It's not as though the Dodgers need a lot of offensive help. As they headed east for Game 3 of the World Series tonight, though, they were going to get some.The National League champs get to add a designated hitter to their already formidable lineup, and unlike some NL teams
It's not as though the Dodgers need a lot of offensive help. As they headed east for Game 3 of the World Series tonight, though, they were going to get some.
The National League champs get to add a designated hitter to their already formidable lineup, and unlike some NL teams at this time of year, they have some appealing options. Manager Dave Roberts cited Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier and Yasmani Grandal as options to face Lance McCullers.
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And one of them, ever so slightly, stands out as the best fit for the job.
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Superficially, they're somewhat similar hitters. Pederson and Ethier are lefties, while Grandal is a switch-hitter who would hit lefty against McCullers. None is a particularly high-average hitter at this point. All have shown some willingness to take a walk, all have at least moderate power, and all are prone to strike out.
So part of Roberts' decision may be tactical -- does he want his No. 2 catcher serving as his DH? Would he prefer not to use Pederson at DH, given that the youngster might need to pull a shift in center field at some point?
But there's another consideration: the pitcher. McCullers is unique. He threw his curveball more often than any pitcher in the Major Leagues who threw at least 2,000 pitches this year, at 47.3 percent of the time. And McCullers also threw it the hardest of starting pitcher in the Majors, at 85.6 mph. He also throws one of the hardest changeups in the league, at an average of 88.6 mph.
There just aren't a lot of pitchers like McCullers.
So one way to look at this question is, which of the three hitters is most likely to have success against that kind of pitcher?
Let's start with the curveball. And the short answer is, none of these players is going to be in the lineup for his success against a hard curveball. They've all struggled mightily.
Over the past three seasons, against curves or knuckle-curves of at least 83 mph, Ethier is 2-for-12 (.167), Grandal is 2-for-26 (.077) and Pederson is 2-for-29 (.069). Pederson does have a homer off an 87-mph curve from Matt Harvey, but it's safe to say the curveball will be a good way to attack any of these hitters.
But the changeup provides a bit more clarity.
Over that same time frame, against changeups of at least 87 mph, two of our candidates have stood out. Ethier has hit .313 (in, admittedly, 16 at-bats) and slugged .688, while Pederson has hit .297 and slugged .649 (in 37 at-bats). Grandal has scuffled against hard changeups too, going 7-for-50.
It's not that McCullers throws the change all that much -- about 11 percent of the time -- but we're looking at fine margins here, and this is an advantage.
As for McCullers' fastball, it's fairly standard. He stays between 92-96 with his four-seamer, and it's the only fastball he throws. Here the differences are fairly small. Ethier has a .400 wOBA (weighted on-base average, a measure of overall batting performance) against four-seamers in that range, Grandal is at .380 and Pederson is at .344.
Still, once again, it's a bit of an advantage for Ethier. And given that he's the one player out of this bunch that the Dodgers aren't likely to want to bring in for defense, thus losing the DH, he would appear to be the best pick.
Matthew Leach is an executive editor for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter and read his columns.