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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Pitch locations key as Rangers eye title

By Mark Simon

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key performances through the first five games of the Fall Classic, that may better explain why the Texas Rangers are on the cusp of their first World Series title.

We’ll do so through the lens of our pitch-performance data and with the help of specific heat maps for individual players, which can detect and visualize some trends that have emerged so far.

Mike Napoli
Napoli has been arguably the most valuable player of the World Series with nine RBI, one fewer than the rest of his teammates combined. Napoli’s biggest hit came in the eighth inning of the Rangers' Game 5 win on Monday, a double on a slider that was up and over the middle of the plate.

Of Napoli’s four hits in this series, three have come on pitches thrown to the middle or outside portion of the plate. The St. Louis Cardinals have been able to get him out when they’ve jammed him inside, with one exception: his three-run home run in the sixth inning of Game 4 came on an up-and-in pitch.


Left: The pitch locations for Mike Napoli’s four hits in the World Series
Right: The pitch locations for Napoli’s 10 outs in the World Series
Click here to create your own Napoli heat maps


Albert Pujols
Despite a 1.213 OPS in the World Series, Pujols is hitless in four of the five games against the Rangers. Since his three-homer game in Game 3, the Rangers have either avoided him, or done their best to not give him anything to hit.

In the last two games, they’ve gotten him out six times. Four of those have come on pitches that were out of the strike zone, including the ninth-inning strikeout in Game 5 when he chased a 99-mph fastball on a 3-2 count.


Above: The pitch locations for Albert Pujols’ outs in Games 4 and 5 of the World Series
Click here to create your own Pujols heat maps


Neftali Feliz
Feliz has had his share of difficulties this postseason, but he’s gotten the job done with six saves. He has been wild, with seven walks in 10⅓ innings, though his issues have primarily been against right-handed hitters.

Lefties are 2-for-18 against him this postseason, including 0-for-4 in the World Series. Feliz has taken the approach of challenging lefty hitters to hit pitches thrown over the heart of the plate. So far, none have succeeded.


Above: The most frequent pitch locations from Neftali Feliz to left-handed hitters this postseason
Click here to create your own Feliz heat maps


Rafael Furcal
With the Rangers starting three left-handed pitchers in this series, they’ve successfully neutralized the Cardinals leadoff hitter. Furcal has been getting jammed repeatedly by the Rangers southpaws.

He’s 1-for-12 in the series against them, and of the 11 balls he has put in play, six have been on the ground. His only hit was a bunt single in Game 5 against C.J. Wilson. He’ll be happy to see the righty Colby Lewis in Game 6, but would be almost certain to see a lefty starter in Game 7.


Above: Where Rangers lefties have primarily pitched Rafael Furcal this World Series
Click here to create your own Furcal heat maps