What Advanced Data Tells Us About The Best Hitters, Pitchers At Super Regionals
NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT ARKANSAS
Average FB Velocity: 91.5 mph
Staff Ace: Kevin Kopps, RHP
How He Does It: Kopps has a mid-80s cutter/slider that hitters know is coming, but it doesn’t matter. Nearly half the time, the pitch ends up outside of the strike zone, but in 2021 hitters swung against those out-of-zone sliders 43% of the time. They hit a robust .038 with no extra-base hits on those out-of-zone sliders. Hitters swung and missed those out-of-zone sliders 34% of the time. When Kopps’ slider is in the strike zone, it is more hittable (hitters hit .193 with one double and one home run), but it’s almost impossible to tell when it’s going to stay in the zone or dive out of it. On 31% of Kopps’ in-zone sliders, the hitter took it for a strike.
Staff flamethrower: Jaxon Wiggins has touched 99-100 mph at his best.
Best Hitter: CF Christian Franklin
How Do You Attack Him?: Arkansas has a very deep lineup, so there’s no one hitter to avoid, but Franklin leads the team in slugging percentage (.557) and is second in on-base percentage (.425). Franklin does an excellent job of catching up to velocity (.304/.500/.502 against fastballs 93-plus mph), and he is extremely dangerous against pitchers trying to work on the inside edge of the strike zone. Sliders down and away are the way to stay away from his power. He does a solid job of laying off sliders out of the strike zone, but he hits .176 against sliders on the outer third of the strike zone with a 25% swing-and-miss rate.
North Carolina State
Average FB Velocity: 90.2 mph
Staff Ace: Reid Johnston
How He Does It: Johnston is a fastball/slider pitcher. A hitter doesn’t really have to worry about anything else. Johnston throws both pitches a nearly equal amount and he actually throws his sliders for strikes a little more often than his fastball. So when a hitter gets ahead in the count, he can’t expect a fastball. Johnston will throw either pitch in any count, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a righthanded hitter or a lefty. Most pitchers throw their slider to only a few quadrants of the strike zone, but Johnston works arm side and glove side with his. Hitters need to attack his fastball when they get it because his slider is his most effective pitch.
Staff flamethrower: Evan Justice can touch 97-98 mph.
Best Hitter: Jonny Butler
How Do You Attack Him?: Don’t make mistakes trying to bust Butler inside, as Butler’s power is almost entirely pull side, usually when a pitcher tries to spin a ball that allows Butler to drop the bat head. He also is quite comfortable catching up to fastballs up in the zone. Butler hit .500 (17-for-34) on balls on the inner third of the strike zone. Because he’s best when he’s pulling the ball, the target to attack with Butler is down and away, but if you miss up, he will make you pay.
EAST CAROLINA AT VANDERBILT
Average FB Velocity: 90
Staff Ace: Gavin Williams, RHP
How He Does It: Williams can light up radar guns and he carries that mid-90s velocity deep into his starts. His fastball is arguably his best pitch, but because hitters have to be looking for it, his slider is even more effective. Williams didn’t allow an extra-base hit on his slider all season and it means that righthanded hitters are in real trouble. They should look to guard the outer third of the plate, as Williams doesn’t come in on their hands very often. They will generally see fastballs and sliders away. Lefties don’t have to worry nearly as much about Williams’ slider, but Williams will work in and out against them more often and mixes his pitches, adding in a changeup.
Staff flamethrower: Williams also is East Carolina’s hardest-throwing pitcher and one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in college baseball. He can reach back for 98-99 mph if needed and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see him touch 100 this weekend.
Best Hitter: Connor Norby
How Do You Attack Him?: Pitching around him and focusing on the rest of the lineup isn’t a terrible idea. Norby is a hitter first, but he showed the ability to clear the fence to left or right field as well. He hasn’t seen exceptional velocity this year (only 34 pitches above 93 mph this year and none above 94). He hit .333 against those fastballs, but with Vanderbilt teeming with pitchers who can light up a Trackman, maybe Vanderbilt can try to challenge him and find out how well he handles 95-plus velocity up in the zone. Don’t try to feed Norby changeups away—he hit .458/.500/.875 against changeups this year with a double and three home runs.
