Blue Jays Opposing Pitching Preview: Andrew Kittredge
The Toronto Blue Jays will take on the remarkably hot Tampa Bay Rays Friday night at Tropicana Field. The Blue Jays send lefty J.A. Happ to the mound while the Rays counter with the right-hander Andrew Kittredge.
Andrew Kittredge is not a designated starter. Instead, he is the product of a Rays four-man bullpen which has planned bullpen days. The Blue Jays should look to take advantage of this bullpen day in order to get a quick jump on the Rays. At one time it looked like the Rays were going to start LHP Ryan Yarbrough, but manager Kevin Cash elected to use the committee approach for this game instead.
Kittredge features three pitches—a fastball, slider, and changeup—but he is primarily a fastball-slider pitcher. Kittredge uses his fastball 42.5% of the time and averages a velocity of 93.5 mph. He uses his slider the most at 52.6% of the time. The slider is not a classic wipe-out slider—it is utilized as a groundball pitch.
The slider produced groundballs 63.16% of the time over 7.2 IP in April. Ground balls are largely the only purpose of the slider, however. In April, Kittredge only generated 22.50% whiffs/swing on his slider for the month.
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His final pitch, a changeup, is used just 4.8% of the time and averages a velocity of 87.2 mph. The changeup speed is curiously close to his unremarkable four-seam fastball velocity. Understandably, the rarely-used pitch has not fared well for the pitcher. In his April innings, batters hit for a .391 BAA and .435 SLGA against the pitch.
Kittredge makes his money by pitching to contact. This year, he has produced swing-and-miss strikes just 6% of the time. Even more promising for the Blue Jays, his z-contact%, contact percentage on pitches in the zone, is an insane 98.5%. Despite this high contact rate, Kittredge produces ground balls at an impressive rate of 54.3%. However, these ground balls are hardly dribblers. The right-hander’s pitches result in soft contact just 4.3% of the time.
Few Toronto Blue Jays hitters have seen Kittredge in their careers. Just Steve Pearce, Kendrys Morales, and Justin Smoak have seen the righty. As well, each batter has just one at bat with no hits against Kittredge. Also, with Pearce on the DL and Smoak on paternity leave, there will be even less experience against Kittredge in the Blue Jays dugout.
Overall, Kittredge has posted a 1-2 record over 13.0 IP and two starts. His ERA sits at an inflated 6.23 and he has been worth an uninspiring -0.1 WAR. Kittredge should pitch a maximum of two innings on this bullpen day, but the Blue Jays should try to take advantage of his less than inspiring stuff to take an early lead in a game against a division rival.