All three are right-handed pitchers.
It’s important to note, before I begin breaking down how the Padres’ batters are likely to fare against Haren, Lopez, and Jackson, that the D’backs have arguably the worst bullpen of all time (and I say that from a statistical perspective, not just spouting off), so no matter how the Padres fare against the Arizona starters, they could have a solid chance to win anyway.
With that in mind, let’s check out the matchups.
(If you’re reading this article on the Chicken Friars homepage, click “Continue Reading” to view the rest of the entry).
Haren’s taken a bit of a step back from elite status this year, although his xFIP slide (3.08 to 3.45) is far less than his ERA fall (3.14 to 4.36). He has precise command, gets ahead of hitters, and almost never walks anybody.
Haren throws strikes with a mid-80’s cutter and low-90’s fastball early in the count to get ahead. The fastball doesn’t move much, so he’s susceptible to homers, but that likely isn’t an issue in Petco. Haren will also throw a get-me-over curve early in the count to get hitters off his fastballs. It’s not a very good pitch on its own, but since hitters almost never look for it, it’s fairly effective.
If he gets to two strikes on a hitter, Haren goes to a diving splitter in the dirt that draws empty swings a very high amount of the time. He’s very predictable in that regard, but the pitch’s drop is so late that hitters can’t react well.
It’s difficult to judge hitters’ proficiency against splitters since the pitch is so rarely thrown, but Adrian Gonzalez has crushed the pitch throughout his career, so that’s gO.D. Gonzalez does have some trouble with cutters, and Haren’s likely to bust him inside with the cutter. The Padres tend to be a breaking-ball-hitting team more than anything else, but Haren isn’t a breaking-ball pitcher. As a strikeout artist with good command, he also doesn’t give the Padres too many opportunities to get on base and wreak havoc with the team speed. It’s a tough matchup, but hey, there’s always that bullpen.
The Padres get Lopez next, and he’s been lucky to post a 4.40 ERA this year. The 34-year-old isn’t a dominating pitcher by any means, striking out a batter just every other inning.
Lopez is a pitch-mixer, tossing a fastball, slider, cutter, curveball, and changeup. He uses the slider as his “out pitch” to an extent, but generally just mixes up his patterns. Lopez tops out around 90 mph, so even though the Padres aren’t very good against fastballs, they should be able to handle his. Lopez’s reliance on the slider plays into the Padres’ hands, as the team generally handles sliders well. Lopez doesn’t command his changeup very well, so it’s not a pitch to worry about either.
Lopez simply isn’t a good pitcher. The Padres should have success against him.
Finally, the Padres face Edwin Jackson, a hard thrower who also relies heavily on a slider. Like Haren, he’s very predictable in that he almost never uses his out pitch early in counts, but goes to it most of the time with two strikes. Jackson also has a changeup and curve that aren’t very good and are rarely used.
Jackson walks his fair share of batters, mainly because he doesn’t get ahead of hitters early in the count as often as he should. When he falls behind, he just tries to throw his fastball by people, which can lead to disastrous results for him. The fastball is straight, so it’s more hittable that most 92-96 mph heaters.
The Padres match up decently with Jackson, as they can handle his out pitch (the slider), so if Jackson shows up without fastball command, he could get in trouble. He’ll need the heater to be on to find success against San Diego.