Average FB Velocity: 92.6 mph
How They Do It: When Leiter commands his fastball, he presents a nearly impossible challenge thanks to the pitch’s elite movement. Leiter threw 152 fastballs in the upper third of the strike zone and if he hit his spot, it almost always resulted in either a strike or a foul ball. Only 12% of those fastballs were put in play. And only four of them (2.6%) were turned into hits (three singles and one home run). Even when Leiter misses his spot and throws his fastball right down the heart of the plate, it’s still not a fun at-bat—hitters hit .182/.182/.455 on fastballs right down the center. With Rocker, you want to get him into fastball counts. Rocker’s curveball and slider are almost never hit hard. He gave up 12 hits on 600 breaking balls this year (.070/.091/.105). He racked up strike three on his breaking balls 101 times (out of his 144 total strikeouts). He threw ball four with his breaking balls only four times. When Rocker threw his fastball, opponents hit .245/.375/.429.
Staff flamethrower: Leiter and Rocker have both touched 98-99 mph this year. So has Luke Murphy. You better be ready to hit velocity when you face Vanderbilt.
Best Hitter: Dominic Keegan
How Do You Attack Him?: This isn’t easy. Keegan hits balls in the zone. He hits balls out of the zone. He catches up to fastballs when pitchers elevate on him and when they work at the bottom of the zone. He can sometimes get beat by quality velocity, but he also took a 95 mph Blade Tidwell fastball out to straight center field. He’s not as effective against curveballs (.250/.276/.571), but he did hit three doubles and two home runs off curves. He’s a really advanced hitter.
MISSISSIPPI AT ARIZONA
Average FB Velocity: 91.2 mph
Staff Ace: Garrett Irvin
How He Does It: Irvin is a smallish (6 feet, 180 pounds) lefty who won’t light up a radar gun. He tops out at 91-92 mph and generally sits 86-88. But he locates well, hits his spots and rarely gives up hard contact. Irvin gave up only four home runs and 19 extra-base hits all season. He generates plenty of ground balls. Irvin usually gets ahead early in the count. If he does, he’s going to work on the outer third of the plate, staying away from both lefties and righties. He doesn’t have a true swing-and-miss offering, but he also rarely hurts himself and a team is going to have to string together plenty of hits to get a big inning against him.
Staff flamethrower: Chase Silseth and T.J. Nichols both can touch 97 mph when needed.
Best Hitter: Donta Williams
How Do You Attack Him?: Don’t throw him a fastball in a fastball count. Williams saw 55 pitches of 93-plus mph this year and he swung and missed on two of them. He hit .667/.786/1.333 against high velocity and .354/.494/.556 against fastballs overall. Williams will swing and miss some at changeups as he looks for a fastball to drive, but he has a solid ability to adjust to changes of speed. A pitcher who can throw breaking balls for strikes and out of the zone will have much more success. It’s not that Williams swings and misses at breaking balls at an exceptional rate as much as he doesn’t drive them particularly well.
Average FB Velocity: 91.1
Staff Ace: Doug Nikhazy
How He Does It: A hitter facing Nikhazy has to get used to adjusting his eye level. Don’t worry about Nikhazy going in and out nearly as much as him going up and down. With an over-the-top delivery, Nikhazy has figured out how to pair fastballs up in the zone with curveballs at the bottom of the zone (or just below the zone). Nikhazy generally sits 89-91 mph, but his fastball misses bats (or forces foul balls) when he elevates. And it pairs very well with a big-breaking curve that is pretty unhittable as long as he keeps it down.
Best Hitter: Tim Elko
How Do You Attack Him?: Don’t let Elko get his arms extended. If you can bust Elko up and in, he can be pitched to effectively. Down and away in the strike zone is his happy place. Even if you locate well there, he can still do damage—he hit .409 on pitches low and away with seven home runs against just 120 pitches. Throw a slider down and away and he can yank it with power, but throw a fastball down and away and he’ll just as happily drive the ball to the opposite field. The problem with trying to go in on him is you don’t have much margin for error. If you throw a fastball that ends up center cut instead of up and in, he’ll do damage—he hit .533 on balls down the middle. With Elko playing on a torn ACL, he’s going to be swinging for the fences as he can’t run well enough to leg out extra base hits.
