July 2, 2013
What You Need to Know
No Trouble with the Curve
The Monday Takeaway
Their poor outings, both on the road against teams with struggling offenses, were pretty much simultaneous with deficits and concerns mounting. Gallardo was lit up by the Nationals as Bryce Harper went deep in his first at-bat back from the disabled list, and he wasn’t yanked until after he gave up eight runs in three innings. Flipping channels, you saw the Reds teeing off on Kickham for seven runs on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings.
For the Brewers, who are going nowhere, the problem is obvious. They don’t have a great farm system, and Gallardo was one of the pieces they seemingly could trade to get out of what appears to be a rut even with Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura’s emergence. This outing definitely didn’t help.
For the Giants, the problem is decidedly more complicated. Much was made even last year when they were winning the World Series about their lack of a sixth starter, whether they were fortunate not to need one as in 2012 or struggling without one in 2013.
Just looking at production, the Giants’ rotation has fallen from fourth in the National League in ERA last year to 13th this year. Using FRA or other peripheral-based stats paint a slightly better picture in places, but they’re still going to be in the market for upgrades at the deadline.
The problem, though, is how many it’s going to take to make this a competitive rotation again. Staff-wide, they’ve gone the wrong direction.
The good news is that nobody is running away with the National League West. Their loss, combined with the Diamondbacks’ loss, still only put them three games back of first place with 80 to play. The bad is that now they’re looking for a seventh starter and maybe an eighth, having made no progress over the last couple years even to develop a sixth.
Matchup of the Day
Arguably the best matchup within this matchup is Clayton Kershaw vs. Carlos Gonzalez—Cy Young candidate vs. Silver Slugger candidate. As division rivals, they’ve met plenty of times, the latter seeing 109 pitches from the former. And a very curious pattern has developed.
Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter with a pretty defined platoon split, is still an excellent hitter against lefties when he swings at curveballs. So the play here is to keep it pretty fastball- and slider-heavy, as you’ll see from his slugging percentages against the three pitches Kershaw uses on lefties.
Gonzalez vs. LHP
So the play here is not to use the curveball much, maybe waste one or use it to keep the batter honest. Or, at least, it would be for most pitchers who have caught on. Kershaw has taken it to a different level. He has never, in their 109-pitch history against each other, thrown Gonzalez a curveball.
A couple things we know about Kershaw: He does throw curveballs to left-handed hitters—10.22 percent in his career and, remarkably, the exact same percentage to two decimal places this year. Also, it’s not like Gonzalez has caught him in games when he’s been reluctant to use it. Teammate Todd Helton, who has the fifth-most plate appearances against Kershaw among left-handed hitters, has seen curveballs, again, 10 percent of the time.
But against Gonzalez, it’s an exaggerated repertoire playing to the slugger’s weaknesses.
As a result, Gonzalez has never been a good hitter against Kershaw. The last time they met, in 2012, Gonzalez homered on both a fastball and a slider for his first extra-base hits in the history of the matchup. Kershaw got him back with a three-pitch strikeout in May, and tonight, with more on the line than we could have expected, they meet again.
What to Watch for on Tuesday