Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mechanical tweak saves Gonzalez's day

Associated Press photo
Gio Gonzalez allowed three runs over five innings today against the Marlins.
JUPITER, Fla. -- Considering what transpired in this same ballpark only five days ago, the Nationals would have been justified in worrying a bit about Gio Gonzalez at the end of a ragged first inning this afternoon.

Three runs, four batters reaching base and a whopping pitch count of 28? After getting pounded for eight runs on 10 hits and four walks in only 3 2/3 innings Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium? Was there any reason to be concerned about Gonzalez's arm?

Turns out the answer was a resounding no. After making a mechanical tweak at the advice of pitching coach Steve McCatty and third baseman Mark DeRosa, Gonzalez turned his entire afternoon around and wound up encouraged by the results.

What was the tweak? McCatty and DeRosa told Gonzalez he was "flying open" with the right side of his body instead of keeping his shoulders closed as he stepped toward the plate.

"After that, I settled in, stayed back, kept my shoulders in and just felt like I was more on top of the ball and wasn't flying open," Gonzalez said. "There's a lot of positive things that came out of that first inning. I'm glad that I settled down and stopped the bleeding immediately."

Indeed, Gonzalez was a much different pitcher over the final four innings of his start, scattering four more hits, retiring seven of the last eight Marlins batters he faced and finishing with six strikeouts.

"He was feeling a little frisky and he started overthrowing," manager Davey Johnson said of his starter's first inning. "Then he settled in and started pitching, which was great."

Gonzalez still has a few things to work on before he takes the mound April 7 at Wrigley Field for the Nationals' second game of the season against the Cubs. Most notably, his offensive game, which leaves plenty to be desired.

The career American Leaguer is still getting used to batting in National League games, and it showed today when he couldn't successfully get a third-inning bunt down. He fouled off all three attempts, awkwardly stepping toward the pitcher as he stabbed at the ball.

"I don't know why I was jumping out of the box instead of staying there waiting for the ball to get there and laying it down," he said. "But if you look at it, it was solid where the ball should have hit the bat. I felt like it just was missing by an inch. It's a minor adjustment. It's minor stuff that I can work on, but it's good to know that I got it out of the way today and not during the season."

Gonzalez is scheduled to make one more start this spring, and it will come in an all-too-familiar setting. He'll once again make the 1-hour, 45-minute bus ride from Viera to Jupiter on Sunday for his fourth start of the spring inside this ballpark, his third against the Cardinals.

"That's pretty hard," he said. "It's what it is. They have a knowledge, I have a knowledge. Hopefully it works together."

14 comments:

NatinBeantown said...

This is good to hear, and it's amazing how a tweak like this can make such a huge difference even within one ballgame.

BTW, I wasted most of my afternoon on B-R due to the conversation in prior threads, with some interesting results. I'll post below (didn't want them newposted)

NatinBeantown said...

Sec 3 asked if there was a correllation between the leadoff batter's OBP and the team's ability to score runs. I'm not a Q.R. guy so I didn't run regressions or anything, but the eyeballs say no.

Here's the rank of each NL team's #1 hitter by OBP in 2011:
Rk OBP
1 CHC .367
2 NYM .361
3 PIT .359
4 MIL .356
5 COL .352
6 CIN .343
7 FLA .343
8 HOU .336
LgAvg .331
9 PHI .326
10 LAD .325
11 ARI .314
12 ATL .313
13 SDP .312
14 STL .310
15 SFG .292
16 WSN .285

Here's that same list of teams and their rank by total runs scored: 8, 6, 14, 5, 3, 2, 11, 13, 7, 9, 4, 10, 15, 1, 16, 12

That seems pretty random and uncorrellated to me (especially with red flags like offensive juggernaut St Louis near the bottom of the leadoff OBP list).

Yes, the worse leadoff OBP teams like the Nats, SD and SF are near the bottom of the total runs scored, but I would guess that those teams were poor OBP performers at EVERY batting order spot, not just leadoff.

A DC Wonk said...

NatinBeantown -- nice job!

Seems to show -- yet again -- that improving *anybody's* OBP will help runs, and that we should stop obsessing with the #1-hole.

A DC Wonk said...

(Aw, heck, while I'm here, I might as well...)

FORE !!!

NatsLady said...

NatinBeanTown--excellent, and simple! Thanks!

Theophilus said...

Bobby Richardson thanks NatsBeantown for the vindication.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is DeRosa making a lot of suggestions like this?

Cwj said...

Awesome NatinBeantown! Good job.

I have no doubt Gio will have a very nice season for the Nats.
He's a very talented pitcher who is young (only 26!) and still learning.

Also seems like a very good guy.
I'm definitely a new Gio fan :)

Anonymous said...

Seems to, again, only corroborate what the unbiased neutral stats I look at seem to say:

If you've got good hitters on your team it might help to pick one to lead off preferabley with speed. But its best to just have good hitters with high wOBA's (or OBA's as Wonk stated.

The Nats need good hitter[s]. And according to Johnson's interview with the MLB.com traveling show he stated where he saw Harper fitting (and perhaps Corey Brown). Johnson said he needs tat left-handed impact presence in the lineup. Anywhere in the lineup if he is a good hitter. It really shouldn't matter so much where.

Take note Mr. Skole.

Anonymous said...

Seems to, again, only corroborate what the unbiased neutral stats I look at seem to say:

If you've got good hitters on your team it might help to pick one to lead off preferabley with speed. But its best to just have good hitters with high wOBA's (or OBA's as Wonk stated.

The Nats need good hitter[s]. And according to Johnson's interview with the MLB.com traveling show he stated where he saw Harper fitting (and perhaps Corey Brown). Johnson said he needs tat left-handed impact presence in the lineup. Anywhere in the lineup if he is a good hitter. It really shouldn't matter so much where.

Take note Mr. Skole.

fast eddie said...

NatinBeanTown:
Your eyeballs say no correlation between OBP and runs scored, but it holds true for the Nats. They were dead-last in OBP and next to last in runs scored.
Interesting that the Braves were 27 percentage points higher than us in OBP but scored fewer runs than we did.

FS said...

btw when desmond lead off an inning last season, any inning, his slash is .222/.265/.341. I am sure you guys have already been over this, but these numbers don't really inspire anyone.

Section 3, My Sofa said...

What's MLB average when leading off an inning?

FS said...

these are the splits: .256/.313/.406
Nats were ranked 26th.
NL's splits: .253/.310/.402
Nats were ranked 14th out of 16th.

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