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Sep 06

Gio Gonzalez: About Last Night (September 05)

How many times this season do you think Nick Markakis has swung at the first pitch in at-bat?  Maybe 25% of the time? I’m spitballing here. I didn’t look this up, so pretend it’s just a couple of friends chatting. What about to start out the game?  A handful of times perhaps? Markakis is a patient guy.  The type of guy that wears pajamas and Chucks all the time and eats Boo Berry with every meal.  Relaxed.

After flying out to Clint Robinson to start Saturday’s game, do you think Markakis was kicking himself as Gio Gonzalez (10-7) walked both Pedro Ciriaco and Freddie Freeman? Would it have mattered?

Probably not.

I bring this up, though, because If the Braves had any chance against Gonzalez it was going to be in the first inning. After that, Gonzalez mowed this lineup down. By mow I mean embarrassed in a way that was borderline criminal.

How good was Gonzalez last night? I quote this paragraph from the AP write up:

Gonzalez walked consecutive batters with one out in the first inning and issued another base on balls in the fifth, but retired 11 straight Braves in between. Between the second and fifth innings, he struck out eight of 11 batters, impressing [Bryce Harper] in the process.

I don’t need to write it up. Let’s be as efficient as Gonzalez was last night.

As always, Gonzalez worked off his fastball, mixing in the occasional changeup and getting batters to chase his curveball. Remember how the Cardinals batters refused to swing at Gonzalez’s curve in his last start? Much of that was due to Gonzalez not being anywhere close to the zone with the pitch.  On Saturday, however, the curveball was less sweeping way out of the zone and more sharp break into the dirt, getting Braves batters to chase. By the end of the night, of the 20 curves Gio threw, only three of those ended up in the strike zone, and of the 17 that would have technically been a ball, the Braves swung at 40% of them. When your out pitch is as nasty as Gonzalez’s was last not, and the Braves oblige by chasing, it makes for five hitless innings.

Here’s a good example of how difficult Gonzalez was to hit last night. In the third inning, Gonzalez is facing Ciriaco. He walked Ciriaco in the first on seven pitches, starting him out 3-0, and then working the count full. As a batter, after an at-bat such as that, you’d imagine the pitcher would want to come out and start by throwing strikes. Most pitchers throw the fastball when they really want to throw a strike. Ciriaco swings. He’s way ahead of a pitch that’s middle of the zone and down because Gonzalez threw him a changeup. Oh, you crafty lefty. Gonzalez then goes up and in for a check swing foul, middle up out of the zone that Ciriaco fouls off, and then two curveballs. Ciriaco fouls off the first low and outside, and then he misses badly on a nasty curve in the dirt.

That really was a fantastic pitching sequence.

In the sixth inning, Gonzalez tried it again with the changeup to start Ciriaco, but after going 3-0, Gonzalez came back to strike him out with three straight fastballs. And those were three straight called strikes too. I don’t fault Ciriaco for that last strike, though. The last fastball might as well have polished Ciriaco’s shoes.

After a rough stretch where Gonzalez was pretty atrocious, he’s come back to pitch well in these last two starts. You could see in his last start against St. Louis that he was figuring it out, and last night he shut the Braves down. He reached double-digits in strikeouts for the first time this season, and the two hits allowed were the fewest allowed by Gonzalez since he allowed one hit in seven innings during his last regular season start of 2014. If this is the Gonzalez that the Nats will see for the last of 2015, their rotation has suddenly become all the more dangerous. For this night, Gonzalez pitched six innings and didn’t allow any runs on two hits and four walks while striking out 10.

I’m purposefully ignoring the 30 pitch six inning that cost Gonzalez a chance to pitch into the seventh. Two singles and a walk built up that pitch count, and if this were the Mets Andrelton Simmons probably would have delivered a key bases clearing hit with two outs. That’s not pessimism. Stop it. That’s reality. Simmons has owned the Mets pitchers this year. Since this is the Nats, Simmons grounded out weakly to short.

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

Pitches by Type:

##  Pitch Type Count    %
##    Changeup    10 9.43
##   Curveball    20 18.9
##    Fourseam    60 56.6
##    Two-seam    16 15.1

Pitch Type by Inning

##            1 2 3 4 5  6
## Changeup   3 0 1 2 0  4
## Curveball  4 3 3 3 3  4
## Fourseam  11 4 7 9 9 20
## Two-seam   3 2 4 1 4  2

Pitches by Outcome:

##                           Changeup Curveball Fourseam Two-seam
## Ball                             2        11       18       12
## Called Strike                    1         0       13        1
## Foul                             3         3       13        1
## Foul (Runner Going)              0         0        2        0
## Foul Tip                         0         0        1        0
## In play, no out                  0         1        1        0
## In play, out(s)                  1         1        5        1
## Swinging Strike                  3         2        7        1
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)        0         2        0        0

Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat

##           Changeup Curveball Fourseam Two-seam
## Flyout           0         0        1        0
## Forceout         0         1        1        0
## Groundout        1         0        1        1
## Lineout          0         0        1        0
## Pop Out          0         0        1        0
## Single           0         1        1        0
## Strikeout        1         3        6        0
## Walk             0         0        3        1

Pitches by Zone Location

##  Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##   44.34         55.66     34.14     58.64

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       7           3     0.333     0.857
##   Curveball       3          17     0.412     0.667
##    Fourseam      33          27     0.370     0.485
##    Two-seam       4          12    0.0833     0.500

Strikeouts by Description

##                           Changeup Curveball Fourseam
## Called Strike                    0         0        3
## Foul Tip                         0         0        1
## Swinging Strike                  1         1        2
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)        0         2        0

Standard Batting Lines Against Gio Gonzalez

##                 Batter PA AB H 2B 3B HR K BB HBP SF    BA   OBP   SLG
##      Andrelton  Simmons  3  2 0  0  0  0 0  1   0  0 0.000 0.333 0.000
##         Cameron  Maybin  2  2 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000
##  Christian  Bethancourt  2  2 0  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000
##      Frederick Freeman  3  2 0  0  0  0 2  1   0  0 0.000 0.333 0.000
##         Hector  Olivera  2  2 0  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000
##          Michael  Bourn  1  0 0  0  0  0 0  1   0  0   NaN 1.000   NaN
##          Nick  Markakis  3  3 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333
##           Nick  Swisher  3  3 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333
##          Pedro  Ciriaco  3  2 0  0  0  0 2  1   0  0 0.000 0.333 0.000
##          Shelby  Miller  2  2 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000
##  Pitches
##        9
##       11
##        7
##       19
##        8
##        8
##        7
##        9
##       18
##       10

Pitches Velocities & Movement:

##  Pitch Type  Min Mean  Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert
##    Changeup 83.1 84.6 85.8    9.152     3.199        8.624         1.876
##   Curveball 78.1 79.4 81.0   -5.317    -9.329       -6.277        -11.15
##    Fourseam 90.1 92.8 94.2    6.971     8.947        6.295         7.887
##    Two-seam 90.3 92.4 93.7    9.582     5.414        9.345         4.324

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:

2015-09-06_Gio Gonzalez_BoxPlot

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

Pitch Location by Stance:

2015-09-06_Gio Gonzalez_Stance

Pitch Location by Pitch Type:

2015-09-06_Gio Gonzalez_Pitches

Pitch Locations by Batter:

2015-09-06_Gio Gonzalez_Batters

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