ALDS Pitching Preview: Joe Saunders

Girardi will manage Game Four tonight following father's death
ALDS Game Four Thread: Orioles @ Yankees

The Orioles started left-hander Joe Saunders in an elimination game last Friday, and they’ll do the same tonight in Game Four of the ALDS. The 31-year-old southpaw was acquired from the Diamondbacks in late-August, and he went on to allow just one run in 5.2 innings against the Rangers in the AL wildcard play-in game last week. As bad as Texas had been swinging the bats, that was an unexpected;y strong performance.

The Yankees have seen plenty of Saunders over the years thanks to his time with the Angels, and in fact he made two playoff starts against the Bombers in the 2009 ALCS. He held them to two runs in seven innings in Game Two before getting hammered for three runs in 3.1 innings in the decisive Game Six. Saunders walked five and struck out zero in that game. He’s been in the NL the last few years though, so recent experience against the Yankees is limited.

2012 Performance vs. Yankees

Date Tm Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str
Sep 8 BAL NYY W,5-4 W(8-11) 5.1 5 2 2 2 2 0 0 4.22 23 101 65
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/11/2012.

Saunders’ second start following the trade to Baltimore came against the Yankees in Camden Yards, and he pitched admirably despite allowing a run in the first (Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly) and a run in the second (Ichiro Suzuki double). Saunders retired ten straight after the double and 12 of the final 15 hitters he faced overall. That was the Jerry Meals game, when the first base umpire called Mark Teixeira out to end the game even though he obviously beat the throw on what would have been the game-tying fielder’s choice.

Pitch Selection (via Brooks Baseball)

Saunders is a ground ball guy who won’t miss many bats, so it’s not a surprise that he throws a ton of upper-80s sinkers. His comfort zone is down-and-away to righties, as he’ll pound that corner of the zone with fastballs, low-80s changeups, and upper-70s curveballs. I’m not kidding, he’ll live down there all game and rarely come inside to batters of the opposite hand. Lefties get just the sinker and curveball and Saunders absolutely dominates his fellow left-handers. He’ll bust them inside with the fastball and go out of the zone with the curve for swings and misses.

Performance & Results

TBF wOBA FIP K% BB% GB% FB% LD% HR/FB%
vs. RHB 573 0.359 4.80 12.9% 6.1% 38.8% 39.2% 22.0% 11.8%
vs. LHB 172 0.201 2.65 22.1% 2.3% 58.9% 22.6% 18.5% 0.0%

Like I said, he dominates left-handers. In fact, Saunders has the biggest wOBA split among qualified starters this season, turning all righties into Nick Swisher and all lefties into Marlon Byrd. Seriously, those strikeout, walk, and ground ball numbers against lefties are top notch.

So, obviously, the Yankees have to stack their lineup with righties tonight. As bad as he’s been swinging the bat, Alex Rodriguez should start and hit right in the middle of the order. He hit lefties far better than righties this year (151 vs. 94 wRC+), and Saunders is exactly the type of pitcher he needs to face right now — a finesse left-hander who won’t come inside. If A-Rod is going to have some impact this series, Saunders is the guy you would expect him to do it against.

Derek Jeter‘s new bone bruise might relegate him to DH, which I assume means Jayson Nix at shortstop. Joe Girardi will also have the option of playing Nix in left and Eduardo Nunez at short for a few innings, at least while Saunders is in the game. He could lift Nunez for defense and a pinch-hitter (Raul Ibanez?) as soon as a right-handed reliever is called upon. The Yankees didn’t do very much against Wei-Yin Chen in Game Two, but he went after them with low-to-mid-90s fastballs on both sides of the plate. Saunders won’t do that.

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Girardi will manage Game Four tonight following father's death
ALDS Game Four Thread: Orioles @ Yankees
  • Eddards

    Jeter will DH and lead off. Nix at SS and hits 9th. Teix hits 3rd. ARod hits 5th. This lineup should be able to have success against Saunders. Joe Saunders already had his good game for this postseason. It’s in the Stadium where they can launch a few, Hughes and Phelps can get through 7, Yanks win 7-4.

    • awesomeo

      Derek Jeter DH
      Ichiro Suzuki LF
      Mark Teixeira 1B
      Robinson Cano 2B
      Alex Rodriguez 3B
      Nick Swisher RF
      Russell Martin C
      Curtis Granderson CF
      Jayson Nix SS

      This is the lineup via espn. I didn’t see it anywhere on the site so appologies if it was posted.

    • mj

      i would love for this to happen tonight:)

  • awesomeo

    Hoping the cooler whether can keep the ball in the stadium, but last night did not look promising. I think Hughes is a good pitcher, but he should be kept away from Yankee stadium as much as possible. He is a flyball pitcher for the most part. Hope his curve is nasty tonight!

    • jjyank (Phil Phucking Hugheslladay)

      That makes sense on paper, but Hughes has actually been better at home.

      • awesomeo

        Guess it’s one of those things.. Didn’t realize that.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    It used to be that when the Yankees had faced a pitcher once, he was toast the second time around. That was then but not now. If I may intertwine this comment, not related to the blog,I will do so. It’s about Buster Posey. What a player. I’d give the farm, deed, herd and tractor for him.

    • dkidd

      he’s amazing

      deceptive build, he doesn’t look like a catcher or a power hitter

  • Hall and Nokes

    I’d bat Granderson 10th.

    Other than that, I feel okay about this one. One of these days the Yankees have to hit a mediocre lefty.

  • dalelama

    My only change is I would have batted Arod 8th and Granderson 9th.

  • Rocky Road Redemption

    I say sit the Grandyman and play Riddle. Splits be damned. At the moment the dude is a black hole in the lineup. Ibanez (and the pitcher) may have a pronounced split, but sometimes you’ve gotta go with the hot hand.

  • forensic

    He turns all righties into Nick Swisher? Uh oh, does that mean none of them will hit him tonight either since its the playoffs?

    Sorry, it’s just too easy with Swish sometimes.

  • http://yanksgoyard.com/ Joe F

    Move Ichiro to Center and Grandy to bench, Raul to Left. Bats need to be in the lineup.

    • Rocky Road Redemption

      We think alike.