How to Attack the Cincinnati Reds' Pitching Staff

The St. Louis Cardinals do not need my help in hitting the Cincinnati Reds this year. They are batting a cumulative .295/.355/.495/.850 against the Reds this year. That's as a team! In just 12 games, the Cardinals have 127 hits, 79 runs, 41 doubles, 15 homers, 74 RBI, and 38 walks to 79 strikeouts. If you put that on a per game basis, the Cards average 10.58 hits, 6.58 runs, 3.42 doubles, 1.25 homers, 6.17 RBI, 3.17 walks, and 6.58 Ks.

Duuuuude. That's nearly 11 hits, 5 of which go for extra bases, 3 walks, and over 6 runs per game!?!? The Cardinals are hitting the Reds 49% better than the league average is hitting Reds' pitching.

In this series, the Cardinals are to face three right-handers: Mike Leake (facing off against Tyler Lyons in a "pick em" game), Mat Latos (facing off against Joe Kelly in a game that favors the Reds), and Homer Bailey (facing off against Adam Wainwright in a game that favors the Cardinals).

I want to look at what each of those pitchers do well and not so well - and also what the batters they will be facing do and don't do well.

Reds' Starters

Mike Leake has been a 6-pitch pitcher this year, with 3 types of fastball (4-seam, sinker, cutter) and a curve, slider, change up repertoire for off-speed pitches. The frequency of which he throws those pitches to right-handed batters goes sinker, cutter, change, curve, slider, and 4-seamer. To left-handed hitters, the slider drops to his 6th most commonly thrown pitch.

Hitters should watch out for his 4-seam fastball, as he rarely throws it (just 64 times this entire year) - nobody has gotten a hit off of it yet. His cutter, slider, and curve ball have all yielded batting averages between .160 and .248, whereas his sinker is hit for a .296 average and his change up is hit for a .305 average. Similarly, the cutter, slider, and curve have slugging percentages against in the .260-.379 range, whereas his sinker has a .432 slugging against and his change has a .547 slugging against.

His sinker and change up have been thrown a combined 53.30% of the time, so if the Cardinals can wait back and recognize those two pitches, they should fare well.

Mat Latos largely relies on his sinker, four-seamer, and slider (in that order) but sprinkles in a change up, curve ball, and cutter (just 6 times) as well - mostly against lefties. With only 6 cutters thrown, it could simply be a misclassification pitch, so I will not really look at that.

If hitters can lay off the breaking pitches (slider/curve) then they should fare well against Latos. The slider has a .177 average and .230 slugging off of it, while the curve has a .143 average and .232 slugging off of it. Meanwhile, his hard stuff (4-seamer/sinker) and offspeed (change up) have been hit a lot harder. The hard stuff has between a .267-.298 (respectively) average and a .441-.450 (respectively) slugging against; the change up has been rocked to the tune of a .368 average and .684 slugging.

See the fastballs and change ups well, and lay off of the breaking stuff. That's how to beat Latos.

Homer Bailey has thrown a 4-seam fastball nearly 50% of the time this year. He also throws a sinker, slider, splitter, and curve between 10 and 15% of the time - the curve and splitter less than 10% of the time to RHH.

My best advice against Bailey this year would be to swing early and often. As I flipped through the charts on Brooks Baseball, I saw that with 2 strikes, Bailey has been nearly unhittable this year. However, with 0 and 1 strike counts, hitters have been teeing off, for the most part.

His curve ball and splitter have been his most hittable pitches up to this point. The curveball has only a .250 batting average against, but a .583 slugging accompanies it. His splitter has the highest average allowed of all of his pitches, at .297, and a still-high slugging of .416. His three other offerings are only hit between .225 and .243 and have slugging against of .345-.398. The sinker is the hardest hit of that trio, with the upper-most number in each range.

Basically, attack the curve, splitter, and sinker if you can - while laying off of the 4-seam/slider combo. Also swing early.

Cardinals' Hitters

Since Kolten Wong was called up to the majors, the Cardinals have faced 6 right-handed starters. The Cardinals have used the exact same lineup (minus pitcher) in 3 of those games. You can bet that the Cardinals will use this lineup in at least 2 of the three games:

Carpenter - 3B

Beltran - RF

Holliday - LF

Craig - 1B

Molina - C

Jay - CF

Wong - 2B

Descalso - SS


David Freese and Pete Kozma have also been getting fairly large amounts of playing time and Matt Adams hasn't started in nearly a week, so I will look at those three as well.

Without boring you with all of the numbers:

Carpenter hits the sinker, change up, curve ball, and splitter very well (over .300 average and .500+ slugging). The 4-seam fastball against Latos is really the only weakness that he may not exploit quite as well.

Beltran is quite possibly at his best when facing a sinker/cutter pitcher. The Reds throw many of these, and he should just wait on those pitches, as he slugs over .600 against them. With the Reds' pitchers also allowing high slugging percentages against the change up, Beltran could wait for those as well - considering his high .296 average and near .500 SLG on those offerings in 2013.

Holliday has been a marauder against sinkers and change ups - especially the change! - matching up well with Reds pitchers.

Craig annihilates "hard" pitches - the 4-seamer and sinker especially. He should see plenty this series.

Molina in 2013 has really only struggled against the curve ball. Avoiding that pitch, and especially waiting for 4-seamers, sinkers, and change ups should be beneficial for Yadi.

Jay has been very strong against the sinker and splitter this year. Both of those pitches are weaknesses of these three starters (in some capacity). Jay also does some of his best slugging against the change up (7 of his XBH have come off of the change) - of which he should see a few.

Wong hasn't been up long and hasn't yet done much at the major league level. There is really too small of a sample size to say much of anything.

Descalso has been especially tough on sinker-ball pitchers this year. Continuing that trend would go a long way.

Freese will likely see playing time as he has a .908 OPS against the Reds this year. He may start 2 or 3 games this series. He is at his best facing a straight 4-seam fastball and change up pitcher. He should do best in the last two games of the series, as Leake will tempt often with other offerings.

Kozma should only get a start vs. Bailey in the last game of the series. He is best against a 4-seam fastball and sinker. Those are really the only two pitches he has hit with any modicum of success this year.

Adams has creamed everything but a slider this year - and being a lefty facing 3 righties, he wouldn't see many of those when he starts this series.

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