1st Pitch: Grounds for Discussion

Today’s Trivia: We’ve got a tremendous lefty showdown tonight in Tampa – Cliff Lee against David Price. Both will likely find their names on some Cy Young ballots at the end of the season. When was the last time that two left-handed pitchers finished 1st and 2nd in Cy voting in a season? When was the last time it happened in the AL?

Quick Hits: Pitchers love getting ground ball outs and pitching coaches love preaching to play to your defense. Let’s take a look at which hitters and pitchers have ratios at either end of the spectrum:

Derek Jeter has been beating the ball into the turf more than any other AL hitter. He has a 3.30 groundout-to-flyout ratio, which blows away second place on the list (Juan Pierre, at 2.28).

Meanwhile, the man who frequently bats behind Jeter in the order is a polar opposite. Nick Swisher’s 0.66 ratio is second-lowest on the list, narrowly behind Jhonny Peralta’s 0.65

Chalk up the Cleveland Indians as a team that pitches to the ground ball. Justin Masterson is the leader in groundout-to-flyout ratio among pitchers, and two other Indians (or former Indians) ranked in the top eight in that category – Fausto Carmona and the departed Jake Westbrook.

In the NL, a pair of Central division batters – Michael Bourn and Skip Schumaker – are the groundout-to-flyout frequenters. Maybe the biggest surprise comes at third on the list – Jason Heyward, with a 1.92 ratio.

Roger McDowell and Dave Duncan seem to be kindred spirits, with their pitching staffs following in tow. Of the top four groundout-to-flyout pitchers in the NL, two are Braves (Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe) and the other two are Cardinals (Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright).

On the other end of things, the San Francisco Giants have three starters in the top five of pitchers who get flyouts most frequently. Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito are all among the league leaders in that category.

Today’s Leaderboard: How would you like to be Jon Rauch on Sunday – entering the game trying to continue the dominance after Kevin Slowey pitches seven no-hit innings? It didn’t end well for Rauch, who allowed a double to the second batter he faced, ending the no-hitter and eventually the shutout.

Lucky for Rauch, it was a relatively low-leverage situation, at least numbers-wise: his team was up 4-0 with only nine outs needed to polish off the A’s. But which guys have entered games in high-leverage situations the most this season? Interesting to see two Boston Red Sox pitchers on this list:

Most Games Entered This Season
With High Leverage

High leverage is defined here as the first PA of a pitcher’s appearance having a leverage index of 1.5 or higher. A leverage index of 1.0 is considered average, with the greater index indicating the higher pressure. By the way, Rauch has 21 high leverage appearances this season.

Key Matchups: Max Scherzer has only faced four active New York Yankees batters in his career, but he’s made them look silly. Lance Berkman, Curtis Granderson, Austin Kearns and Mark Teixeira are a combined 3-16 (.188 BA) against Scherzer. Those batters have eight strikeouts in 18 AB.

You could see why Kevin Correia might not be thrilled about taking the mound at Wrigley Field tonight – Correia has a 17.47 ERA in five games there, including one start. That’s his worst ERA of any ballpark where he’s made a start. In his last outing, a start with the Giants, Correia didn’t make it out of the fourth inning and allowed seven earned runs.

More on the potentially epic lefty matchup tonight in Tampa. Let’s breakdown their Opp BA numbers, tale-of-the-tape style:

Cliff Lee vs David Price, Opponent BA This Season

Moral of the story? It’s better to go lefty-lefty against Lee rather than Price. And while Lee excels in keeping runners off base in the first place, Price thrives once they do get on.

Trivia Answer: Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine finished 1-2 in 2000. The NL hasn’t seen a lefty Cy winner since the Big Unit won his last in 2002. To find two leftys that finished 1-2 in the AL, you have to go all the way back to 1979, when Mike Flanagan won and Tommy John took second.