Over the weekend I decided to take a closer look at the Cubs pitching staff to see how the Indians match up.
Since we obviously don’t face them often, there’s limited data on each individual pitcher. So to get a better feel for how the Indians hitters will fare, I decided to classify the Cubs pitchers into categories.
To accomplish this I used the stats we get from ESPN Stats & Info to break every starting pitcher in MLB into six categories:
- Power Pitchers (based on fastball velocity and K rates)
- Specialty Pitchers (sinkerballers, knuckleballers)
- Groundball Pitchers (based on flyball/ground ball ratio)
- Finesse/Wild Pitchers (based on walk rates)
- Contact Pitchers (based on low K rates)
- Hard/Neutral/Soft Pitchers (based on favoring hard stuff or breaking balls)
For some of the groups I also used subcategories. For example, I called everyone who averaged 93 mph on their fastball a power pitcher, but then labeled everyone in that group with a 25-percent strikeout rate as “elite power pitcher”.
Here’s how the Cubs staff breaks down:
- Jon Lester: Hard/Groundballs
- Jake Arrieta: Hard/Groundballs, 2nd Tier Power Pitcher
- Kyle Hendricks: Hard/Groundballs
- John Lackey: Neutral
- Jason Hammel: Neutral
It’s interesting that the Cubs top three starters all fall into the Hard/Groundball category. This means they throw at least 60 percent “hard stuff” (fastballs, cutters and sinkers) and generate at a groundball-to-flyball ratio between .9 and 1.2 (a higher GB/FB ratio would have put them in “extreme groundball pitcher” category).
In other words, they throw hard and generate a lot of ground balls—but they tend to not have overpowering stuff (except for Arrieta).
22 other starting pitchers around the league also fall into the Hard/Groundball categories, which is the group we’ll use to see how the Indians hitters stack up.
This doesn’t give us a huge sample size for any individual player, but the overall results are encouraging.
Against the right-handed pitchers from this group, the Indians collectively hit .286 in 139 plate appearances. Here are a few notables:
On the other end of the spectrum:
The results against Hard/Groundball lefties (relevant when Lester pitches in Game 1) initially don’t look so hot. Collectively the Tribe hit .228 in 203 plate appearances. But the numbers are dragged down by a few who won’t see the field in this game (Crisp, Gomes and Almonte combined to go 3-23).
Here are a few who posted encouraging numbers against this group of lefties:
- Carlos Santana: 8-21
- Rajai Davis: 7-23
- Jose Ramirez: 7-21
Jason Kipnis is the only expected Game 1 starter who really struggled. He was just 3-20 against this group of hard/groundball lefties.
It’s tough to know just how reliable these numbers are and whether or not its an indicator of success in the World Series. Obviously we’re looking at relatively small sample sizes for each individual player, but collectively the numbers are encouraging. At the very least, I think these numbers are worthy of giving us some hope that the Indians lineup is better suited to face the Cubs staff than most other teams who struggled against them all season.
On a different note… if you’re curious, here’s how the Indians pitching staff was categorized by this method:
- Corey Kluber: Neutral
- Carlos Carrasco: Elite Power/Groundball/Neutral
- Danny Salazar: Elite Power/Groundball/Wild/Hard
- Trevor Bauer: 2nd Tier Power/Groundball/Hard
- Josh Tomlin: Finesse/Hard/Contact