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Sep 01

Gio Gonzalez: About Last Night (August 31)

Most people would agree that the best curveball in baseball belongs to Kershaw.  Well, Kershaw just about owns the best pitch of every kind, but his curveball is sort of impressive.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a lefty freeze right-handed batters with a curve the way Kershaw can.  This isn’t a post about Kershaw, or his curve, but it’s important in the sense that I needed a lead and all things baseball and pitching revolve around the brightest star(ter) in the major leagues.
Also, Kershaw’s curveball.  Wow.
I thought of Kershaw because Gio Gonzalez pitched last night.  I don’t know too many times in my life where watching Gio reminded me of Kershaw.  They’re both left-handed.  That’s something.  On Monday night, on a 2-2 curveball to Kolten Wong, Gio reminded me of the Dodgers’ ace.  Wong’s knees buckled, the curve broke in for strike three, and I giggled a little.
Watching Gonzalez pitch can be maddening at times.  Then things like this happen, and everyone smiles.
It was also a curve that Gonzalez hung to Yadier Molina in the fourth that Molina hit to right-center to drive in the Cardinals first run, but that’s what makes Gio so maddening.  He’s brilliant.  Then he loses his feel for his pitches, the strikezone, the ability to locate.  A Wong single drives in a run.  A Mark Reynolds single drives in another.  Next thing you know an outing where Gonzalez looked like he would toss eight shutout innings has the bullpen warming up in the fourth.  If you’re wondering, in that inning there was a walk and four straight singles.  One of those was an infield single by Jason Heyward, another that bounced off the heel of a sliding Bryce Harper‘s glove, and another that was muscled into left-center.  Nothing hit exceptionally hard.  No big home runs.  It took 29 pitches to watch the Cardinals do that annoying Cardinal thing.
The shame of it is Gonzalez pitched well last night.  He started the game with a strikeout of Matt Carpenter on a fastball up and in, and he mixed in his curveball and changeup to keep the Cardinals batters off balance.  He had Reynolds so befuddled with the changeup that Gonzalez threw him four straight, the last two low and outside, for a strikeout in the second.  Ask Ray Knight how he feels about that pitch.  He wondered during the broadcast why he didn’t use that same pitch in the fourth.  Short of nearly pulling every muscle in his lower body on a throw from Anthony Rendon on a Carpenter groundout in the fifth, Gonzalez looked smooth and in control.  Oh, and there’s that fourth inning
I swear sometimes I think the Cardinals use magnets to guide the ball.
The results weren’t there, but it’s a positive to see Gonzalez last six innings and pitch well again.  Despite my gushing over his curve, it wasn’t even all that exceptional last night.  Not consistently.  Like Gonzalez himself it had its moments of absolute brilliance then others where it never came close to the strikezone. Knight commented on how Gonzalez needed to keep that pitch closer to the zone.  Throwing it two to three inches out of the zone wasn’t going to get batters to chase.
Look at the zone percentages.  59% of Gonzalez’s curves were out of the zone, 16 of the 27 he threw, and the Cardinals swung at four of them.  Overall the Cardinals swung at 22.5% of pitches out of the zone, and while I’m not the most attentive person in the world, that’s the lowest I’ve seen since I’ve been doing these write ups.  Okay, so it’s only been a month, but I think we have a case of a good team not helping to make outs and a pitcher erratic enough with location to not force batters to swing.

Gio kept the team in the game, and he had nothing to do with how the seventh played out. With a little more creative use of the bullpen we’re discussing a resilient Gonzalez performance and how he kept the team in line for the win. He certainly did that indeed.
On the night, Gonzalez threw six innings (his longest outing since tossing eight innings against the Dodgers on August 10) and allowed three earned runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four.

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

Pitches by Type:

##  Pitch Type Count    %
##    Changeup    15 16.3
##   Curveball    27 29.3
##    Fourseam    42 45.7
##    Two-seam     8 8.70

Pitch Type by Inning

##           1 2 3  4 5 6
## Changeup  3 5 0  5 2 0
## Curveball 3 3 2 10 3 6
## Fourseam  9 7 8 10 4 4
## Two-seam  3 0 0  4 1 0

Pitches by Outcome:

##                 Changeup Curveball Fourseam Two-seam
## Ball                   7        10       15        1
## Ball In Dirt           0         1        2        0
## Called Strike          1         4       10        0
## Foul                   1         2        7        3
## In play, no out        0         0        0        2
## In play, out(s)        1         6        5        1
## In play, run(s)        1         1        0        1
## Swinging Strike        4         3        3        0

Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat

##                  Changeup Curveball Fourseam Two-seam
## Flyout                  1         3        2        1
## Grounded Into DP        0         0        1        0
## Groundout               0         3        1        0
## Pop Out                 0         0        1        0
## Single                  1         1        0        3
## Strikeout               1         2        1        0
## Walk                    0         0        2        0

Pitches by Zone Location

##  Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##   46.74         53.26     22.53     55.63

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       4          11     0.364     0.500
##   Curveball      11          16     0.250     0.636
##    Fourseam      23          19     0.105     0.565
##    Two-seam       5           3     0.667     0.800

Strikeouts by Description

##                 Changeup Curveball Fourseam
## Called Strike          0         1        0
## Swinging Strike        1         1        1

Standard Batting Lines Against Gio Gonzalez

##            Batter PA AB H 2B 3B HR K BB HBP SF    BA   OBP   SLG Pitches
##      Brandon  Moss  2  1 0  0  0  0 0  1   0  0 0.000 0.500 0.000       7
##     Jason  Heyward  3  3 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333       6
##    Jhonny  Peralta  3  2 1  0  0  0 0  1   0  0 0.500 0.667 0.500      13
##       John  Lackey  2  2 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       5
##       Kolten  Wong  3  3 1  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333      16
##     Mark  Reynolds  2  2 1  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.500 0.500 0.500      11
##    Matt  Carpenter  3  3 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       8
##  Stephen  Piscotty  3  3 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      18
##     Yadier  Molina  3  3 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333       8
## Warning in rm(x): object 'x' not found

Pitches Velocities & Movement:

##  Pitch Type  Min Mean  Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert
##    Changeup 82.9 84.5 85.6    7.381     3.326        6.767         1.768
##   Curveball 73.6 77.4 79.2   -7.096    -7.860       -7.952        -9.499
##    Fourseam 89.5 91.4 93.0    6.193     8.124        5.584         7.013
##    Two-seam 89.3 90.8 92.3    8.489     5.152        7.950         4.003

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 back point 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 upward.

Note 2: The corrected horizontal and vertical are based upon a paper by Alan M. Nathan from the University of Illinois nd 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:

2015-09-01_Gio Gonzalez_BoxPlot

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

Pitch Location by Stance:

2015-09-01_Gio Gonzalez_Stance

Pitch Location by Pitch Type:

2015-09-01_Gio Gonzalez_Pitches

Pitch Locations by Batter:

2015-09-01_Gio Gonzalez_Batters

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