3. Consistently change the eye level
Hyun-Jin Ryu will get the first crack at the Atlanta Braves offense as he has been named the game 1 starter over Clayton Kershaw. Ryu, who has been stellar this season when healthy, will give the Dodgers a better outlook on how to pitch to the Braves the entire series.
And while the team should still look to paint the outside and inside corners, the pitching staff should be more concerned about vertical movement and changing the eye level of the opposing hitters. The Dodgers should not be afraid to pump a high fastball and to continually pull the string on a low changeup.
The Atlanta Braves hit the ball well. Atlanta ranked second in the MLB behind the Cincinnati Reds in line drive percentage this season. The Braves did not hit many fly balls and that is the area in which the Dodgers should be attacking.
Atlanta also ranked 22nd in the MLB and last among the playoff teams in fly ball to home run percentage. The Braves hit home runs in just 11.9 percent of their fly balls.
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The team also the fifth-worst in terms of swinging outside the strike zone, swinging at 32.4 percent of pitches outside the zone. This is the worst mark among the playoff teams and drastically different from the Dodgers’ 27.2 chase rate, which was the lowest in the MLB.
The Dodgers pitching staff needs to attack the zone early to get ahead and continue to work both up and down to keep the offense off balance and to get swings and misses out of the strike zone. Chances are if Ryu throws three believable balls the hitter will swing at one.
Thus, if Ryu (and the rest of the staff) can get ahead, the theoretical worst-case scenario possible is a 2-2 count.
If done properly, the Dodgers can force plenty of swings both above and below the strike zone and should cause a lot of fly balls as hitters will either be late reacting to the high fastball or will be too far under a low off-speed pitch.
Of course, it never goes perfectly to plan but if the Los Angeles Dodgers can follow this basic plan, pitching to the Braves should be a breeze.