It's the World Series! Hooray! Last night's game started with a
bang squirt around the center field triangle that turned into a inside-the-park-home-run and ended with more baseball than you paid for. All in all, it was a very good game one. Due to some technical difficulties, the Fox broadcasters weren't around for the whole game, but when they were, a topic they kept going back to was Daniel Murphy.
He's been pretty good this postseason (as you might've noticed), but the broadcasters seemed to think KC had a secret weapon they were ready to deploy. Dave Eiland, the Kansas City pitching coach, supposedly thought Murphy had been too "comfortable" thus far, and Joe Buck and Co. took that to mean he would be facing lots of pitches high and tight.
First off: The opposite has been the case thus far for Murphy, both over the course of the regular season and the playoffs through the LCS. From Brooks Baseball:
The plurality of pitches to Murphy this season were low and away, often outside the zone, and there didn't appear to be any meaningful change in approach from opposing pitchers in the postseason. It's usually a safe assumption that pitchers are responding to real tendencies of batters, and it appears to be the case with Murphy as well.
The regular season chart, on the left, requires a little more attention than the chart above, since the color differentials don't provide much help. Obviously, given the low number of inside pitches Murphy has seen in 2015, the sample is pretty small for those areas, but the high-inside corner of the strike zone is clearly a spot he's comfortable with, at a .667 slugging. Generally, Murphy just seems to like pitches in the zone (#analysis), but note the relatively poor performance on pitches in the low-outside corner of the zone and outside the zone in that area. It's easier to see when looking at his career zone profile:
There is a reason pitchers have avoided pitching high and inside to Daniel Murphy; he's been really excellent at hitting those pitches and not very good at the low-and-away pitches. This seems very obvious, maybe because it is, but it's not like Cubs and Dodgers arbitrarily chose to pitch to Murphy the way they did.
That said, slugging doesn't tell the whole story, and it doesn't necessarily mean Murphy shouldn't be seeing more pitches high and tight. As Mitchel Lichtman will happily inform you, it is rarely correct to totally rule out any pitch or location, and if a pitcher is truly randomizing his pitches, he'll sometimes throw places that don't seem to make much sense.
It doesn't seem like Murphy has been meaningfully different in the playoffs — the pitches that he has punished have tended to be in the middle of the zone — but it does seem like he's seen an abnormally low number of pitches high and inside. If he can eliminate that ahead of the pitch, and prepare only for pitches over the plate or away, it's going to make him better.
Plus, it's not like Murphy is without any weaknesses on good, high pitches. The above slugging zone profiles only show outcomes on contact; below is the percentage of whiffs for each zone, for the 2015 regular season.
Murphy has been most likely to swing and miss on pitches just above the top inside corner of the zone, so it's not like a pitch in that general area is a guaranteed disaster. Is throwing him a bunch of those pitches a great idea? It doesn't seem like it; he's pretty good at hitting those pitches. Should the Royals think about doing it more often than the Dodgers and Cubs did? Yes! Maybe. It's only three-to-six more games anyway, you probably won't even be able to tell either way. Just enjoy what little baseball we have left.
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Henry Druschel is a Contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @henrydruschel.