One idea is to be more aggressive early in the count, particularly on the first pitch. As Mike Petriello has noted, it’s a strategy that has gained currency in recent years to neutralize Kershaw and others. It could prove beneficial against the tough Met pitchers as well.
Against their first pitches, opponents had a .368 wOBA in 749 plate appearances, which was much higher than their overall performance of .292. This result approached their level of production on hitter’s counts (.393 wOBA) and, in some respects, even trumped it.
The first pitch yielded a higher batting average, slugging percentage, and isolated power, while basically equaling average exit velocity.
Of course, such an aggressive approach comes with the risk of whiffing and falling behind in the count, which subsequently reduces a hitter’s chance of success. It’s a factor that should be incorporated into the Dodgers’ thought process.
But, when we weigh all of the percentages above, along with the payoff if the first pitch is indeed put in play, the potential reward still seems worthwhile.
Up to this point, we’ve looked at the issue through the lens of Mets pitchers against the league. We know, however, that the Dodger offense is among the best in the Majors, so the benefit of attacking the first pitch is even more pronounced from their perspective.
Again, the strategy is not without risk. But, in light of the numbers and the formidable Mets pitchers, it’s a net benefit.