ALDS Pitching Preview: Miguel Gonzalez

Estimated 2012 runs saved due to pitch framing
Win or lose, Hughes will start Game Four

The Yankees and Orioles are down to a best-of-three series now, and I’m not sure Buck Showalter would rather have anyone on the mound in Game Three tonight than the man scheduled to start: right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. He embodies the Orioles, the out of nowhere surprise that continues to look more and more like he belongs with each passing week.

Gonzalez, 28, signed with the Orioles as a minor league free agent after spending a few seasons in the Red Sox’s farm system. They originally claimed him from the Angels in the Rule 5 Draft back in 2008. Gonzalez took advantage of the opportunity the Orioles gave him by pitching to a 1.61 ERA (1.79 FIP) in 44.2 innings with their Triple-A affiliate. With their pitching staff in need, Baltimore called him up in late-May and he has since emerged as arguably their best starter. Funny how that works.

2012 Performance vs. Yankees

Date Tm Opp Inngs Dec DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str
Jul 30 BAL NYY GS-7 W(3-2) 4 6.2 6 4 4 0 8 3 0 4.46 26 111 72
Aug 31 BAL NYY GS-7 W(6-3) 10 7.0 4 0 0 1 9 0 0 3.31 26 97 66
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2012.

The Yankees saw Gonzalez as a starter twice, and he pitched pretty well both times. Done let those four runs in 6.2 innings in late-July fool you, he held the Bombers to just two runs on four hits and zero walks in the first six innings of the game before tiring out in the seventh. Those 111 pitches were the second most of his career, and both numbers 110 and 111 were hit out of the park for homers. If Buck Showalter had gone to the bullpen two batters sooner, Gonzalez would have finished with a much prettier 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K line.

The late-August start was the best of his season by Game Score (74), a seven-inning masterpiece in which he retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced. Gonzalez’s two highest strikeout and swinging strike totals of the season came at the hands of the Yankees. Those 111 pitches in July generated 20 (!) swings and misses, one of the highest totals in all of baseball this summer. He pitched extremely well against New York in New York during the regular season.

Pitch Selection (via Brooks Baseball)

Gonzalez uses three offspeed pitches and will use them a lot, especially early in the count. Right-handers will see his low-90s fastballs and mid-80s slider while left-handers get the whole kitchen sink, including the low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball. The changeup has splitter movement, meaning it tends to dart down rather than fade away and off the plate. Hitters come up empty on more than 40% of the swings they take against the pitch (42.8%, to be exact), so if he has that working, it could be a long night for a Yankees lineup that figures to feature four lefties and two switch hitters.

Performance & Results

vs. RHB 209 0.298 5.13 12.0% 6.7% 38.4% 43.3% 18.3% 11.3%
vs. LHB 225 0.302 3.65 23.1% 9.3% 31.1% 41.9% 27.0% 8.1%

The effectiveness of the changeup shows up in Gonzalez’s strikeout splits, as he whiffed nearly twice as many left-handed batters as right-handed batters this season. The wOBA split is zero for all intents and purposes, but it’s worth noting that righties had a .214 BABIP against Gonzalez while lefties were at .310. Give him another couple hundred batters faced, and those ball-in-play results will even out. Very few pitchers (as in basically zero) sustain a near-100 point BABIP split.

Gonzalez seems like a candidate to show a reverse split going forward because of the changeup, but that is unlikely to happen all at once in Game Three. The Yankees have not just seen the Baltimore starter twice, they were dominated by him in their own building both times this season. Saying they need to be ready for the changeup, specifically the lefties, is much easier said than done. Considering how often Gonzalez likes to go to his offspeed pitches early in the count, the best approach might just be to sit on something soft earlier and swing away if he catches too much of the plate. Working the count and taking a strike or two didn’t work during the season, that’s for sure.

Estimated 2012 runs saved due to pitch framing
Win or lose, Hughes will start Game Four
  • Eddard

    And this is why Hiroki needs to throw up 6 or 7 zeroes to give us a fighting chance. That’s nothing new for him though. If Gonzalez throws a changeup they’re going to have problems. Alex will swing right through it. Granderson will be out in front of it.

    They just need 6 innings from Gonzalez and then Buck brings in Oday’s frisbee to strikeout Alex, he walks Robbie Cano, bring in Matusz to strike out Nick Swisher and get Mark Teixera to pop up, and then Johnson’s bowling ball in the 9th against the bottom of the order. They have to get the lead before Buck can get to these relievers. You won’t get to Johnson twice.

    • commerce

      Clearly Eddard has watched the Yankees this season and during this playoff round. The changeup, with 89-90 and command is enough to stifle Yankee bats. Gonzalez does that. The HR is our only answer if the guy is on.

  • Mike HC

    ”The postseason sweater. That’s what all the pitchers and most of the guys were wearing,” Gonzalez said. ”It was a great feeling. Got the chills. Got the adrenaline going, even though I wasn’t playing.”

    I’m probably reading too much into this, but I think it is a good sign for the Yanks. Hopefully he comes out over excited and the Yanks jump on him early.