STANFORD AT TEXAS TECH
Average FB Velocity: 88.9 mph
Staff Ace: Brendan Beck
How He Does It: Beck has a real knack for working down and in on lefthanded hitters and down and away from righthanded hitters. Hitting that spot glove-side is often a challenge for pitchers, but Beck does it extremely well. With two strikes, he can force lefties to defend against fastballs up in the zone and changeups down and away (which pair well together). Against righties with two strikes, there’s no reason to guard the inner third, as he’s almost assuredly going to throw either a fastball in the zone on the outer third of the plate or a slider that likely will dip out of the zone down and away. Knowing it’s coming is one thing, hitting either in that situation is a much tougher challenge.
Best Hitter: Brock Jones
How Do You Attack Him?: Don’t give him fastballs to hit. Jones has shown no issues in catching up to velocity. He loves getting a fastball in the zone to drive. He hit .438/.579/.938 on fastballs. If you pitch him backwards, you have a shot as he will struggle at times with changeups and breaking balls in the zone. He also shows solid strike-zone recognition, so attempts to get him to chase those same offspeed pitches out of the zone aren’t as effective.
Average FB Velocity: 90.8 mph
Staff Ace: Ryan Sublette
How He Does It: Sublette is an effective power reliever who will likely work extended innings in one of the first two super regional games. He has worked back-to-back days only once this year. He wants to throw his slider out of the strike zone, as it has the depth and tilt to dive away to become effectively unhittable. If a hitter can recognize it, they can lay off, confident that any slider that begins in the zone down and away will eventually end up out of the zone. That’s easier said than done, and it’s hard to simply look for a slider in pitcher counts when Sublette also has a mid-90s fastball. Sublette nibbles around the edges of the zone a lot, but his stuff can get misses and weak contact in the zone, so it’s not easy to be patient enough to draw a walk.
Best Hitter: Jace Jung
How Do You Attack Him?: Jung is one of the best hitters in college baseball this year. He hits fastballs. He hits breaking balls. He hits changeups. If you’re playing in a super regional, no one said it was going to be easy. Jung did not do a lot of damage with pitches down and away, hitting .158/.227/.316 on balls in that location this year. But if you miss your spot out of the zone, he will most likely take it (he has good strike-zone awareness), and if you miss your spot by coming further in, he’ll crush it. He hit over .400 on balls middle-in with 18 extra-base hits.
2021 Super Regional Preview: Tucson
Highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of Ole Miss and Arizona ahead of their super regional matchup.
SOUTH FLORIDA AT TEXAS
Average FB Velocity: 91.0 mph
Staff Ace: Ty Madden
How He Does It: Madden is not your typical 2021 power pitcher. His game is not about getting swings and misses on fastballs up in the zone. It’s about driving his fastball down in the zone. Even though he will sit 94-95 mph and touch 99, his fastball is hittable when he elevates it because it lacks the vertical movement to miss bats. Hitters hit .357/.364/.929 against Madden’s fastballs in the upper third of the strike zone. When he located it in the bottom third, they hit .186/.186/.297. Because of that ability to pound the bottom of the zone, Madden can get hitters (lefties and righties) to chase sliders far off the plate down to his glove side. It’s a great pitch for him in pitcher counts because it’s either a ball or a swinging strike. So as a hitter, don’t fall behind.
Staff flamethrower: Madden can touch 98-99 mph and he’s been known to do so deep into his outings.
Best Hitter: Ivan Melendez
How Do You Attack Him?: If you’re going to throw fastballs to Melendez, they better have some hair on them. Of the 73 fastballs he saw that were 94 mph or harder, he put five of them in play, for one single and one double. He took a strike (21%), swung and missed (14%) or fouled one off (16%) a significant amount of the time. Against the 355 fastballs he saw that were 93 mph or slower, he hit .408/.523/.789. Throwing a changeup to Melendez is often doing him a favor. He had nine hits with six extra-base hits (including three home runs) against the 88 changeups he saw.
Average FB Velocity: 90.6 mph
Staff Ace: Jack Jasiak
How He Does It: Jasiak does an excellent job of living on the edges of the strike zone. He expertly locates fastballs and changeups on the outer edge of the zone to lefthanded hitters and toys with righthanded hitters with fastballs down and away on the edge. Once he convinces hitters he can dot the corner with that fastball, he then throws a similar looking slider that ends up off the plate. With two strikes against a righthanded hitter, it’s nearly a flip of the coin on whether you’re going to see the fastball or the slider, so it’s not easy to protect against both.
