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Kershaw vs. Glasnow: Analyzing the World Series Game 1 Pitching Matchup With TVL Data

By: Greg Gifford

The event we thought might never arrive is finally here: Game 1 of the World Series.

Ahead of the first pitch at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, tonight, we’re giving a quick breakdown of the starting pitchers using our TVL data to see what their pitch usage looks like, how each of their pitches move and interact with each other, and how they intend to use their pitches to attack hitters.

TVL tracks pitch type (T), velocity (V) and location (L) for each MLB pitcher and records the data into categories such as usage percentage of a specific pitch, the average velocity of each pitch type and the percentage a batter hits the ball on the ground against that pitch. It’s also used to determine the actual intent of each pitch.

The data is broken down further to show opponents’ batting average, slugging percentage, swing percentage and swing-and-miss percentage each time a specific pitch is thrown.

So here’s how tonight’s matchup between veteran left-hander Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and right-hander Tyler Glasnow of the Tampa Bay Rays looks through the lens of TVL data (through LDS games). The intent graphics are from the pitcher’s viewpoint, while the movement charts are from the catcher’s perspective:

CLAYTON KERSHAW

Kershaw has a little more of a varied approach than his counterpart, but 80+% of his pitches are still going to be four-seamers or sliders. Instead of tunneling his four-seamer and curve like Glasnow, he likes to combine glove-side four-seamers with sliders that fall down and off the plate.

Expect to see a ton of sliders down-and-in sliders against the right-handers in the Rays lineup.

Kershaw’s fastball and curveball movements are actually pretty similar to Glasnow’s, except for the 5-7 MPH difference in velocity. His curve is a true 12-to-6 breaker that consistently freezes hitters, and the fastball is dead straight.

Notice the large range on his slider, both in movement and velocity. He can really vary the shape of this pitch within and outing, which adds an extra wrinkle for hitters.

One thing that’s noticeable is how Kershaw uses his curve. First, he’ll NEVER throw it when he’s behind in the count. When he does throw his curve, he rarely looks to go outside the zone with it (above).

Instead of trying to induce swings out the zone when he is ahead in the count, Kershaw is almost always looking to drop one in the strike zone. He tries to trick the hitter into looking fastball/slider and taking a pitch right down the middle.

TYLER GLASNOW

Glasnow is mainly a two-pitch guy. He’ll mix in some changeups (usually against lefties) but for the most part, he goes at hitters with a four-seam/curve combination.

If the Dodgers can get ahead in counts, they can essentially turn him into a single-pitch pitcher. Glasnow throws his four-seamer 87% of the time when behind in the count, but it’s coming in around 100.

Glasnow’s fastball is extremely straight with a lot of “ride” (lack of drop due to gravity). This can give it the appearance of having extra hop as the pitch gets close to the plate.

His curve moves in the exact opposite direction; it has a lot of depth and it pairs well with the four-seamer in tunneling, so the pitches can be hard to differentiate out of the hand.

Look for Glasnow to attack hitters up in the zone with his fastball – over 90% of the four-seamers he threw this season were meant to be at the belt or higher. This adds to the tunneling effect with his curveball, as curveballs that drop near the bottom of the zone often look exactly like high fastballs out of the hand.

If he spots his four-seamer up in the zone tonight, he should be able to attack hitters with his curve when he’s ahead in the count.

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