He'll pitch off his fastball, steal strikes with his curveball and frustrate hitters with his changeup. He'll run two-seamers into righties and away from lefties. He'll make some balls look like strikes, and hitters will inevitably swing at them. He'll make some strikes look like cookies, but they'll cut enough, sink enough, fade enough, that hitters won't do much with any of them. Medlen will do all of that, because that's how a 5-foot-10 right-hander without premium velocity wins.
But all of those are nothing without Medlen's natural aggressiveness. He stands tall and pulls his hat low and delivers pitches, as a NL talent evaluator put it, "with conviction." Medlen is not deliberate, and he doesn't pitch away from contact. As he makes his first career playoff start in the National League wild-card game, that should help him.
"You have to throw strikes in the playoffs," a big league pitcher said recently. "Umpires don't want controversial pitches to dictate games on that stage, so you have to throw the ball across the plate."
Medlen will throw strikes. But beyond that, how should he attack St. Louis? With the help of the NL evaluator, here's a batter-by-batter plan for Medlen against the Cardinals.
1. Jon Jay, CF (Bats: Left)
Jay isn't an overly aggressive leadoff hitter, even when a pitcher may be trying to groove one and get a quick strike -- he swung at less than 18 percent of first-pitch fastballs this season, or about half as often as Derek Jeter. That's a chance for Medlen to run a heater away on the outer half and get to 0-1. It's then Medlen's tendency to change speeds, but with Jay, who's trying to spray the ball to a gap, he should stick with the fastball away and force early contact.