Staff flamethrower: Orion Kettering can touch 97-98 mph while Brad Lord can bump up to 97 mph.
Best Hitter: Riley Hogan
How Do You Attack Him?:The switch-hitting veteran has been a little better as a righthanded hitter this year because of a little more power from that side, but he’s very effective standing in either batter’s box. Because he’s a switch hitter, the sample sizes are smaller on everything, but as a righthanded hitter, he lit up changeups from lefthanders (.438 in 16 at-bats/50 pitches). Overall, he was very effective against breaking balls and changeups, so Texas may want to see if Ty Madden and others can challenge him with premium velocity.
LSU AT TENNESSEE
Average FB Velocity: 90.4 mph
Staff Ace: Landon Marceaux
How He Does It: Marceaux is a true three-pitch pitcher who doesn’t allow hitters to subtract a pitch or an area of the strike zone. Because he’ll throw his changeup to righties and lefties, he has a weapon to challenge hitters in and out. His fastball is hittable, but he rarely gets himself in situations where he’s throwing it behind in the count to hitters looking for it. And if he gets to two strikes, he’s likely to throw his effective slider, which he can spin in or out of the zone.
Best Hitter: Gavin Dugas
How Do You Attack Him?: Dugas is going to hit the ball hard at some point in any series. Of the 359 pitches he saw in the strike zone this year, he swung and missed at 30 of them. He hit 28 of those in-zone pitches for extra bases, so you have about as good a chance of seeing him hit a pitch in the zone a long ways as you will of seeing him miss it. But he can be over-aggressive. Tempt him with sliders down and away out of the zone and pitchers can find some success—of the 110 pitches thrown well out of the zone down and away he swung and missed at 20% of them.
Average FB Velocity: 90.2 mph
Staff Ace: Blade Tidwell
How He Does It: Tidwell not only possesses one of the best names in the Super Regionals, he also has one of the best fastballs (as measured by velocity). But it’s really his changeup playing off that fastball that gives hitters fits. Tidwell has an ability to get outs on changeups up in the zone, much like Lucas Giolito. Of the 52 changeups he threw in the middle of the zone or higher, only one was turned into a single. Overall, hitters hit only .167 against his changeup with no extra-base hits.
Staff flamethrower: Tidwell has touched 98-99 mph multiple times.
Best Hitter: Jake Rucker
How Do You Attack Him?: Rucker feasts on lefthanders, but Javen Coleman is the only lefty likely to rack up significant innings for LSU. So Rucker will likely face a steady stream of righthanders. Fastballs up and in paired with sliders away are an effective way for righties to try to disrupt him.
DALLAS BAPTIST AT VIRGINIA
Average FB Velocity: 91.1 mph
Staff Ace: Dominic Hamel
How He Does It: With Hamel, a batter better win at 0-0. If the pitcher’s ahead, you’re likely dead. Hamel’s slider has tilt and bite. He threw it only 12 times all year when behind 2-0, 3-0 or 3-1. But with two strikes, his slider can be filthy, and that makes his fastball play better as well. Hitters generally are less effective with two strikes, but against Hamel, they become a pitcher at the plate. Batters hit .102/.180/.193 against him in two-strike counts. If a hitter is ahead of Hamel in the count, they hit .378/.541/.778.
Best Hitter: Jackson Glenn
How Do You Attack Him?: Glenn hits pretty much anyone, but he is hitting over .450 against lefties, so you don’t want to see him up against a lefthander in a big situation. There are a lot of bad outcomes for pitchers when Glenn sees a fastball as well. Among the 498 fastballs he’s seen, he took 41% of them (205) for a ball. He picked up hits on 50 of those fastballs (another 10%). He hit .420/.496/.857 on heaters with 12 doubles, three triples and 12 home runs. He only swung and missed at 27 fastballs (5%). He’s solid against sliders, curves and changeups as well, but pitchers did have more success using those pitch types. Glenn rarely swings and misses at anything—his swing and miss rate was only 6%.
