Dodgers’ Success Against Mets In NLDS May Hinge On First Pitches

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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In light of their Cy Young candidacies and historic seasons, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are poised to headline the National League Division Series. But the New York Mets have their own dominant pitchers, whose matchup against the Los Angeles Doders’ offense could turn out to be a fascinating subplot with crucial strategic twists.

To borrow from the sweet science, it’s a classic case of styles making a fight. During the regular season, Dodger hitters boasted a .326 on-base percentage, which tied the San Francisco Giants for first in the NL and third in the Majors.

The Dodgers accomplished this feat by drawing walks in an MLB-high 9.2 percent of their plate appearances. On the flip side, Met pitchers allowed the second-lowest OBP (.296) and walk rate (6.3 percent). Their frontline starters — Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey –made the top 20 in OBP and the top 10 in walk rate among starters with at least 150 innings.

The two teams’ strengths are in the same areas, so presumably something has to give. A closer look at how each side approaches at-bats suggests that the Dodgers may have their work cut out for them.

As one might expect, Met pitchers excelled in occupying the plate. Two-thirds of their pitches went for strikes and a little under half were in the zone, placing them atop the Majors.

The Mets also ranked second in first-pitch strikes with a 63.6 rate. Whereas the average hurler ended 33 percent of plate appearances with the count in his favor, the Mets were closer to 37 percent. In other words, they pounded the zone early, often, and efficiently, delivering the lowest number of pitches for every batter they faced.

Dodger hitters may need to make some adjustments to counter this attack. Although they showed average selectivity by swinging at 67.9 percent of pitches in the zone, their results were sometimes lacking. Their contact rate on such pitches was in the bottom 10 of the Majors, as was the proportion of strikes that they put in play.

To be sure, these metrics saw very little difference in terms of percentage points between the best and the worst teams. Still, when you’re facing elite strike throwers, your window of opportunity is limited, and every edge counts.

So what should the Dodgers do?

CONTINUE READING: Examining The Dodgers’ Options

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