Aug 27

Gio Gonzalez: About Last Night (August 26)

Eventually it was going to happen. Eventually Gio Gonzalez (9-7) was going to allow a leadoff hit and the Padres were going to score. In four straight innings a Padres batter singled to start the top half of an inning, and in the first two innings Gonzalez was able to work around trouble. In the third the Padres finally broke through. It had to happen, right? Not even with a big ole beautiful hook like Gonzalez tosses up there will he be able to work through trouble all the time. Not even against the Padres.

Are the Nationals now facing something of a real problem with Gonzalez? At first glance it looks like just another Gonzalez slump. He’ll work through it, right? Over his last three games Gonzalez has pitched 12 1/3 innings and allowed 14 earned runs on 20 hits and six walks while striking out 12. The strikeouts are nice. Everyone strikes out in today’s game, so I’m not even sure if those mean anything anymore, but they’re fun. We’ll call that a positive, and think about his other starts. Going back even further, he’s pitched past the fifth inning once in his last seven starts. That’s a problem. Doug Fister has essentially become the second starter on the days Gonzalez is scheduled to start.

In the past we’ve always dismissed Gonzalez’s starts with a wave of our collective hands and called him a mercurial lefty. Oh, he’s effectively wild. He’s still wild. He can be effective from time-to-time. If you watch him it’s like he doesn’t have a real feel for any of his pitches. I’m no pitching coach, and I don’t have a personal conversation with major league pitchers, but I imagine by the time pitchers reach the big leagues they have a pretty good idea where their pitches are going. Years of repetition and constant queues from coaches are so ingrained that thinking on the mound probably amounts to agreeing what pitch to throw and what location and then just doing it.

I’m not sure Gonzalez isn’t overthinking this thing by now.

He’ll throw a curveball that can make a batter look completely helpless in one instance. Ask my new WV buddy Jedd Gyorko about that. He’ll tie a guy up inside with a 93-mph fastball like he did with Justin Upton in the first. He’ll paint the black low and outside. If he could do all of these things consistently without runners getting on that would be great. However, Gonzalez always seems to leave that one pitch over the plate where a batter can do something with it. Maybe not a lot. It doesn’t always have to be. Heck, of the seven hits he allowed yesterday, five of those were singles, and of the two extra base hits, if Yunel Escobar doesn’t bobble Melvin Upton’s grounder in the third or subsequently make a bad throw to first we’re probably calling this a scattering of hits.

To me it always seems like Gonzalez does his best work when runners are on base. Is that simply because runners are always on base? His WHIP of 1.48 is the highest of his career since his first full season in the big leagues. Think about that. He’s allowing one normal runner and an Eddie Gaedel to reach base every inning. Of qualified starters, that’s the third worst rate in the major leagues. Only Jeremy Guthrie and Matt Garza have been worse. Remember Garza? The Nationals lit him up last Sunday because eventually you’re going to. There are only so many unoccupied bases that can be filled before a run accidentally happens. Gonzalez basically gives first and second to the other team each inning and dares them to score some runs. Maybe not in the first. Or the second.

Runners by inning yesterday: two on in the first after a single and walk; Derek Norris singles but is caught stealing second; a leadoff single and an error (not Gonzalez’s fault there), then a double and a Justin Upton home run; a leadoff single and a Clint Barmes walk; and a Gyorko single after which Williams gives him the hook.

That was sufficiently depressing.

The Nationals lost 6-5, and though they made a spirited comeback it wasn’t enough to undo the damage from the carousel of runners. On the night, Gonzalez pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed five runs, four earned, on seven hits and two walks while striking out six. Why is first pitch strikes an overrated stat? Gonzalez started 17 of the 23 Padres he faced with a strike. Context is everything I suppose.

Below I’ve listed the particulars for yesterday’s game.

