Posts Tagged ‘Dustin McGowan’
McGowan and Janssen both pitched well in their first game of the year, which lead to an article in the Globe today in which Gibbons revealed that even the umps were impressed by McGowan last year:
“I don’t know how many times it happened but I’ll guarantee you it was five or six times, when you take him out of the game, the umpire would walk over as I’m coming off the field and say, ‘You know, this kid has got some kind of arm,’”
Not only were they in love with Dusty, but they gave him presents all season. McGowan had about 1 extra call per game go his way over the season (the complete list for pitchers is here). That may not sound like a lot, but over 27 games it would save him about 4 runs [(27 calls)*(.14 runs/pitch; for a explanation of runs/pitch, there's a good explanation of linear weights in that Hardball Times article I mentioned the other day], without which his ERA would have risen from 4.08 to 4.27.
I know, talking about about 1/5 of a run per game is kind of lame when the kid throws 98 on a regular basis and has the kind of offspeed stuff you might name a child after. But it’s interesting that they gave him the benefit of the doubt when most power pitchers tend to get the shaft, while it’s usually guys like the Doc who get the call (more in this old post).
My turn to gush
I’m going to put this prediction in print because with all the talk about him being a #2 soon, a dark horse Cy Young, etc, someone else is going to say it first: Dustin McGowan will pitch in the All-Star game this year. Heck, he doesn’t even have to improve much over last year after his first 4 starts (when he really should still have been in AAA- hey, J.P. was right about taking it slow *cough* Lind *cough*).
McGowan didn’t just figure out how to throw his pitches in 2007, he figured out how to pitch. In the Globe article, he mentions a start when he figured out he had to stop picking at corners. To me, another big moment was when he came out without his good Curveball one start and got rocked because he refused to throw it. Hitters sat on his fastball and Zaun and Gibbons publicly chewed him out. Then a couple of starts later he couldn’t hit a barn door with it once again, but didn’t shake it off when Zaun called for it and managed to keep batters guessing enough to put up a quality (if not incredible) start.
There was an interview with Halladay during his Cy Young season when he said (numbers made up but close) that about 5-6 games a year all his pitches are perfect from the get-go, and it doesn’t matter who he’s facing, nobody is going to touch him. Another 10-12, he’s got most of his stuff working and it’s all about having a plan and putting a good game together. Then another 8-10 or so he’s got one good pitch and another that comes and goes that he can work with.
The rest of the time he’s got absolutely nothing out there and has to figure out how to fake his way through a complete start. To me, that’s the difference between a pitcher and a thrower, a phenom (*cough* Burnett *cough*) and an ace, and even a glimpse of Dusty developing that ability last year is enough to start planning statues in his honour.
Now that the time of year has come where all that’s left to do as Toronto Blue Jays fans is look back at the season wistfully and cheer for whichever team is facing the Yankees, the best play/moment/game lists are making the rounds. Sure Aaron Hill’s steal of home was a great moment of jubilation, but for me everything pales in comparison to Dustin McGowan’s one-hitter.
After years of disappointment and questions about his mental composure during a rough start to the year, Dustin finally put together a series of quality starts only to get demolished by the Dodgers, blown out in under than 2 innings after 8 hits and 3 walks. But he bounced back in stunning fashion his next start and officially announced his arrival as an elite pitcher by taking a no-hitter into the 8th against a powerful Rockies lineup. Let’s take a look at how he did it.
First, here’s a another really good McGowan start for comparison. It was his first win this season (and his first in over a year), where he shut down a struggling Yankees squad for 7 2/3 innings, the only blemish a 2-run home run by Hideki Matsui that ended his night. (0,0) on these graphs are how a pitch that was not affected at all by spin would move, from the hitter’s perspective.
His pitch movement looks a lot like A.J. Burnett, except his fastballs are tailing even more. The blue dots are his curveball, the green his slider and on the other side his change-up. (If you haven’t seen one of these charts before, the middle is where a pitch with “no spin”, only gravity, would go- fastballs are up and to the left because backspin keeps them up). I was watching this game and noticed a few pitches that started inside, froze a left-handed batter by starting right at him, and then broke over the plate like a reverse slider. It was no trick of TV- his best change-ups have about as much break sideways and down as his slider (compared to his straight fastball). I hope he teaches Burnett how to throw that thing. Otherwise, pretty typical results for a power pitcher. And now here’s his “no-hit stuff”.
WOW. Not exactly the fingerprint I was expecting. His two-seamer isn’t tailing as much. His Curveball is downright terrible. His slider is breaking about as much as Jesse Litsch’s cutter. His velocity wasn’t great (coming later). So what the heck was so great about this day?? Location, location, location.
What he had was absolute command over the inner half of the plate. He threw his two-seamer almost exclusively and it broke in on the hands of righties and away from lefties. All those pitches just slightly off the plate started as strikes and then broke about 6 inches to be almost unhittable. He also threw almost all of his sliders for strikes.
The only blemish? See that arrow on both graphs? That was the one hit. After the game, Gregg Zaun said:
“He put a good swing on a really good pitch and he was able to break up the no-hitter with a legitimate line drive,” Zaun said. “I’m still kind of fighting my emotions right now, because I really wanted it for [McGowan].
Good thing to say to a disappointed young man, but it was a terrible pitch. It didn’t tail at all, though it was thrown at the speed of a 2-seamer. Zaun had not called a 4-seam fastball since the 46th pitch in the 4th inning and McGowan had thrown 6 all game to that point, so there’s not much chance that’s what it really was. Dustin was trying to go back inside with the 2-seamer that had worked all game and for whatever reason (read: nerves), it flattened out and stayed over the plate. That’s why it was a solid line drive.
So what caused this great command and loss of breaking ball? Maybe it was his release point. In his first win (and most of his other starts since then are around there), he was dropping down and to the side a lot more (although some of that vertical difference could be due to variations in where f/x has been measuring it throughout the season).
That would make sense- sometimes pitchers try to get movement on their pitches by throwing a little more sidearm, and he certainly had it in spades against the Yankees. Also notice that his curve and fastball are coming from noticeably different Horizontal spots (though I’m not sure how much an inch of difference is going to make to a batter trying to pick up a pitch). However, during his one-hitter, he was coming more over the top and all his pitches were coming from the same location:
One last thing I wanted to look at was his disaster of a start (5 innings, 6 runs, 8 hits, 3 HR) against Boston after a 10-day layoff for the all-star break. His pitches weren’t really that bad, but his velocity was way down. Here are the fastballs he threw in the last two starts mentioned as compared to his shelling at the hands of Boston. And no, that spike way downwards is not a mistake. Those were fastballs at the end of an inning that prompted a visit form Brad Arnsberg. He got out of the inning by inducing contact and came back in the next frame throwing harder.