Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Why Cole will challenge Beltran
By David Schoenfield
One of the key matchups in tonight's Game 5 between the Pirates and Cardinals is rookie starter Gerrit Cole versus Carlos Beltran, who is doing his usual Babe Ruth impersonation in the playoffs.
While some may believe Cole should pitch as carefully as possible to Beltran, one of the keys to Cole's recent run of success has been his ability to dominate left-handed batters. In a nine-start stretch dating back to Aug. 16, during which Cole has allowed more than two runs only once, left-handers are hitting just .191 off Cole without a home run. In Cole's Game 2 start, left-handers went 1-for-12 off him with a walk, with Beltran's double the only hit.
Still, I expect Cole to go right after Beltran.
The main reason for Cole's success against lefties is the ability to keep his offspeed stuff down in the zone:
He still comes at batters with his explosive, upper 90s heat, but he's been effectively mixing in a slider, curveball and changeup. Cole threw 45 percent offspeed pitches in Game 2, a testament to how he's using those pitches more and more. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Cole threw just 22 percent offspeed pitches in June, when he was first called up to the majors; he's slowly increased that percentage since.
Most impressive has been the command: Just five walks against left-handed batters in those nine starts. If the Cards bring out the same lineup as in Game 2, it will feature five lefties: Matt Carpenter, Beltran, Matt Adams, Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso. The only run St. Louis got off Cole was Yadier Molina's home run.
So, yes, Beltran is hitting .286 with two home runs and six RBIs in this series, adding to a postseason legacy that now features a career .783 slugging percentage and 16 home runs in 38 games.
Oh, by the way, the offspeed pitches have worked pretty well against right-handed batters as well. Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Info points out that if you move the calendar up a couple starts to the beginning of September, all batters have the grand total of one hit off Cole's offspeed stuff. That's a batting average of .017 -- one hit in 232 offspeed pitches.
Cole versus Beltran. Adam Wainwright versus Andrew McCutchen. Pirates versus Cardinals. I can't wait.