Game 2 of the World Series features an intriguing matchup of 33-year-old Jake Peavy of the Giants against 23-year-old rookie Yordano Ventura of the Royals. Peavy was once a hard-throwing youngster like Ventura; now he’s the crafty veteran who throws a lot of cutters and sinkers. The slightly built Ventura has the gift of a right arm that touches 100 mph on the radar gun.
Peavy won a World Series ring with the Red Sox last year. But when Boston fell out of the pennant race this year -- in part because Peavy was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts -- the Red Sox traded him to the Giants, making him a hired gun for the second straight season. Including the postseason, he's gone 7-4 with a 2.14 ERA for San Francisco.
What's been the change in San Francisco from his four months in Boston? When digging into the numbers, one thing that jumps out is he's been throwing his cutter a lot more often. He threw it 14 percent of the time with Boston, and he's thrown it 20 percent of the time since coming to the Giants. And that percentage ramped even higher later in the season: Since the beginning of September, he's thrown his cutter 29 percent of the time. Here's where that pitch goes:
In those seven starts since he started using it more, it's been an effective weapon, as batters have hit just .143 against it with two extra-base hits in 49 at-bats ending with the pitch. It isn’t necessarily a big strikeout pitch; but as with Mariano Rivera's famous cutter, the goal is to induce weak contact.
If you've seen Peavy pitch recently, you know you'll see the opposite of the stone-faced Madison Bumgarner. The Jake Peavy Face has become a favorite on Twitter, as he's often seen yelling or screaming on the field.
"I think any of you all that know me, you know I'm passionate about everything, even the way I speak about anything in life," Peavy said Tuesday. "At the end of the day, I don't feel bad. I don't apologize for showing emotion, and I think it shows my teammates and the fans, so to speak, how emotionally invested you are in this and how much it means to you."
Peavy's four-seam fastball now tops out in the low 90s; he'll throw that along with a two-seam sinking fastball and mix in a curve, changeup and slider. In other words, the whole kitchen sink. But look for him to throw that cutter a lot to the Royals' left-handed batters, trying to jam Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas inside and hope they aggressively go after a pitch that often moves out of the strike zone.
Peavy has walked three batters in each of his two postseason starts, so the Royals might want to consider being a little more patient. Also, don't expect Peavy to go deep into the game. He went 5.2 scoreless innings against the Nationals and four innings against the Cardinals.
While Peavy is demonstrative on the mound, Ventura pitches with the poise of a veteran.
"He's a kid with tremendous composure," Royals manager Ned Yost said after the Game 1 loss. "He's a tremendous competitor, even for as young as he is. I can't recall too many pitchers in my career that have his type of composure, his type of confidence and his type of stuff at that young an age."
That stuff includes that high-octane fastball. Ventura threw fastballs 68 percent of the time in the regular season, but that figure has increased to 73 and 78 percent in his two playoff starts. Certainly a key to his performance will be his success against San Francisco's left-handed hitters:
There's nothing too fancy going on here. Ventura does throw two fastballs, a four-seamer and a two-seamer with a little sinking action, but even the sinker averaged 97 mph during the season. One thing to keep an eye on: Ventura's average fastball velocity was 95.1 in his ALCS start against the Orioles, his lowest of the season. Yost assured everyone Tuesday that Ventura’s shoulder, which may have been bothering him against the Orioles, is fine.
Considering the state of the series for the Royals -- down 1-0 with another Bumgarner start looming on the horizon -- there is certainly a sense of urgency to tonight's game. That could -- and probably should -- mean a quick hook for Ventura, with Yost likely trying to get four or even five innings from a combination of Brandon Finnegan, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. There was no need to use those guys last night; but with an off day Thursday, Yost has to absolutely maximize the innings from those relievers.