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October 30, 2010

World Series Prospectus

Game Three Pitching Matchup

by Matt Swartz

Jonathan Sanchez: 3.07 ERA, 3.70 SIERA
Sanchez’s ERA has been all over the place the last three years, but his SIERA has stayed in the same range, gradually falling from 3.92 in 2008 to 3.80 in 2009, and now to 3.70 in 2010. His walk and strikeout numbers are both extremely high, while his batted-ball rates are pretty average across the board. Sanchez has struck out 25 percent of hitters he has faced in each of the last two seasons, while walking 12 percent, making him a pitcher who is bound to aggregate large pitch counts quickly. In fact, Sanchez has averaged 4.0 pitches per hitter in each of the last two years and thus only 5.8 innings per start in 2010 and 5.4 in 2009. The key for the Rangers will be to drive his pitch count up, because he is tough to hit otherwise. Sanchez has been the beneficiary of a lucky BABIP this year (.255 overall), thanks to a .114 on outfield fly balls—well below the .179 league average—and he also has just a .667 BABIP on line drives, below the league average of .716. These have enabled him to accumulate more innings this season than last. As his luck normalizes, he can be chased after closer to five innings than six, and if the Rangers are patient they will have a chance to get into the Giants' bullpen early. The contrast between what can happen when Sanchez is on his game and when he is not has been crystal clear thus far in the playoffs. Sanchez whiffed 11 Braves and walked only one in 7 1/3 dominant innings in NLDS Game Three, but the Phillies fared better, netting four runs in eight innings across two starts in the NLCS. The Phillies scored a first-inning run off of Sanchez with the help of three walks in Game Two of the NLCS, but he shut them down the rest of the way. However, the Phillies did manage to chase him in the third inning of Game Six of the NLCS, but failed to capitalize against the Giants' bullpen and were shut out the rest of the way. Beating Sanchez is tough to do without free passes, but he is not stingy with them. If the Rangers are patient, they could put up a crooked number or two against Sanchez en route to a victory to shrink the Giants 2-0 lead in the World Series before it gets out of reach.

Colby Lewis: 3.72 ERA, 3.50 SIERA
You have to credit our own Clay Davenport for this one—he saw it coming. After striking out only 15.2 percent of hitters in the majors before heading to Japan, Lewis appeared to be benefiting from weaker competition in his success there. However, the Davenport Translations saw Lewis' performance in Japan as indicative of reaching a higher skill level, and he met this assertion by posting a solid 23.2 percent strikeout rate for the Rangers in 2010. Credit the Rangers too, while you're at it—they forked over the cash and signed the guy! With an average-ish 7.7 percent walk rate and only a 39 percent ground-ball rate, Lewis' success is derived from his strikeout rate. He is nearly as good at whiffing left-handed hitters as right-handed hitters, striking out 22 percent of lefties and 24 percent of righties. However, he is able to avoid issuing bases on balls far better against righties, walking them at nearly half the rate (5.5 vs. 9.9 percent). The righty’s batted-ball numbers are distributed pretty evenly by handedness as well. While Cliff Lee’s performance in the AL playoffs received far more attention, Lewis quietly recorded outs in three starts as well. He only allowed three runs across 18 2/3 innings in those starts with 18 strikeouts, though he did walk 11 along the way. Lewis is unlikely to get away with as many walks going forward, but his ability to miss bats has continued to show in the playoffs and could help the Rangers in an important Game Three start.

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

Related Content:  Jonathan Sanchez

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