It’s Lance Barksdale day. That means to expect a tight strike zone in Atlanta.
When he’s the home plate umpire, strikeout potential is reduced by about 14%, based on estimates from SwishAnalytics.com.
Here’s his Umpire Scorecard from last Wednesday:
As you can see above, Barksdale’s reluctant to call low strikes. For pitchers that live in the bottom half of the zone like Jesus Luzardo – Barksdale’s zone presents a real challenge for securing strikeouts.
Through his first 2 starts of 2022, 45.1% of his pitches have been curveballs, up 16.5% from 2021. It’s been an effective pitch but from a location perspective, it needs to be thrown low in the zone to be successful.
Below shows the locations of Luzardo’s curveballs this year. Notice how they’re mostly in the area where Barksdale has a tight strike zone (screenshot from BaseballSavant.com):
Umpire assignment aside – it’s also just a tough matchup for Luzardo from a strikeout perspective. The Atlanta Braves have one of the lower strikeout rates vs. Left-Handed Pitchers (LHP) in MLB. Only 1 of 6 LHP starting pitchers got 6+ strikeouts vs. them, and it was Clayton Kershaw – one of the best in MLB.
Their projected lineup today features 5 hitters with a sub-20% strikeout rate vs. LHPs since 2021.
Luzardo has nasty stuff and could definitely make me look silly here. But for the price, I see good value in a bet he’ll struggle to get calls low in the zone – effectively killing his greatest weapon; the low curveball. The risk relates to Atlanta chasing bad pitches, but if they can stay disciplined, I like our chances of cashing this ticket at plus money odds today.