The Astros and Fernando Tatís Jr. have never faced off. But in case you’ve missed what he’s done throughout this year, the Dominican is leading the Major Leagues in home runs (12), runs batted in (29), scored runs (26), and stolen bases (6). He’s fourth in OPS (1.026).
Houston begins a three-game series against the Padres tonight and you might be wondering how to stop Tatís Jr. at the plate, especially after he smacked seven hits (three dingers) and drove in eight runs in the Padres’ four game series against the Rangers.
Lance McCullers Jr., Brandon Bielak, and Zack Greinke are slated to face the Friars from Friday to Sunday. Stopping the 21-year-old phenom will be a key for them to at least win the series and keep the tremendous recent run going.
But what will they need to do? Even though Tatís Jr. has been almost flawless to this point, there are some ways to attack him and have greater chances of success.
- If you’re gonna challenge him with your fastball, throw flame. Tatís Jr. owns a .227 batting average (5-for-22) and a .273 slugging percentage against pitches at 95 miles per hour or higher, with four singles and a double.
I’m not a pitching coach, but the only pitcher out of those three who can challenge him with fastballs might be Bielak, whose heater sits at 93.4 MPH, has touched 96.6 MPH this year, and opponents are hitting for .067 against that pitch (2-for-30).
If you try to beat him with a fastball clocked at 94 MPH or less, locate it out of the strike zone. Tatís Jr. has 13 hits against that kind of delivery below 95 MPH, including nine four-baggers (!!!). Guess where the pitches were thrown...
And then he crushed them...
2. Greinke will have to go with his masterful mixing of pitches to try to make Tatís Jr. dizzy. Why? Well, Fernando is not chasing pitches out of the zone. He’s only offering at pitches out of the zone at a 19.2 percent rate (MLB average is 28.2%). Besides, he’s destroying low-velo deliveries in the zone.
Greinke has a huge repertoire and, so far, he has not allowed a homer (opponents have hit just six extra-base hits off him). With no doubt, it’ll be an interesting matchup.
3. Throw down and out! That’s one of the very few spots you could make Tatís Jr. swing and miss. In fact, he’s hitless in 12 at-bats that have ended with a pitch on that location, with six strikeouts. Also, if you make him swing at pitches down and outside, you will likely get soft smacks as his exit velocity on those deliveries is 75.7 MPH.
It’s obvious that the Padres have more weapons in their lineup to battle with. Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Tommy Pham, and rookie sensation Jake Cronenworth are some of them, but the Astros will put themselves in a good position if they can can get Fernando Tatís Jr. out of the way.