Game 1: May 24 – 7:05 ET
R.A. Dickey (2-5, 4.50 ERA, 4.46 FIP) vs.
Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 4.44 ERA, 3.77 FIP)
This is an interesting matchup in the sense that you have one of the most powerful starting pitchers, from a velocity perspective, against one of the least powerful starters. Eovaldi can consistently run his fastball into the upper 90’s late into his starts, and he compliments that with a power splitter and slider.
He’s always flashed plus stuff and a low walk rate, but it’s never really facilitated into anything more than a back-end starter, mid rotation starter at best. He put together FIP’s of 3.37 and 3.42 the last two season, but there always seemed to be a part of his game that needed work.
However, this year, it looks like he’s beginning to put it together. His strikeouts are up to an impressive 8.32 K/9, while reducing his walk rate to 1.85 BB/9. Both of these improvements come from a better command of all of his pitches. Despite having very good stuff since he entered the big leagues, he never struck out hitters at high rate. His walk rate was always solid because of good control, meaning he was able to put the ball in the strike zone at a high rate, but that also meant lots of contact.
What he’s done now is improved his command, meaning that while he’s throwing the ball in the zone like he always has, where that ball is placed within the zone has improved. Not only is he doing this with his fastball, but with the rest of his repertoire as well. He’s able to locate within the zone with more effectiveness, thus reducing his walk rate, amount of contact given up, and increasing his chances of getting whiffs in and out of the zone.
Once his HR/FB rate of 16.7% normalizes closer to his career rate of 7.7%, that ERA will begin to move closer to his xFIP number of 3.25. All of a sudden, you’re looking at a guy who can be a 2-3 starter in a major league rotation.
He uses a four pitch mix of a very hard fourseam fastball that averages 97.67 mph, a slider, splitter and curve. He throws the fastball 47% of the time, while mixing in the slider and splitter over 20% of the time. The curve is more of a show me pitch that he mixes in about 7% of the time, but it’s the slider and splitter he relies on to get strikeouts.
This is the type of pitcher you want to be aggressive against, and attack the fastball early in the count. As a hitter, being behind in the count against a guy who can throw 100 and has two strikeout pitches in the high 80’s is very difficult to defend against. Thus, getting to him before he has the chance to expand the zone is important. This will definitely be the toughest test for the Jays offence, so it would be fantastic to see them hit the ball well in game one.
Dickey enters this one pitching basically the way you should expect him to throw. His peripherals are right in line with what he’s done over the past couple of years, and his innings are valued by quantity over quality. He was getting on a roll before slipping in his latest start, and it’s been the home run ball that has been his biggest downfall. His 13.87 HR/FB is a little inflated and is due to come down.
Next: Game 2 Preview: Can we get this man some support?