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Scouting Rockies hitters vs Cleveland pitchers

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I'm just going to do this in Q&A format, but I'll be using info from one of my new favorite toys, Josh Kalk's player pages at his blog Baseball Born by Bits.

Potential World Series Game 1 Starters: Jeff Francis vs C.C. Sabathia.

Q: How do the Rockies deal with an ace they've never met?

A: My guess is that Brad Hawpe Matt Holliday and Todd Helton come up big. Sabathia throws almost exclusively fastballs (about 60%) and sliders (37%)-technically, it's his curve, but it breaks like a slider so that's how it registers on the site- to left handed batters. Hawpe hits fastballs fairly well (.284 BA/.526 SLG) and absolutely crushes sliders (.455/1.182). Helton does better against fastballs, and about as well as Brad against the breaking stuff. Kaz Matsui also might do okay, as he also hits sliders well, and he might just want to sit on one if Sabathia gets to two strikes on him. Better than 40% of C.C.'s pitches with two strikes are his slurve.

How often he uses his change-up might be the key to getting Garrett Atkins and Troy Tulowitzki out, he uses it just over one sixth of the time to right handed batters, and both have shown a propensity to getting fooled by that pitch. I don't want to sound overly optimistic on our other hitters either. Mid-nineties heat is some serious stuff, and it sets up his breaking pitch well. Sabathia will be tough, but those two guys I mentioned in the top of the first paragraph seem to have the best chance of breaking through on him.

[editor's note, by Rox Girl]---I'm glad we have so long before the series starts, so it can allow me to back off of my ridiculous Hawpe claim (see comments) and I will insert Holliday instead, he seems to do alright against power southpaws.

World Series Game 2: Ubaldo Jimenez vs Fausto Carmona;

Q: Who's your pick for Rockies hero, here?

A: Troy Tulowitzki if he can get his act together. Maybe Garrett Atkins or Willy Taveras. You might notice they are all right handed, but these are the guys who have hit sinkers for us best this year, and Carmona throws his two seamer about two thirds of the time.

This game in particular would be a good place to use Seth Smith instead of Spilly in the DH slot., and possibly games six and seven as well. Spilborghs hits four seam fastballs well, so I would start him against Sabathia, but he does poorly against two seamers, sliders and change-ups, and that's the extent of Carmona's arsenal. At least you'll then have lefty vs righty matchup. Smith hasn't really faced any sinker ball pitchers in his MLB career, but he's had three hits off cut fastball specialists (Kevin Cameron, Jonathan Meloan, Jailen Peguero) so I'd give it a shot.

Game 3: Jake Westbrook vs Josh Fogg

Q: Same thing?

A: Absolutely, maybe even moreso, in fact, as Westbrook is a sinker/slider exclusive guy and that will play right into Tulo's and Garrett's strengths as hitters. Actually, since this is Fogg and not U-ball or Frankie-Mo starting, this might be a good game to consider starting Chris Iannetta (4 for 12 off Brandon Webb, plus 3 for 4 against other sinker ball pitchers according to Kalk's data) over Yorvit Torrealba (a relatively abysmal 2 for 13 with a double off sinker ball pitchers) for that game, or at least using Chris as a PH if you can't get anything going.

Game 4: Paul Byrd vs Aaron Cook or Franklin Morales

Q: Byrd looks like he's doing a funky chicken dance with his double wind-up, will this fool Rockies hitters?

A: Maybe it will. This crafty control type is the kind of pitcher (Jamie Moyer, Livan Hernandez, Doug Davis) we've seem to have the least success against this postseason. I think Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, and Yorvit Torrealba's aggressiveness on first pitches in the strike zone might help here. Byrd likes to get ahead of hitters and he'll throw that fat 86-88 mph fastball on the first pitch four fifths of the time. If he gets that past you for a strike, he becomes particularly dangerous and just mixes all sorts of weird stuff, but if you're ahead in the count than he goes back to the FB more often than not. Look for those three I mention to try and get  a good hack right away, while our more patient hitters like Hawpe, Helton, Kaz-Mat and Tulo will try to work deeper counts into their favor.

Q: What about Cleveland's pen?

A: Joe Borowski is the obvious weak link, but their two Rafaels are interesting. With R. Betancourt you basically need to just look fastball. He'll throw the slider early in the count, but if he misses he abandons it. In fact, with counts of two balls or more, he's thrown two sliders all season compared to 81 fastballs. R. Perez, though he mixes his pitches fifty-fifty is also pretty predictable as to when he'll use the slider (two strikes, almost ninety percent of the time) and this is probably why Boston hammered him the other night. Until he throws a strike, look fastball, after he throws a strike, look slider.

Q: Early pick for Rockies MVP if they win the series?

A: This usually goes to somebody you don't think about, but given our players' strengths and weaknesses against the types of pitcher the Indians will be using, I think I'd have to lean toward Garrett Atkins being my early fave for the MVP trophy this series. He seems to profile really well here. Tulo does, too, with those two sinkerball pitchers in Games 2 and 3, and if he can turn his bat around at all, he'll jump past Garrett on my list as you know he'll come up with the highlight reel defensive plays.

I'll do something like this again for the Red Sox if Boston mounts a comeback over the next couple of days, but for Saturday, look for a similar type of review of our pitchers against Cleveland hitters.