The original version of this story appeared on Baseball Prospectus Bronx.
By Nick Ashbourne
If there was a metric measuring which pitchers caused the most nightmares in opposing hitters, you could bet your bottom dollar Dellin Betances would be at the top of the leaderboard. All of the elements are there for the Yankees right-hander.
First of all he's massive, listed at 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds. Secondly, he averages over 96 mph on his fastball. That is already the foundation for a good nightmare, even outside the context of baseball. An enormous human being hurling objects at you at alarming speed is viscerally frightening. The fact your job may depend on being able to make contact with these objects just adds another level.
That's not all, though. Not only is Betances physically intimidating, he also has the ability to fool you with a breaking ball that moves in ways so unholy that no one knows what to call it. For the purposes of this article, we'll say it's a curveball because that's what PITCHf/x seems to think, but there is no reason to be particularly confident that it fits neatly into any category that currently exists. What we do know is that it looks like this.
In order to help soothe the psyches of Major League hitters everywhere, I thought I would take on the problem of how to hit Betances insofar as it's possible. Every hitter who faces the 27-year-old is playing the role of David in a David vs. Goliath battle, but that doesn't mean it's unwinnable.
Getting a hit off Betances can be done using three weird tricks.
1. Be right-handed
Sorry, left-handed hitters, facing Betances simply is not for you. You've hit .152/.215/.185 against the guy in 242 tries without a single home run through Thursday, beating the ball into the ground on 51.2 percent of balls in play. It's time to call it a day.
More seriously, we can't be sure that Betances will keep up his reverse platoon splits because his career numbers still come in a pretty small sample. However, for the purpose of this exercise, we need every advantage we can get, and it appears that being right-handed is an advantage.
Five right-handed hitters have even hit home runs off the Yankees' relief ace. One of them was J.P. Arencibia. That fact alone should make everyone who tries to analyze baseball for a living consider hanging up the cleats.
2. Lay off the curveball
Unsurprisingly, Betances likes to throw his curve low and away to right-handers. When it is thrown in that spot, it cannot be hit. Don't be a hero and try to foul it off. If it comes down to it, rely on the umpire's mercy.
The Brooks Baseball chart below shows how often right-handed opponents' swings have come up empty against Betances.
3. Look for something middle-in
None of this is rocket science that isn't applicable to hitting other pitchers, but Betances doesn't allow right-handers to drive pitches away from them, at all.
Basically, you need to sit (if not cheat) on the fastball, get Betances to miss his spot and try to pull something to left field.
Even if you follow these three steps, you are very unlikely to succeed. For one thing, you are at the disadvantage of being a Major League hitter facing a Major League pitches, which stacks the odds against you. Additionally, Betances is an absolute monster in a way that is as close to literal as possible for a baseball player.
Everything stated here is so much easier said than done it's not even funny. If it were easy everyone would do it, and Betances has given up only 68 hits in his career so far.
If nothing else, there is always hope because a few brave men have been to the promised land, and one of them was J.P. Arencibia.