The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants will conclude their National League Division Series on Thursday with a decisive Game 5. The stakes are simple: the winner will advance to play the Atlanta Braves for a spot in the World Series against the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox; the loser will be eliminated from contention and will begin their offseason. That may seem unfair given that these teams combined for 213 regular season victories, but it makes for good television.
Both managers, Dodgers' Dave Roberts and Giants' Gabe Kapler, are certain to approach Game 5 with a sense of urgency as it pertains to handling their pitching staff. Still, we thought it would be prudent to put the game's starters, Logan Webb and Julio Urías, under the microscope before they take the mound beneath the ever-bright October spotlight.
With that in mind, let's answer some questions about the Game 5 starters.
Logan Webb, RHP, Giants
What does he throw? Webb used three pitches more than 20 percent of the time during the regular season: a low-to-mid-90s sinker, low-80s slider, and mid-80s changeup. As we detailed last month, Webb altered his pitch mix this year, lifting his sinker and slider from secondary pitches into his primary offerings. That decision has paid off.
Is there anything distinctive about his pitches or his delivery? Webb's delivery sees him stand on the first-base side of the rubber and release from a low-three-quarters slot, creating an unusual angle. He pounds the zone with his sinker, which had the most negative vertical break of any pitch of its kind this season (minimum 500 uses). His slider features two-plane movement and had the third-highest chase rate among qualifiers. (Our Mike Axisa wrote about Webb's changeup elsewhere.)
What pitch does he prioritize when he's behind in counts? Webb looks for solace in his sinker when he's in a hitter's count versus a right-handed batter, upping its usage rate to nearly 70 percent. Against lefties, he depends on his changeup as a means of generating weak contact versus hitters who are hunting for a fastball.
And when he's ahead? Intuitively, Webb's slider becomes his primary offering in pitcher's counts against right-handed batters. He's not as predictable when he has left-handed batters on the ropes. He used both his changeup and his slider almost evenly, with those two pitches combining for a usage rate north of 60 percent.
Anything else? Webb allowed 10 stolen bases on 11 tries this season. He also succeeded on just one of his 69 pickoff attempts -- and that was to nab Astros catcher Martín Maldonado of all people.
How has he fared against the Dodgers? Webb has faced the Dodgers four times this year, including in Game 1 of this series. During the regular season, he posted a 2.25 ERA against them. In Game 1, he struck out 10 batters over 7 2/3 shutout innings while throwing 38 changeups, the most he had in any start this year.
Julio Urías, LHP, Dodgers
What does he throw? More than 80 percent of Urías' regular-season pitches were either mid-90s fastballs or low-80s curves. The rest were mid-80s changeups. Urías did make one notable year-to-year shift with his pitch mix, reducing his fastball usage by 10 percentage points and redirecting that (plus some) to his curve.
Is there anything distinctive about his pitches or his delivery? Urías doesn't feature a windup to his delivery, but he does have a deceptively short, plunging arm action and a three-quarters release that plays steeper thanks to an abbreviated stride. His heater features well-above-average spin and vertical break. Those qualities help to explain why he had one of the highest fastball chase rates in the game, as batters can't help but pursue it up and out of the zone. Urías' curveball isn't designed for generating whiffs; it is, however, highly effective at stealing strikes and inducing weak contact (it had the lowest exit velocity-against of any curveball in the majors this season). Urías' cambio is also more of a contact manager and bait pitch than it is a big-time bat-missing offering. It's one of the hardest-thrown changeups among starters.
What pitch does he prioritize when he's behind in counts? Urías, like most pitchers, leans on his fastball when he's facing a negative count. That's true for when he's up against a left-hander or a right-hander, but lefties have an additional advantage because he will not throw his change-of-pace against them.
And ahead? Urías is a threat to break out any of his three pitches when he's in a plus count against righties. Again, he doesn't believe in using his changeup against same-handed batters, meaning left-handers should expect to see a healthy dosage of curves if they fall behind to him.
Anything else? Urías allowed two steals on five chances this year. He picked off one baserunner on 58 attempts. That individual? Get this: Giants catcher Buster Posey, way back in May.
How has he fared against the Giants? In five regular season starts against the Giants, Urías accumulated a 3.38 ERA and an 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also started against them in Game 2, throwing five innings' worth of one-run ball.