The Dodgers continue to struggle against lefties. They were only able to scratch across one run Saturday against Cardinals starter Jordan Montgomery, the last lefty starter they faced. The next lefty starter they face is the Phillies’ Matt Strahm who’s enduring a breakout season, pitching to a 2.88 xERA. Down below we are going to review his repertoire and what has led to his strong start.
Pitch #1: Four seam, 2023 usage rate - 45.8 percent
2023 stats - .157 xBA, .333 xSLG, .263 xwOBA
Average velo - 92.9 MPH - Spin rate - 2,426 RPM - vertical movement - 15.7 inches - horizontal movement - 14.4 inches (5.5 inches above average)
Strahm’s four-seamer has been dominant this season. Amongst the 236 pitchers who throw four seamers and have at least 50 plate appearances against this season, his four seamer ranks 26th in spin rate. The average horizontal break on it is 7th in the league. The dominant movement and spin rate has given it a whiff percentage of 31.7 percent and an in-zone whiff rate of 22.9 percent, which is the second highest number amongst his pitches. Despite overall strong expected metrics for this pitch, hitters have hit it extremely hard this season. The average exit velocity against it is 95.4 MPH, a 7.1 MPH increase from last season and the hard-hit percentage against it is 66.7 percent, more than doubled last year’s tally. The saving grace for it has been it has a pop-up percentage of 20 percent and ground ball percentage of 40 percent.
Pitch #2: Cutter, 2023 usage rate - 19.1 percent
2023 stats - .216 xBA, .584 xSLG, .402 xwOBA
Average velo - 87.2 MPH - Spin rate -2,420 RPM - vertical movement - 26.7 inches - horizontal movement - 2.0 inches
Amongst his four pitches, this is the one that Strahm has thrown out of the zone the most this season at 50 percent, 14.8 percent higher than last year. Strahm is able to get batters to chase it frequently though as the chase rate is 42.4 percent which he pairs with a chase whiff rate of 28.6 percent. When he throws it in the strike zone hitters swing at a rate of 66.7 percent. Strahm does not face many left-handed batters having only thrown 47 pitches to them this season, but when he does, he throws this just 8.5 percent of the time. Hitters have gotten his cutter in the air this season at an unsustainable rate with a flyball percentage of 63.6 percent, which is more than doubled his 27.3 percent mark last season.
Pitch #3: Slider, 2023 usage rate - 18.8 percent
2023 stats - .140 xBA, .214 xSLG, .151 xwOBA
Average velo - 82.4 MPH - Spin rate - 2,750 RPM - vertical movement - 36.1 inches (3.2 inches below average) - horizontal movement - 10.4 inches
This is the first year that Strahm has thrown a slider and it is looking like a fantastic decision. When he throws it, he has one thing and one thing only in mind and that is generating a swinging strike as the whiff rate on it is 44.7 percent with an otherworldly 88.9 percent chase whiff rate. Surprisingly Strahm likes to attack the zone with this pitch as the in-zone percentage on it is 56.9 percent. Personally, I thought that was a number that would be significantly lower, especially with how much hitters struggle with it out of the zone. He gets away with it in the zone because of how dominant it is for him as the in-zone whiff rate is 31 percent, 8.1 percent higher than the second-place pitch.
Pitch #4: Sinker, 2023 usage rate - 16.2 percent
2023 stats - .305 xBA, .381 xSLG, .328 xwOBA
Average velo - 92.5 MPH - Spin rate - 2,388 RPM - vertical movement - 21.2 inches - horizontal movement - 18.4 inches (2.7 inches above average)
With how solid his other three pitches are, I am not too sure as to why Strahm throws this pitch so frequently. When looking at his first three pitches I expected the pitch percentage on this to be sitting around 6 percent, not a hair above 16 percent. Part of the reason it is elevated though is because it is his go-to pitch against lefties as he has thrown it 17 times to them this season for a 36.2 percent pitch percentage, the highest amongst his four pitches. In comparison, that number drops down to 13.1 percent against right-handed batters. As a result, whichever lefty is unfortunate enough to face Strahm should see a steady diet of sinkers in on their hands.
Key matchup to watch: Max Muncy
Over the course of his career, Max Muncy has been mostly a neutral hitter, with a slightly better wRC+ against left-handers (130) than right-handers (126). Strahm’s most-used pitch this season is one Muncy has crushed throughout his career. Since the start of the 2021 season, Muncy’s run value against four seamers is 28 runs. Against sinkers, Strahm’s most-used pitch against lefties this season, Muncy’s run value is 11.
Prediction: Strahm pitches 5 ⅔ innings, strikes out seven and walks one.