Arizona Diamondbacks: Dodgers’ hitters ability to lay off borderline pitches frustrating
By Joseph Jacquez
Arizona Diamondbacks left hander Robbie Ray will test the Dodgers patience in game two on Saturday night
The Arizona Diamondbacks Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in game one of the NLDS was frustrating for many reasons.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the 9-5 defeat was the ability of the Dodgers offense to use their greatest strength to tame the D-backs pitchers specialty.
During the regular season, the D-backs rotation led the major leagues in whiff rate on breaking balls thrown below the bottom edge of the strike zone (65.6 percent). The Washington Nationals (60 percent), New York Yankees (58.8 percent), Pittsburgh Pirates (58.7 percent) and Kansas City Royals (58.0) rounded out the top five.
In terms of individual leaders, four of the top five pitchers with the highest whiff rate on breaking pitches below the zone were D-backs: Robbie Ray, Zack Greinke, Zack Godley and Patrick Corbin.
Godley was one of the few pitchers with a whiff rate above 30 percent and a ground ball rate above 50 percent.
In the end, Godley did a superior job in relief. After starter Taijuan Walker could only complete one inning, Godley threw 100 pitches in five innings and only gave up two earned runs.
But, Godley had to be frustrated. He tried to execute his normal game plan. Keep all of his pitches at or below the bottom of the zone, and get batters to swing and miss at his curveball.
Patience is a virtue in LA
As frustrated as the D-backs pitchers are, in particular Godley, the Dodgers were the best team at laying off balls outside the Statcast strikezone during the regular season.
This season Dodgers’ hitters compiled the lowest O-Swing percentage in the majors at 26.2 percent. O-Swing measures the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone a team or player swings at.
Based on the numbers above, it should come as no surprise that the Dodgers led the MLB with a 10.5 BB% and a BB/K rate of 0.47, the second-highest in baseball behind the Cleveland Indians.
But the Dodgers patience should be tested throughout the division series. Diamondbacks starters got batters to swing at 30.8 of pitches outside the strikezone this season, the fourth-highest O-Swing% in baseball.
D-backs starters compiled the fourth-best K% in baseball at 25 percent.
Tale of the Tape
Something has to give. Entering this series, the ability of Arizona starting pitchers to induce whiffs on pitches outside of the strike zone, and the Dodgers ability to lay off those pitches could very decide the series.
Godley’s movement on his sinker also has allowed him to induce alot of strikeouts.
I took a look at the tape from last night. Even when the Dodgers attempted to swing at pitches below the zone against Godley, either they would check the swing or the home plate umpire would not call a pitch on the corner a strike.
Now, the Dodgers strength can be exploited. Sometimes Los Angeles took to many pitches and as a result, got caught looking at curveballs right down the middle.
It just seemed like the Dodgers knew what pitch Godley would throw.
As a result, Dodger batters found themselves in plenty of three-ball counts. D-backs pitchers threw 100-plus pitches in just four innings.
Robbie Ray is on the mound tonight. If the Dodgers continue to stay patient and wait for mistakes, the D-backs are in trouble because Ray relies on strikeouts and whiffs out of the zone.
In fact this season, Ray complied the highest swing and miss percentage in a single season for a starting pitcher since 2009 at 34.3 percent.
In his last start at Dodger Stadium, Ray racked up 14 strikeouts and plenty of swings and misses. The Dodgers may preach patience, but Ray’s ability to throw 95+ with his heater should help the D-backs cause.
I think Ray’s ability to induce swings and misses will decide the game.
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