Brandon Lowe had a rough time in game two of the ALDS. Gerrit Cole struck him out every time they faced each other.
Cole has struck out a lot of batters, both in game two and in general, so that’s not necessarily of note. Rather, it was the way Cole attacked Lowe that caught my eye.
You can play with the interactive version here on the excellent Texas Leaguers site, but take a look at the pitches in the bottom right quadrant—down and inside to Lowe— and I’ll tell you the pitch results.
- Every pitch in that area, aside from a single changeup, was a breaking ball (either slider or curve).
- Every breaking ball was in that quadrant.
- Brandon Lowe swung and missed at every curve, both in the zone and well below it.
- Lowe took three sliders for balls (one was probably a strike), whiffed on two, and fouled off one.
The Astros have clearly identified how they want righties to attack Lowe, and so far it’s worked. And looking back at Lowe’s season it’s a pretty good plan. Here is what Lowe swung at throughout his short career against RHP breaking balls:
He’s shown a good understanding of the strike zone on the back door (left side of the graph), but he’s been willing to chase both on the inside and below the zone.
And here’s where he whiffed at pitches:
Down and in on the back foot is a tough pitch to hit—no one can really do it, and the idea is that a hitter should take that pitch—but Lowe is doing worse than expected. He’s both been chasing down and in, out of the zone, and, when the breaking pitch does land on the corner of the zone, he’s missing at a high rate.
The bad news for Lowe is that Zack Greinke throws both a good curve and a good slider, and we can expect him to mix the two while going after this same area. The good news for Lowe is that Greinke, for all his quality, is not Cole, and if we here know what to expect, so do the Rays.
Breaking balls down and in has been a season-long struggle, but today Brandon Lowe has a chance to adjust.