Pitches by Type:

##  Pitch Type Count    %
##    Changeup    12  14
##   Curveball    12  14
##    Fourseam    36 41.9
##    Two-seam    26 30.2

Pitch Type by Inning

##            1 2 3 4 5
## Changeup   3 1 4 1 3
## Curveball  4 2 1 2 3
## Fourseam   9 5 9 7 6
## Two-seam  10 2 6 6 2

Pitches by Outcome:

##                     Changeup Curveball Fourseam Two-seam
## Ball                       3         6        8       11
## Ball In Dirt               1         1        0        0
## Called Strike              1         2        5        5
## Foul                       1         3        6        3
## Foul (Runner Going)        0         0        2        0
## Foul Tip                   0         0        0        1
## In play, no out            2         0        3        1
## In play, out(s)            0         0        3        3
## In play, run(s)            0         0        2        1
## Swinging Strike            4         0        7        1

Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat

##             Changeup Fourseam Two-seam
## Double             0        0        1
## Field Error        0        1        0
## Flyout             0        0        1
## Home Run           0        1        0
## Lineout            0        2        0
## Pop Out            0        1        1
## Sac Bunt           0        0        1
## Sac Fly            0        1        0
## Single             2        2        1
## Strikeout          1        5        0
## Walk               1        1        0

Pitches by Zone Location

##  Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##   48.84         51.16     25.41     53.24

Note: Zone % is the number of pitches thrown that were considered in the strike zone; Out of Zone is the number of pitches thrown out of the strike zone; and O-Swing % and Z-Swing % relate to those pitches out of the zone and in the zone that were swung at by batters.

Calculations: I calculated the strike zone based upon the formula provided by Mike Fast in a post for Baseball Prospectus. O-Swing % = Swings at Pitches Out of the Zone / Total Pitches Out of the Zone, and Z-Swing % = Swings at Pitches In the Zone / Total Pitches In the Zone. Fangraphs has a great explanation regarding plate discipline, and I encourage you to read about it if you get a chance. After enjoying my site first, of course.

Pitch Types by Zone Location

##  Pitch Type In Zone Out of Zone O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##    Changeup       5           7     0.429     0.800
##   Curveball       5           7     0.143     0.400
##    Fourseam      23          13     0.385     0.696
##    Two-seam       9          17     0.235     0.444

Strikeouts by Description

##                 Changeup Fourseam
## Called Strike          0        2
## Swinging Strike        1        3

Standard Batting Lines Against Gio Gonzalez

##             Batter PA AB H 2B 3B HR K BB HBP SF    BA   OBP   SLG Pitches
##      Austin  Hedges  2  2 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.500 0.500 0.500       5
##         B.J. Upton  3  2 0  0  0  0 1  1   0  0 0.000 0.333 0.000      12
##       Clint  Barmes  2  1 0  0  0  0 0  1   0  0 0.000 0.500 0.000      11
##       Derek  Norris  2  2 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.500 0.500 0.500       6
##        Jedd  Gyorko  3  3 1  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333      14
##       Justin  Upton  3  3 1  0  0  1 2  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 1.333      13
##          Matt  Kemp  3  3 1  1  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.667      12
##         Tyson  Ross  2  1 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  1 1.000 1.000 1.000       6
##  Yangervis  Solarte  3  2 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  1 0.500 0.333 0.500       7

Pitches Velocities & Movement:

##  Pitch Type  Min Mean  Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert
##    Changeup 82.0 84.2 85.3    8.953     3.355        8.347         1.881
##   Curveball 77.7 79.7 82.1   -5.670    -8.915       -6.588        -10.63
##    Fourseam 90.7 92.7 94.5    6.746     7.693        6.248         6.630
##    Two-seam 88.8 91.9 93.6    9.922     5.303        9.595         4.047

Note: Horizontal movement denotes average distance, in inches, from point of release to home plate (+ moves away from a right-handed batter) while vertical movement is average distance, in inches, from release point to home plate. As measured from the corner of home plate, the x-axis (horizontal) runs to the catcher’s right, the y-axis points at the pitcher, and the z-axis (vertical) runs up and down.

Note 2: The corrected horizontal and vertical are based upon a paper by Alan M. Nathan from the University of Illinois and account for the elimination of both gravity and drag. The corrected averages more accurately reflect the true movement of the baseball.

Average (MPH) Velocity for Pitches by Starters Last Night:

2015-08-27_Gio Gonzalez_BoxPlot

Below are the pitch locations by both batter stance (left or right) and by pitch type.

Pitch Location by Stance:

2015-08-27_Gio Gonzalez_Stance

Pitch Location by Pitch Type:

2015-08-27_Gio Gonzalez_Pitches

Pitch Locations by Batter:

2015-08-27_Gio Gonzalez_Batters

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