The Houston Astros have decided Jose Urquidy will get the start in Game 3. Urquidy has a limited Major League history, but the results have been solid.
In 2019 the right hander had a very successful MLB debut posting a 3.95 ERA/3.68 FIP/4.30 xFIP. He posted a 24.0% strikeout rate with an impressive 4.2% walk rate. The walk rate is in line with his minor league career where he posted rates between 4-5% at almost every stop.
2020 wasn’t as successful as he got a late start to the season for undisclosed reasons. He was delayed during Spring Training 2.0 and spent the first month plus of the season at the alternate site building up. He made five starts this year with his first coming September 5, where his improved 2.73 ERA wasn’t supported by a 4.71 FIP and 5.36 xFIP. The strikeout rate fell to 14.7% and the walk rate surged to 6.9%. Not a great combination for good results.
Last season the Rays got a sneak peak of Urquidy in the ALDS where he picked up 1.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one walk, but the teams have otherwise not met.
The primary pitch for Urquidy is a four seam fastball that sits in the 92-95 range and averages 93.58 mph. The pitch shows good rise and a solid 10.67% swinging strike rate.
He uses a mid 80s changeup, 80 mph slider, and curve in the high 70s. With a differential of only 2-3 mph it’s natural to wonder if the slider and curve are actually different pitches, but they are. The slider has 3” more horizontal movement, but the big difference comes in 10” more drop in vertical movement.
He throws the fastball roughly half the time and mixes his other three pitches pretty evenly.
Managers have sent roughly a 50/50 mix of right handed and left handed batters showing they believe left handed batters should have the platoon advantage, but that hasn’t been the case so far in his career.
Left handed batters hit .161/.201/.263 and put up a .202 wOBA against Urquidy while right handed batters have put up a .297/.343/.492 line and .353 wOBA. These are very small samples as he’s faced 139 right handed hitters and 144 left handed hitters.
These batting lines would suggest great results from a changeup, and investigation shows the usage gets ramped up from around 10% overall to 30% against left handed hitters. It’s not a swing and miss pitch, but it does get it’s fair share of whiffs. The ISO off the change is where he really shows very good results.
These are very small samples, so it will be interesting to see if Kevin Cash stacks more lefties in or treats him like the reverse split guy he’s shown to be to this point in his career.
Houston is a fan of curves
The Rays might be known for big curveballs coming out the hand of Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton, but Houston seems to love curveballs too. It is the carrying pitch of their game one starter Framber Valdez and game two starter Lance McCullers. Game three starter Urquidy is no exception. The Rays have seen lots of them this series, and the hope will be that their hitters can time one up.
The curveball has been a successful pitch for Urquidy especially when it comes to limiting extra base hits. It wasn’t a big whiff pitch in 2019 but in 2020 it has plummeted to 5.97%.
Here’s the good news: The Rays hit curveballs better than any team in the league (.364 wOBA against curveballs in 2020). The bad news is the Houston knows this. Yesterday McCullers through 32 curves (33%) which is far less than his typical rate that hovers near 50%. Will Urquidy be able to try the same?
Either way, the Rays need to be ready to swing.
Tampa Bay is typically a patient team at the plate and sometimes that borders on the line of being too passive. They need to make sure they swing at strikes, but Urquidy is unlikely to give them many extra baserunners via walks so when the Rays batters do get pitches they can drive they need to be ready to swing with intent very early in the count.