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World Series Game 1 Matchups: We’ve got the Power !

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How do the Astros and Nationals matchup against Power Pitchers ?

Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer Square Off in Game 1 of 2019 World Series
USA Today Sports

In Game 1 of the 2019 World Series we will see Max Scherzer face off against Gerrit Cole. These two guys are the very epitome of “Power Pitchers”, and as baseball fans we could be in for a treat.

Baseball-reference.com has an interesting split in their split pages showing the breakdown of hitters performance against “Power Pitchers”, “Finesse Pitchers” and “Neutral Pitchers” They define it as such:

Power pitchers are in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks. Finesse are in the bottom third of the league in strikeouts plus walks. Stats are based on the three years before and after (when available), and the season for when the split is computed. A split in 1994 would consider years 1991-1997 when classifying a pitcher.

Here is what the MLB League average looked like in 2019 for this split:

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are a lot fewer PA vs. Power Pitchers. There simply just aren’t as many of them. These are generally the more elite pitchers in the game.

The second thing you will notice then is that the batting numbers are significantly worse against power pitchers. You can see this easily in the triple slash rate states and OPS. You can also see the tOPS+ number. This is the “OPS for the Split Relative to the Players Total OPS”. 100 = average. So in other words, for the entire MLB, OPS vs. Power Pitchers is roughly 15% worse than the total average, and vs. Finesse pitchers batter do about 10% better compared to the league average.

While looking at this split for Nationals and Astros hitters, I noticed two things:

1.) The Nationals hit power pitchers in 2019 almost as well as they hit finesse pitchers, and relative to the rest of MLB, (sOPS+) they hit Power Pitchers about 28% better than the league average.

NATIONALS 2019 SPLIT VS. POWER/FINESSE& NEUTRAL PITCHERS

2.) The Astros on the other hand, while 20% better than the league average, were not as good as the Nationals against power pitching, and in fact did much more damage against Finesse pitchers. Houston’s tOPS+. (OPS relative to their own average) is clearly far inferior vs. Power Pitchers.

ASTROS 2019 SPLIT VS. POWER/FINESSE& NEUTRAL PITCHERS

INDIVIDUAL BATTERS

Here are the individual hitters on each team’s World Series Roster. Totals and averages shown here are just for players on the W.S. Roster. Notice the gap widens even more in the Nationals favor, from 30 OPS Points when all players included, to 38 OPS Points when just W.S. Roster players are included.

NATIONALS

ASTROS

Some of these sample sizes are not very big. But they are bigger than “head to head” matchups. Things like overall splits vs. RHP or LHP, splits vs. Fly ball or Groundball pitchers, and splits vs Power or Finesse pitchers are actually more predictive of future results than the head to head matchups. While the sample size of these splits may be small, the H2H matchup splits are the smallest of all, and the LEAST predictive.

I probably should have done the extra work to pull together a three year sample for these players, but that would have taken a lot longer. This may not be much of an advantage, but I found it interesting that the Nationals have an edge in this split, even though the Astros have better overall hitting numbers.

What this means to me is against the best power pitchers in the game, the Nationals lineup is probably every bit as good as the Astros, if not better. The big names for the Nats , (Anthony Rendon, Howie Kendrick, Juan Soto) seem to have done really well against power pitchers, while the big names on the Astros ledger , (George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve) are decidedly worse in this split, at least in 2019.

Of course it’s only one game, and anything at all can happen in one game. Either one of Scherzer or Cole are capable of going out and throwing a no hitter against ANY lineup.

I’m really looking forward to tonight