Will Kuroda be rested or rusty as Dodgers seek 2-1 lead in NLCS?
1. Tonight for Game 3 of the NLCS the Dodgers'
Making the performances of Martinez and Saunders, who were pitching on 15 and 12 days rest, respectively, all the more impressive is the track record of others who have started championship series games after similar layoffs. (Kuroda hasn't pitched since Sept. 28, a 19-day break.)
Before the outings from Martinez and Saunders this weekend, a pitcher had started in a championship series game after not starting in the divisional series 32 times since MLB implemented the wild card and expanded the playoff format in 1995. (Three pitchers have done it twice and one,
But there is a strong correlation between whether the CS starter threw any relief innings in the DS or not, providing further evidence that there is no substitute for facing live hitters. In the 10 games a pitcher did relieve in the DS, in his CS start he averaged six innings with a 2.56 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP, for a 4-3 record. Neither Martinez, Saunders nor Kuroda had or will have that luxury.
Of the 22 instances in which the CS starter didn't relieve in the DS, they went 7-9, averaging 5 1/3 innings with a 4.28 ERA -- nearly a run and three-quarters worse -- and 1.41 WHIP. Bullpen sessions and simulated games just aren't the same.
2. When Kuroda does take the mound, he'll need to do his best to keep the Phillies off the bases, something the Dodgers have generally excelled at in the first two games of the NLCS.
Kuroda has had abnormal struggles with runners on base. In each of his first two seasons he's allowed opponents to bat exactly 58 points higher with men on base -- this year the difference is .280 to .222. (On average NL hitters typically hit only eight points higher with runners on the basepaths.) Kuroda's numbers this year are especially bad (100 points higher!) if a runner is on first, and he allows steals 25 percent more frequently than the average NL pitcher. The Phillies should be extra patient in trying to work leadoff walks or slap singles, anything to put the ball in play and rattle the pitcher. Considering Kuroda has a 0.95 ERA and 0.58 WHIP in 19 innings against them this year, they should take what they can get.
Getting on base has been an occasional problem for the Phillies, who had a below-average .334 on-base percentage during the regular season and a mere .290 OBP in the their first two NLCS games. Among players with at least two plate appearances, only
3. In Game 1 the Angels defense committed three errors the scorekeeper gave them credit for -- and the embarrassing miscommunication on the run-scoring pop-up that fell between
The Angels made two more errors, including
Though the Angels made the AL's fourth-fewest errors and their team Ultimate Zone Rating (a measure of runs saved or lost because of defensive play) was fifth-best, the reality is that they're only an average defensive team. Leftfielder
4. After Game 1, Angels lefthander
The Angels failed to do that, with their starter, Saunders threw only 57 strikes on 105 pitches (54.3 percent) and at one point in the third through sixth innings, he started 11 of 14 Yankees hitters with first-pitch balls. The Yankees' bats, however, generally failed to capitalize, scoring their only two runs off Saunders on a
The key time for the Angels
5. Making Rodriguez's torrid start to the playoffs even more impressive has been the middling lineup support he's received from