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How the Royals can beat Steve Pearce

Who would have thought this guy would be the main offensive threat?

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Pearce got about 5 fWAR in limited playing time. The Royals are in the ALCS against the Orioles. This is the world in which we live. Among the offensive threats the Orioles will throw against the Royals, Steve Pearce might be the threatiest? Ok.

Let's start with what Pearce does. He seems to have a fairly consistent walk rate at 10%+. That's a walk rate the Royals haven't even heard of, much less seen. He strikes out somewhere near league average. He pops up at a near league average rate. That's a decent baseline from which to work.

He hits the ball in the air. His line drive rate might be slightly below league average, but he shifts about 10% of grounders to fly balls. With his ridiculous HR/FB rate this year, that leads to a bunch of home runs. Those Orioles hit lots of home runs guys. I'm not sure if you knew. You'll hear about it from, like, everyone. His HR/FB rate is way above his career levels, so maybe he'll regress next year. We're not talking about next year, so the Royals will need to limit his production like they limited Mike Trout in the ALDS.

Well, hey, Mike Trout doesn't like the up and in pitch. Maybe that will work here? No. No it won't. Pearce feasts on that up and in pitch and mostly any pitch up. Below is a heat map showing the run values above average per 100 pitches in 2014 from FanGraphs. This is from the catcher's viewpoint, so Pearce as a RHH would be standing on the left of this graphic.

pearce raa

Notice all the red. For most areas, throwing a pitch there is bad, including pitches up and in. But there's the low and away area that's blue. And, wouldn't you know it, Pearce doesn't like to swing at the low and away pitch as much. Here's a swing rate map for his career from Brooks Baseball.

pearce swing rate

Pearce whiffs the low and away pitch more. Pearce hits more ground balls on the low and away pitch. It seems like we have a plan of attack.

Don't throw in. Don't throw up. Throw low and away, and don't throw fastballs. The guy eats fastballs for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper.

pearce averages

A steady diet of sliders, curveballs, and changeups is what needs to happen. Especially curveballs. Then profit.

Seriously, if any pitcher approaches Pearce like the Royals approached Mike Trout, he should be slapped. Hard. I'm not sure if the league has figured this out, though. Here's how pitchers have approached Pearce this season by month.

pearce pitch type

That line shows more fastballs as this season went on, not fewer. Pearce obliterates fastballs. Stop throwing him fastballs.

After Steve Pearce, the Royals have only Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Delmon Young to worry about offensively. This is going to be a tough series, sports fans.