Average FB Velocity: 89.0 mph
Staff Ace: Andrew Abbott.
How He Does It: When a lefty has a fastball that can get swings and misses up in the strike zone and an above-average changeup and curveball, it’s generally going to be a tough day for hitters. Abbott’s low-90s fastball has the late hop to fool hitters who think they are about to square up a middle-cut fastball. He loves to nibble on the outer edge of the zone to righthanded hitters, but he’s actually more effective when he goes up in the zone. Lefties don’t need to worry about his changeup, but his combination of fastballs to all four quadrants of the strike zone and curveballs low and away don’t make for easy swings for lefties.
Staff flamethrower: Griff McGarry can touch 98-99 mph.
Best Hitter: Kyle Teel
How Do You Attack Him?: Bring in a lefty who can consistently spin a breaking ball. Teel showed a significant platoon advantage against righties, but struggles against lefties. Those struggles are magnified when the lefty can work down and away with a quality breaking ball. Teel hit .156/.229/.188 against breaking balls from lefties. He hit .375/.500/.562 against breaking balls from righthanders. He hit .381/.466/.603 against righthanders’ fastballs and .353/.436/.618 against lefties’ fastballs. He’s not helpless against lefties, but a lefty who can double- or triple-up on a slider or curve can stymie him.
NOTRE DAME AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
Average FB Velocity: 89.8 mph
Staff Ace: John Michael Bertrand
How He Does It: A graduate transfer from Furman, Bertrand has worked seven or more innings in eight of his 13 starts and has three complete games. He’s normally very pitch efficient and with the exception of a rough outing against Virginia in the ACC tournament, Notre Dame has been able to count on him to work deep into games. He does not have dominating stuff, but teams have to earn baserunners against him—he walked three batters combined in his final five starts. His fastball and changeup (which he uses almost exclusively against righthanded hitters) are both better at generating weak contact than strikeouts. Hitters swung and missed at only 4% of his fastballs.
Staff flamethrower: Tanner Kohlepp, Jack Brannigan and Luke Simon can all touch 97-98 mph.
Best Hitter: Niko Kavadas
How Do You Attack Him?: Don’t throw Kavadas a fastball in the zone. Really don’t throw Kavadas a fastball when he’s ahead in the count. Doing so will likely result in very good outcomes for Kavadas and Notre Dame and very bad results for the pitcher. Kavadas hit .648 (13-for-19 with five home runs and two doubles) on 139 fastballs thrown when he was ahead in the count. In those same hitter counts, Kavadas hit .167 (1-for-6 with one home run) on 80 breaking balls and changeups. He did take a ball on 43 of those 80 pitches, so it’s not like you’re going to get him to chase when he’s ahead, but a walk from Kavadas is better than a home run. Overall, Kavadas hit .196/.372/.464 against breaking balls and changeups and .349/.477/.895 on fastballs. Catchers should not put down one finger when Kavadas is hitting.
Average FB Velocity: 91.8 mph
Staff Ace: Will Bednar
How He Does It: Like a lot of three-quarter arm slot righthanders, Bednar loves to pitch in the 1:30-7:30 corridor (think of a clock face). He can go down and in to righthanded hitters and he has to throw changeups down and away to lefties to keep them from sitting on his slider, but at his best, he’s going to throw enough fastballs up and in to righthanded hitters to keep them from focusing on his bread and butter: sliders off the plate. Bednar’s slider can be hit when he catches too much of the plate, but when he’s breaking it off at its best, hitters are swinging and missing at pitches that may end up bouncing.
Staff flamethrower: Eric Cerantola can touch 98-99 mph and may brush 100 mph on his best days.
Best Hitter: Tanner Allen
How Do You Attack Him?: Allen loves to be challenged. He hit .571 on fastballs on the outer third of the strike zone (24-for-42 on 98 pitches) and he hit over .400 on fastballs on the inner third. And unless you’re a potential top-10 pick, don’t think that while he hits fastballs he won’t hit your fastball just because it’s elite. He hit .500 on fastballs over 94 mph in 2021. With a hitter who hit .395 in the Southeastern Conference, you’re not looking for weaknesses as much as you are areas where he’s not going to hurt you as much. He isn’t helpless against breaking balls, but he did hit only .229/.308/.371 against sliders.