his slider more often against lefties.
The chart below illustrates where Perez is most often locating his change up to RHH. His ability to keep the ball down has been crucial, as opposing players have struggled to drive the ball against him, managing only 5 doubles and no homers against him through 5 starts.