    • MannyGeee

      we are definitely ruling this out as a distinct possibility. 6 months ago this kid was pitching in Tuskaloo on $1 hot dog night, now he’s starting a playoff game in Yankee Stadium? got to do SOMETHING to the nerves, right? RIGHT???!?!?!?!

      • Eddard

        Monday night it was 19-10 vs 0-0 and 0-0 won. Gonzalez will be ready. The best chance to jump a pitcher is always early before he can get settled in. If they can’t get him early he’ll mow us down.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          The best chance to jump a pitcher is when his back is turned and it’s dark outside.

      • TomH


      • commerce

        So many times, dating back to the Torre days, we assumed that the kid up from A ball or out of indie ball, would be hammered by the Bombers–until, more times than I like, we got stuffed.

        Control, an 89-90 FB, a dinky curve, and the killer, the CU, takes care of the Yankees. This is not your older bro’s offense of the ’90’s.

  • MannyGeee

    this bums me out. I liked the Orioles when they weren’t magically good all of the sudden. I just hope they just go hard at him early.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Screw Miguel Gonzalez and, for Eddard’s sake, screw Mike Gonzalez as well.

    That changeup is going to get hit over the Macombs Dam Bridge tonight. Book it.

    • gc

      Then again, Eddard insisted that Chen would wilt under the big game pressure, proving once again that he’s the biggest jinx in history. So let him insist now that Gonzalez will dominate for all I care. If Eddard says one thing will happen, expect the opposite. Everything is that wacky in EddardWorld. Go Yanks!

    • commerce

      Cano is the only Yankee that can be fooled by the CU, keep his hand back, and smoke it. The CU up in the SZ can be handled by Jeter, Ichiro, Swisher, Granderson, and Martin…only Robby handles that pitch located down.

  • Brandon Mauk

    He gives up a ton of flyballs (about 43%) and his FIP and xFIP are both over a run higher than his ERA. If they can time his changeup (easier said than done) they’re going to hammer this schlub.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It really bites that this team’s never hit three home runs in a game against this guy in the past.

    • commerce

      Timing the CU is a function of recognition–only Cano (maybe Ichiro) regularly picks it up. If any pitcher keeps it down, we are finished. Only mistakes w/ other pitches will be punished by this Yankee lineup.

  • tilapa mother in law

    Anyone intrested in renting a room in the ghetto. Im evicting a deadbeat so a room with no windows that smells like home depot is available.

  • Bill

    Here’s the lineup of that 2nd start in case you want to look at it in a positive way: Jeter, Swisher, Cano, Granderson, Chavez, Ibanez, Martin, Ichiro and Nix. This is a MUCH better lineup going out there tonight. I think they’ll hit him to the tune of 3-4 runs in 5-6 innings pitched. Yanks win this game and take control of the series

    • 28 in 2012

      Arod dh instead of Ibanez tonight. Everyone cool with that?

      • Eddard

        Yep. Alex can focus on his hitting and Chavy gets a chance to get hot. If Chavy can get hot the lineup becomes that much better.

        • 28 in 2012

          Ibanez against Gonzalez 2-6 1HR, hot bat, 3 game series, just saying…

          • Mike

            And Swisher is 0-6 with 5 K’s. Of course these are all small sample sizes though. I still would have liked to have seen Ibanez in the lineup, although I can’t complain about Chavez being in it.

      • commerce

        If Alex even had a swing that was reminiscent of a baseball swing, I’d be fine w/ it regardless of his 1-10 in this series. He just doesn’t have a chance when taking a power cut. Most of his hits this second half were singles; not because he has lost his power, but because his stroke is badly flawed as evidenced by his S & M rate and his subsequent “dance” as he stumbles toward the left-hand hitters’ box (like someone trying to catch up w/ his upper body after stubbing his toe).

        Politically, JoeG is diffident on the question of moving Alex down in the order or to the pine.

  • Matt DiBari

    Yankees facing a changeup artist actually makes me physically flinch now.

    • TomH

      Absolutely! This must be Axisa’s most gloom-inducing post of the 2012 season.

      If they lose, I, for one, have almost no confidence in Hughes tomorrow. He’s not a money pitcher.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        He’s clearly not referred to as “BIG GAME” as much as David Phelps is.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        This must be Axisa’s most gloom-inducing post of the 2012 season.

        Yeah, I read it and all I could think was “Oh shit!

      • commerce

        Hughes isn’t “money”; however, he has the ability to shut people down. This is one game…he was brilliant in relief of Clemens in ’07, yeoman in ’09 out of the pen in postseason and has pitched stellar games against strong lineups in the AL East…consistent, no, capable, yes!

  • pop

    whats the vegas line on this game?

  • Zack

    Swisher should be benched for this game. Take a chance with Raul’s defense,his bat will be far more valuable then Swisher’s will be.

    • Mike

      I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all.

      • Joe

        Nor would I. But the clowns that all comment on each others post will say wawa small sample size, wawa he walks.

  • JScott

    I gather nobody is ready to play the “Gardner Card” at this time, at least versus RHPs? Me…I’d do it.