Friday, April 22, 2011

Brett Anderson is really freaking good

On Tuesday Brett Anderson made the Boston Red Sox look as confused as Sarah Palin under light questioning. 62.96% of the Sox' plate appearances against Anderson ended in either a strikeout or a groundout.

His slider was absolutely filthy, sitting at 81 MPH while generating swings-and-misses 23.8% of the time (MLB average = 13%). He threw the pitch 42 times and threw it for a strike better than three out of every four attempts.

He worked off of his slider most of the night (and why not?), mixing in a four and two seam baseball and an occasional change. Anderson didn't generate whiffs with the the four seamer and changeup, but his the heavy sinking movement on those pitches result in a large number of weakly hit ground balls.

If Anderson can finally stay healthy for a full season, he could find himself high up in the Cy Young balloting at the end of the year.

Yovani Gallardo revisited

After his disastrous start against Washington last week, we noted a dip in Yovani Gallardo's velocity that seemed to correspond with the Nationals' sudden ability to hit everything Gallardo was throwing. Yovani looked much better against the Astros on Friday, sustaining velocity on all of his offerings through his departure from the game in the sixth.

Gallardo did give up four earned runs on eight hits, but he also struck out seven, walked just one, and surrendered no homeruns. With four out of his nine baserunners crossing the plate, it's clear that Gallardo was an abnormally low strand rate and a high batting average on balls in play.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What's up with Yovani Gallardo?

In his past two starts Yovani Gallardo has been roughed up to the tune of 17 hits, 4 walks, and 11 earned runs in the past 10 1/3 innings.

The most puzzling thing about Gallardo's first 3 starts was the lack of strikeouts. Going into last Sunday, Gallardo had only struck out 9 batters in 20 innings of work. This, after striking out more than a batter an inning over the past two seasons. And it's not as if Gallardo has faced stiff competition this far. Outside of an opening day start at Cincinnati, Gallardo has face the the struggling bats of the Braves, Cubs, and Nationals.

So what's wrong with Yovani Gallardo? Is anything wrong with Yovani Gallardo?

It looked like Gallardo had broken out of his early season funk after the first four innings of play against the Nationals on Sunday. Through the first four frames, Gallardo had struck out five, walked none, given up just three hits and one run.

But then everything fell apart in the bottom of the fifth, as the Nationals started making hard contact with everything that Yovani was throwing, culminating with two three-run home runs by Danny Espinosa and Ivan Rodriguez that chased Gallardo from the game in the sixth.

The graph above plots the velocity of each pitch Gallardo threw Sunday against the Nationals.  His fastball sat 92-94 through the first four frames, but then he lost 2 MPH during the next two innings. There were similar velocity dips for each of his pitches, with an even more pronounced drop in the velocity of his slider.

Now maybe this doesn't tell us anything at all. After all, it stands to reason that a pitcher would lose some velocity as he gets deeper into a game. But on a lark I decided to look up the PitchFX data on Gallardo's best start from last year - a June 24th complete game shutout against the Twins in which he struck out 12, walked none, and allowed only five hits.

In this start, Gallardo actually gained velocity as the game wore on.

So is it a question of Gallardo just needing to round into "mid-season form"? We know that the average fastball velocity for all pitchers goes up 1-2 MPH from the beginning of the season to the middle of the year. Is it just a matter of Gallardo building up endurance in order to sustain the success that enjoyed over in the first four innings against the Nationals?

My guess is Gallardo will be fine, but it will be interesting to track the changes in his PitchFX data over the next couple of weeks.

He gets the Houston Astros at home on 4/22. That should help.