One of the most intriguing aspects of the World Series is that it pits teams against each other that aren’t all that familiar with one another. The Red Sox and Dodgers haven’t matched up since early August 2016. It leaves a lot to the imagination.
How will Kershaw handle the big right-handed bats in the Boston order? How will Alex Cora deal with his lineup when he has to have his pitcher in the batting order? Year-to-year, however, it seems there are adverse storylines, as well. This year is no different, of course, with Manny Machado donning Dodger blue against his former divisional foe.
Because Machado spent his first six and a half seasons in Baltimore, he has a history with Boston’s pitching staff. And with STATS’ advanced heat maps, we can look at his history against the Red Sox’s projected starters for the World Series and see where they should – and shouldn’t – pitch to him.
Machado vs. Chris Sale
Machado career vs. Sale (22 plate appearances): .316/.409/.579
Machado has great career numbers versus Sale. Throughout his career, his eight percent swing-and-miss rate against Sale is less than half than Sale’s career number (20%). Despite that, the lanky lefty has a lot of room to work against the Dodger shortstop. Sale typically works away early in counts with both his fastball and slider, and he does it with a ton of success. That is why you see a lot of dark blue low and away to Machado in each of the four heat maps.
Sale also dominates when he elevates his fastball. In the area on the map bordering the top of the strike zone both in the zone and out, the expected swinging strike rate in 15 percent, but Sale generates swinging strikes 25 percent of the time in that area.
The one spot Sale really needs to stay away from is challenging Machado with the in-zone fastball on his hands. Machado has slashed .424/.418/.741 on fastballs up-and-in this season, including 11 of his 37 home runs.
If Sale keeps the ball low, he will get the results he wants. If you look at the breaking ball and off-speed heat maps, the hot zones are up in the zone. Sale does not want to throw his slider or his changeup in those spots. It sounds simple and obvious, but if he executes his pitches, Sale will not have many problems against Machado.
Machado vs. David Price
Machado career vs. Price (44 PA): .293/.341/.683
Price has been in the division even longer than Sale, so his history against Machado runs twice as deep. Advantage hitter in this instance, as Machado has an OPS over 1.000 against Price, boosted by the five long balls he has hit off the 2012 Cy Young award winner.
As where on Sale’s heat maps against Machado he looks to be set up for success if he executes his pitches, Price could be in trouble either way.
A large part of Price’s plan against right-handed hitters is pounding them inside with his cutter, which in these heat maps falls under the breaking ball category. As you can see, that should set warning sirens off for Price. That’s some deep red right where Price wants to live with his cutter. In the highlighted portion of the breaking ball heat map below, Price has generated just a four percent swinging strike rate, while balls in play in that zone have produced 112 percent more damage than league average.
However, Price will also work the outer-half with that backdoor cutter and fastball. STATS advanced heat maps would point to those two offerings as his go-to to get Machado out.
Machado vs. Rick Porcello
Machado career vs. Porcello (42 PA): .342/.381/.526
Ahh finally, a righty-on-righty matchup that favors the Red Sox against Machado— oh wait. Porcello’s heat map against Machado looks like an aerial view of a volcano that just erupted.
We’ll start with the positives, however short that paragraph may be. Porcello’s changeup looks to be a winning pitch against Machado, especially if he throws it in the zone. That’s the good news. However, Porcello has used the changeup just seven percent of the time against right-handed hitters.
One of the danger zones for Porcello is that in-zone breaking ball down-and-away (Porcello throws both a slider and curveball). When Porcello fell behind in the count against right-handers in 2018, he threw his slider one-third of the time, and that down-and-away portion of the zone that is highlighted below is the main area he targeted.
Porcello’s swinging strike rate in that area is league average (11 percent), but this has more to do with Machado owning that area. He puts a breaking ball in play 40 percent of the time in that zone, with the quality of the ball in play coming in at 18 percent above league average.