Mike Leake and the Royals’ offense are pitted against each other today even though they play a similar game; very few strikeouts and even fewer walks.
Leake is not like most pitchers from today’s game. While strikeouts are going up and pitchers are using more pitches to get them, Leake is pitching to contact. He doesn’t walk batters and he doesn’t get many strikeouts either.
The Royals are not like most teams from today’s game. While most teams are taking more pitches, the Royals like to swing at the first one. They want to put the ball in play early in the count. They don’t walk, but they hit the ball before they can strikeout, too.
Both Leake and the Royals are going against the trends of Major League Baseball. We don’t get to see what happens when two opponents go head-to-head like that but today is one of those occasions. Leake actually holds the highest opponents’ contact rate in the league while the Royals’ offense is second is swing rate and tenth in contact rate.
As for Leake, I don’t think he has to change anything for this game. He won’t be able to sneak strikes in like he sometimes tries to do against more patient hitters on the first pitch, but he shouldn’t suddenly try to avoid contact.
Leake has never faced the Royals before and has only pitched against members of their roster for thirteen at-bats, but Doug Fister is a pretty good comparison. Like Leake, Fister uses a lot of fastballs that have movement, and he has similar strikeout and walk rates.
Broxton is one inexplicably scoreless inning away from passing Mike Leake in walks allowed.
— Dan Moore (@mademdashes) May 21, 2016
Fister has pitched in 238 at-bats against members of the current Royals’ lineup and the results are about what you would expect. The Royals have a high average, but just a mediocre on-base percentage against Fister. The slash line is .303/.325/.479.
The power numbers for the Royals are decent, but they’re really right in line with what Fister gives up for his career. Even though the Royals are a different team, there is no need for Leake to switch up his gameplan now.
Another reason that Leake should stick to his high-contact pitching is that this matchup might actually favor him. The contact numbers for the Royals indicate that Leake may be in a good spot. The Royals have a high soft hit rate and are eighth in the majors in ground ball rate. Leake is at his best when he is getting a lot of ground balls. If the Royals hit like they usually do, many
The matchup may sound bad because the Royals make a lot of contact and Leake gives up a lot of contact. However, they may be making the kind of contact that plays right into Leake’s hands. Although Leake has not faced many teams whose hitting style resembles his pitching, I think he’ll be fine.
If the Royals come out swinging like they always do, then Leake should be able to get a lot of grounders. Part of the difficulty of pitching the way Leake does is that you need to paint the corners the entire at-bat. With free-swingers up, you only need to do that once or twice. Quick outs should come often in this game.
We often assume that the batter has the advantage when he and the pitcher have the same strategy. In this case, I think the advantage goes to Leake. He should be able to go deeper in this game and won’t have to change what he does. As long as he doesn’t make mistakes early, then he should have a nice outing.
Leake will give up his fair share of hits, of course, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If he keeps the ball in the park and sticks to what he does best, then he should pitch well. Singles will not win the game for Kansas City. I believe that Leake will have one of his better game tonight even though two similar styles will be playing against each other.
Photo Captured by: Jeff Curry – USA TODAY Sports