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The game within the game: Game 1 - Darvish’s slider vs. Phillies’ lineup

It’s a solid pitch that he uses a lot

MLB: NLDS-San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Each game of this National League Championship Series, we’re going to take a microlevel look at an intriguing matchup of the day.

Today’s matchup: Yu Darvish and his slider against the Phillies’ lineup

We don’t know a lot about how the rest of the series’ pitching matchups are going to go until their managers announce them, but what we do know is that Yu Darvish is on the hill for the Padres to open the series. Darvish was the highly sought after pitching prospect from Japan that has managed to live up to the lofty praise heaped upon him before he came stateside. He may not be the no doubt Hall of Famer he was touted to be in some circles, but he does have an interesting case when all is said and done. For now, he’s a really good major league pitcher that has had a hugely successful 2022 season.

30 GS, 194 13 IP, 3.10 ERA, 16 W, 197 K, 37 BB

His strikeout rate has fallen a bit this year, but he has counterbalanced that by lowering his walk rate as well. He’s not getting hitters to hit the ball on the ground as much as he used to (his 36.8% groundball rate is his lowest since 2014), but those balls that are hit in the air aren’t leaving the park like the used to (9.6% HR/FB rate).

What the Phillies will have to watch for is his pitch usage. He likes to throw the hard stuff a lot.

The cutter, the pitch he has relied on heavily these past few years, isn’t a Rivera-like weapon, ranking around the middle of the pack in terms of effectiveness among starters with 100+ innings. What’s interesting is how his fastball usage has increased as the season has progress, rightly so since it has been one of the better ones in that same category of pitcher as the cutter.

What the Phillies should be wary of is the slider that Darvish features. He doesn’t throw it nearly as much as the other two pitches he’s got, but it is the breaking pitch he throws most in his entire arsenal (supposing you don’t consider a cutter a “breaking” pitch). That slider is one of the best ones in the game among starters and might come into play more often against the Phillies.

Against four-seam fastballs, the Phillies actually hit rather well.

Against cutters, there wasn’t much drop off either, though the amount of red begins to lessen as a whole.

When it comes to sliders though, the team is a bit more susceptible to the pitch, struggling quite mightily. We can’t really tell how they did as far as averages against the league, but if the numbers in blue are any indication. they didn’t do all that well.

We obviously aren’t privy to what the Padres plan of attack is against the Phillies’ lineup, but this is a something to watch as the game moves forward. My guess would be that the amount of cutters/fastballs drops a bit versus the average in favor of Darvish favoring the slider a bit more than often.