Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Top stats to know: Phillies at Rangers
By ESPN Stats & Information
The Texas Rangers will host the Philadelphia Phillies in the rubber game of their season-opening three-game series on ESPN2's "Wednesday Night Baseball" at 8 ET.
Veterans have been key to the first two games -- first Jimmy Rollins in the season opener and then Adrian Beltre with his walk-off hit on Tuesday night.
What are some of the storylines our broadcast crew will be following?
Fielder an upgrade, but still has work to do
Given his recent track record, Prince Fielder figures to be a significant upgrade on the Rangers' recent production at first base.
Fielder and the Rangers will face right-handed pitcher Kyle Kendrick on Wednesday. Fielder saw a significant drop off in performance against righties last season after dominating against them for most of his career.
Fielder posted a .775 OPS against pitches on the outer half from righties, compared to a 1.014 OPS from 2009 to '12. Further, he hit 66 home runs on pitches in that zone from 2009 to '12 (16.5 per season), while hitting just seven last season.
Rangers fill-in of the day: Robbie Ross
Robbie Ross has made 123 career appearances in the majors -- none of which have been starts. He’ll be the second Rangers starter in this series to make his first major league start, joining Tanner Scheppers, who got pounded by the Phillies on Opening Day. Ross did start 68 times in 69 minor league appearances
In his rookie season in 2012, Ross held left-handed batters in check, but in 2013, they hit him hard, batting .344 with a .960 OPS against him.
Ross did a solid job of neutralizing right-handed hitters last season, holding them to a .519 OPS. Among the keys to his success was that he upped his first-pitch strike percentage against righties from 59 percent in 2012 to 69 percent last season. The league average is about 55 percent for lefty pitchers against righty batters.
Chase prone to chase
While he's no longer the MVP-caliber force he was in his prime, the first 11 seasons of Chase Utley's career rank among the best for any second baseman to debut in the live ball era (since 1920).
Utley has remained a very productive player despite health issues cropping up over the years, but he’s not nearly the threat he used to be against left-handed pitching. Utley will face lefty Ross on Wednesday.
Not only has Utley shown an increased willingness to chase pitches out of the strike zone against lefties, but he’s also having demonstrably less success against pitches in the strike zone. Utley hit .337 with a 1.022 OPS against pitches in the strike zone from lefties in 2009 and 2010; he’s hit just .240 with a .684 OPS since.