MLB playoffs: Four X factors for the Wild Card Series

Major League Baseball’s postseason is scheduled to start on Friday, Oct. 7, with a meatier-than-normal playoff box: 12 groups have received front as a part of the expanded postseason that was once stipulated in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. The best two seeds in every league will obtain first-round byes, whilst the different 8 will partake in a best-of-three Wild Card Series to decide who advances to the department around. From there, the postseason will take its standard form.

Part of the pleasure and the unpredictability of the postseason is that the matchups and small main points subject extra in October than they did all through the common season. After all, a suboptimal attract June or July can have led to a couple of losses over the process an extended season; in the playoffs, it may be the distinction between retaining one’s championship hopes alive and starting one’s offseason previous than deliberate. 

With that during thoughts, let’s spotlight one doable x-factor for every of the upcoming Wild Card Series the use of knowledge you will not to find in the field rating. Before we get into the excellent stuff, let us preemptively concede that this sort of microanalysis isn’t easiest relating to predictive energy. Context issues, and so does acknowledging that groups and avid gamers can and do make changes, specifically when the stakes are this excessive.

Now, onto the gasbaggery.

1. Phillies vs. Cardinals might come all the way down to the within sport

We’re now not speaking about the psychological or non secular aspect of items; we are speaking about the combat for dominance on the internal 1/2 of the plate that would rage between the Phillies’ pitchers and the Cardinals’ hitters. This collection may, in a way, be made up our minds by way of a matchup of energy in opposition to energy.

During the common season, the Phillies threw a better share in their pitches on the internal 1/2 of the plate than all however one workforce: the Marlins. Coincidentally, the Cardinals hit inner-half pitches for a greater wOBA (a catch-all stat that weighs the run price of walks) than all however one workforce: the Braves.

To illustrate the Cardinals’ dominance on inner-half pitches, believe the following notice. There have been greater than 340 avid gamers who had a minimum of 100 plate appearances finish on a pitch positioned on the internal 1/2; the Cardinals had 4 of the best 21 performers (as judged by way of wOBA), in addition to 3 further hitters who carried out at a league-average clip or higher. Take a take a look at the pertinent numbers:

On the different aspect, the Phillies have a number of key pitchers who rank amongst the ones possibly to throw a tumbler to the inner-half. Setup guy José Alvarado led the majors in that class (min. 1,000 pitches thrown) whilst starters Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suárez, and Bailey Falter every rank extremely in that appreciate as effectively. 

That would appear to be an ominous signal for the Phillies, who’re more likely to get started Wheeler and Suárez if the collection is going 3 video games. Execution is what issues maximum in any given sport, despite the fact that, and that is the reason more difficult to expect. To wit, Wheeler confronted the Cardinals in consecutive begins again in July. His mixed totals noticed him throw 14 shutout innings in two wins whilst surrendering 9 hits and two walks and placing out 10 batters. The Phillies, certainly, would like to peer Wheeler post every other a kind of efforts.

2. Guardians‘ breaking pitches may wreck Rays

Where the Phillies and Cardinals collection could also be dictated by way of pitch location, the Guardians and Rays collection might hinge on pitch variety. 

The Rays have been the worst-performing of the 12 playoff groups in opposition to breaking pitches all through the common season, posting a .259 wOBA. (The subsequent worst membership, the Dodgers, checked in 13 issues upper.) The Rays have been specifically at risk of increasing their zone to chase breaking pitches, despite the fact that their touch price was once round league common.

The Guardians, it will have to be famous, do not throw a ton of breaking balls more often than not. They ranked nineteenth as a personnel in that appreciate. The Who issues greater than the Whole right here as a result of the Cleveland pitchers who have been possibly to throw a breaking pitch have been (min. 100 batters confronted): Shane Bieber, Nick Sandlin, and Triston McKenzie. Bieber and McKenzie would possibly get started two of the 3 video games, if it involves that. 

In different phrases, the Guardians’ rotation would appear specifically well-suited to make the most of the Rays’ lineup, despite the fact that that is not true for the remainder of the personnel. (Cal Quantrill, the different most likely starter, would additionally rank extremely if cutters have been considered breaking pitches; as it’s, he graded as the Guardian least more likely to throw a breaker.)

Shane Bieber




Triston McKenzie




Cal Quantrill




As for the Rays, the hitters who carried out worst in opposition to breaking balls this season incorporated David Peralta, Manuel Margot, Taylor Walls, Isaac Paredes, and Harold Ramirez. Conversely, the handiest Rays more likely to be on their Wild Card Series energetic roster who had a .300 or higher wOBA in opposition to breaking balls have been catcher Christian Bethancourt, infielder Jonathan Aranda, and outfielder Randy Arozarena. 

Maybe the ones people could make their alternatives depend. Otherwise, the Rays might to find it tough to attain whilst Bieber and McKenzie are in the sport, particularly in the event that they make a decision to unsolicited mail their breaking balls much more regularly than standard.

3. Mets‘ Gore may turn out inconvenient for Padres

This one is discreet. The Mets will have to have Terrance Gore, the sport’s preeminent designated pinch-runner, on their roster. They’re controlled by way of Buck Showalter, a baseball detective ate up with sniffing out marginal benefits. They’re going through an opponent who would appear ill-prepared to forestall him, too. Must we write extra?

Fine, fantastic. Baseball Info Solutions assists in keeping monitor of various occasions: how lengthy it takes for a tumbler to ship their providing; how lengthy it takes for the catcher to throw to 2nd base; and the way lengthy it takes for the baserunner to scouse borrow a base. BIS combines all that knowledge and makes use of it to evaluate anticipated good fortune charges and whether or not sure runners will have to have a inexperienced, yellow, or pink mild in opposition to sure battery mixtures. 

Here’s Gore’s file in opposition to the Padres:


Your eyes are not deceiving you. Gore would appear to be a secure wager to run in opposition to nearly each and every Padres aggregate, save the ones that includes Tim Hill and when/if Josh Hader pitches to Jorge Alfaro. 

Choosing when to run is not fairly that simple, and who is aware of, possibly the Mets do not lift Gore this collection. On paper, despite the fact that, he would appear to be a secure wager to swipe a bag in a high-leverage scenario.

We opened with an x-factor regarding pitch location, so it is only proper for us to finish that manner, too. As you’ll have guessed from the subheading, the query right here is that if the Mariners’ pitchers can identify a vertical edge in opposition to the Blue Jays’ bats.

No pitching personnel had the next share of pitches positioned in the higher 1/2 of the zone than the Mariners, who noticed greater than 47 p.c in their pitches finish up there. The Blue Jays’ lineup turns out well-suited to counter that predilection, as they ranked first in wOBA in opposition to pitches positioned in the higher 1/2 of the zone.

We’ve wired right through that context is necessary. Mariners ace Luis Castillo, for instance, has now not purchased into the pitching-up philosophy. He’s thrown the lowest share of upper-half pitches of any Mariner with 300-plus tosses this 12 months. Contrariwise, the remainder of the Mariners rotation — Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, and Marco Gonzales — has proven an actual fondness for raising. 

This collection might boil down to these pitchers’ talents to both modify their approaches or overpower the likes of Teoscar Hernández, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and George Springer, every of whom posted wOBA of .400 or upper in opposition to upper-half pitches. The great thing about the postseason is we would possibly not know which is likelier till it occurs.


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