Well, now. Not many expected to be shut out by the Royals in game one and to be down 0-1 in the ALCS. The shock likely has more to do with just how good Blue Jays hitters made starter Edinson Volquez look on Friday night. They’ll look to reverse their fortunes in Game 2 and tie the series before heading back to Toronto. Standing in their way is a 24 year old right hander named Yordano Ventura.
This name will be familiar to Blue Jays fans. He was directly involved in some heated exchanges earlier in the summer that help add some levels to the narrative of this ALCS. Drama aside, the last time Ventura faced the Blue Jays was on August 1. He went 7 innings, giving up 5 earned runs on 6 hits ad 2 home runs. Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson both took the youngster yard in a game where the Blue Jays could have won, but for a late inning meltdown from Mark Lowe. That was the only game of the series the Blue Jays lost. And, it had nothing to do with Ventura.
Since then, he’s gone 12-4. He’s been quite effective over that run.
Could the Blue Jays be facing him at the wrong time? Maybe not. His postseason hasn’t exactly been stellar. In his first start against the Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS, he only lasted 2 innings having given up 4 hits and 3 earned runs. His second start in Game 4 didn’t go much better. Again, the Astros got to him. This time, they struck for 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks and 2 home runs. This is encouraging news for the Blue Jays who could use a guy they can hit off of.
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For the season, Ventura has allowed a walk rate of 3.20/9, which would play into the Blue Jays ability to take pitches. Now, he’s also struck out 8.6/9. The command should be the issue here. When he is in the strike zone, hitters are making contact 76.9% of the time, compared to 54.8% contact outside of the zone. That contact results in a 52% GB rate, 27% fly ball rate (11% HR/FB). Batters pull the ball 46.8% of the time and make hard contact nearly 30% of the time. This combined seems to favor the Blue Jays who love to crank those middle-in pitches.
His repertoire consists of fastball (4 seam 33% of the time and 2 seam 28%), cutter that he uses minimally at 2.5%, a curveball that makes up nearly a quarter of his offerings at 24% and a change up at 11.7%. Really, the Blue Jays need to watch out for that curveball that has been his best pitch according to Fangraphs.com. It’s been worth 11.6 runs above average (wCU). His 2 seamer is also a plus pitch at 4.8 wFT. It is actually thrown harder (96.2) than his 4 seamer (95.6). His curveball comes in at 84.
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The Blue Jays love their fastballs. If Ventura is not able to spot it and leaks over the plate, he is more than hittable. And, depending on the feel for his change up, there may not be much of a speed difference for that to be any better than the -6.4 wCH it’s been worth this year.
So, what do the Blue Jays do? Ventura is a hard throwing hot shot, no doubt. His stuff is good. Really good. But, there is no way that we should think the Blue Jays can’t be successful against him. Basically, he might be the perfect guy for them to face to tie this series up. They need to show patience at the plate. When he does come into the zone, they need to be ready to hit him hard. This seem perfect for the Blue Jays. That is their game: put together good, patient at bats and hit the ball hard.
In theory, this is a good matchup for the Blue Jays. Their offense is more than capable of striking for some early runs. OF course, as we saw in Game 1, if they don’t adjust to what is being offered to them, we could be looking at another long game. Ventura is not an impossible matchup. But, he is not going to be a pushover, either.