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October Baseball: Round 1: Game 1

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Chicago White Sox
@ Tampa Bay Rays

Thursday, Oct 2, 2008, 1:37 PM CDT
Tropicana Field

Javier Vazquez vs James Shields

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As I said in my preview, Javier Vazquez gets the game 1 start for the White Sox based on availability more than merit. To draw a parallel to the '05 playoffs, Tampa, by securing the league's best record not only has locked in home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but they've found themselves

Brushing Up On James Shields

First, a note: the Hopefully Useful Google Doc is a little screwy. Kalk's algorithm, as I've said, struggles with defining fastball variants like the cutter and splitter. if you check out the tool you'll see that there's a cutter listed that has more tail than the regular fastball. I've decided to just scrap these which in turn has effed with the pitch percentages in the HUPGOOD. This impacts the data too, obviously, as we're leaving out the fastballs with the most tail. These are likely to be more groundball inducing than not, particularly against RHB. So the ISO numbers for the fastball likely overstate the power possibilities made available by each pitch. Okay, let's get to it.

The first thing that popped out to me was his change. It might be the best RH change in the AL. He throws it a ton against even RHB and, somehow, his K rate with the pitch is better against RHB. Not that it sucks against LHB. It's quite good. Often you'll see with good changes that there is an accompanying risk factor: the HR. Shields seems mostly to get away with this, with ISOs to both sides of the plate lower than .230.

On top of this, he throws, if not a pure sinker, then at least a decent groundballing fastball. This is that boring tail, part of which we lopped off with the cutter. He can work with straight stuff very effectively and against both sides of the plate. This bodes very badly for our club. The only pitch/batter-handedness combo that yields an ISO above .300 is the slider against LHB, which he does throw with some frequency. Hopefully the lefties can recognize and take advantage; his command of it does appear to be somewhat lacking relative to his other pitches which may in fact be the reason for the gopher ball problems for this pitch.

Nonetheless, we're looking at a pitcher with only a few holes. It's going to be tough sledding. It will be critical to take pitches and try to get to the bullpen as Shields will likely shut us down as long as he's in. We need to put high pitch counts on as many of their pitchers as possible; they've got a slight advantage in most facets of the game and the best way to eat into that without doing anything special is to control the plate.