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October 12, 2010

Playoff Prospectus

Tuesday LDS Pitching Matchups

by Matt Swartz

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Rays vs. Rangers
David Price: 2.72 ERA, 3.82 SIERA
Price struck out eight and did not walk anyone in Game One, but he surrendered a couple home runs and got outpitched by Lee. The walks do bode well for Price, who has struggled with free passes at times in 2010. He makes the biggest start of his life tonight in the first LDS Game Five since 2005. Below is the discussion of Price from prior to Game One:

Price is a young pitcher with a great future ahead of him, but he is not this good yet. Some of the difference between his ERA and his SIERA is a result of strong defense and a big park. His BABIP is .272, but the Rays’ overall BABIP is actually a formidable .280, and a pitcher with his velocity certainly could best that mark without luck playing a role. His 8.6 percent home-run-per-fly-ball rate is bound to increase, though not quite as much as one might expect given that he plays in Tropicana Field. Price does strike out 21.8 percent of hitters, a very solid number for a starter, but also walks 9.2 percent. Pitchers who issue free passes to that many hitters eventually allow some to score. However, Price allowed only a .233 BABIP with runners in scoring position, the main reason why his ERA is so low. Chances are that Price is not going to be the best pitcher in the AL playoffs, but he is a solid mid-level ace who will keep the Rays in games.

Cliff Lee: 3.18 ERA, 3.03 SIERA
This is what Rangers GM Jon Daniels had in mind when he traded for Lee back in July. One of the best pitchers in baseball today takes his team on his back for a double-elimination game after an artistic start to lead the team to victory in Game One. Lee struck out 10, walked none, and gave up a single run on a solo home run by Ben Zobrist. Even though the Rangers are weaker than the Rays overall and are also playing for their lives tonight in St. Petersburg, Lee gives the Rangers an advantage in Game Five. Below is the discussion of Lee from prior to Game One:

 Lee actually improved his strikeout rate in 2010, increasing it from 18.7 to 22.0 percent, while dropping his walk rate from 4.4 to a microscopic 2.1. Lee's batted-ball rates were average yet again, but he was able to keep runs off the board thanks to his incredible walk rate. The key to beating Lee is getting hits because he is not going to let you on base on his own, as he walked only 18 hitters all year. Although Lee struggled with back problems later in the season, he is a pitcher who can completely dominate if healthy. For the Rangers, who are significant underdogs in any AL series, having a pitcher like Lee who can dominate a game twice each series is exactly how they can pull off some upsets.  

Matt Swartz is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Matt's other articles. You can contact Matt by clicking here

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