There was a discussion on Twitter today between myself and David Martin of Rockies Review (@RockiesReview). David believed that Jhoulys Chacin was flustered, rushed his pitches and even goes so far as to say he tips his pitches (I would like to read some proof of that…what is he doing to tip? Or is that just an assertion to get attention?). Martin’s belief is that Chacin could have avoided those two home runs allowed after Carlos Gonzalez blew two easy fly balls in left field due to issue with the sun.
*Maybe classifying those fly balls as “easy” is rough, but a Gold Glove winning outfielder had better well know how to deal with a bit of sunlight in baseball!
I contest that both pitches that resulted in home runs were quality pitches and the Pirates just flat out beat him. They weren’t fastballs up in the zone (as Martin insinuates by saying Chacin abandoned off speed stuff) and if a batter just golfs a ball off of the plate for a home run that is far from the pitchers fault.
The first at-bat that resulted in a home run was with Garrett Jones in the batter’s box in the fifth inning, after CarGo botched the second fly ball in a row. Martin says that the pitch was low but over the middle of the plate and I argued that it was low and inside.
This picture shows that the ball was not as low as I thought when Jones made contact, but it was certainly low.
According to PitchFX the ball barely caught the bottom of the zone.
This is not a bad pitch. Typically pitches at the bottom of the zone, especially those breaking downward, are not smashed over the fences but rather pounded into the ground.
Martin also says that there wasn’t enough difference in velocity between Chacin’s fastball and his breaking pitches but Chacin was still topping 90 mph on his 91st pitch followed by a pitch that was 89 mph and then a breaking ball that hit 77 mph on the radar gun.
Ideally a pitcher has 10 mph between his breaking stuff and his fastball but not all pitchers are fortunate to have that sort of difference in velocity – if they all did they would all be top of the rotation pitchers. Late in the game data shows that Chacin still had 10+ mph velocity difference in his pitches.
In the two pitches Jones saw the first was 89 mph and the gopher ball was clocked at 84. Not great, no doubt but if Chacin was overthrowing (thus the rather rapid changeup at 84 mph) wouldn’t his fastball also travel faster? Chacin touched 91 mph on his first pitch to Nate McLouth earlier in the inning. Chacin didn’t touch 90 at any point the rest of the inning.
In Chacin’s face off against Pedro Alvarez his pitches ranged from 78 mph on his first pitch to 88/89 on pitches 3-5 and then the pitch Alvarez hit out of the park was 77 mph or 11-12 mph difference in velocity from his previous three pitches. No sign of overthrowing here and if Chacin was flustered after CarGo misplayed the two fly balls wouldn’t he be even more flustered and off his game after allowing a 2-run home run after those two misplays?
The data just doesn’t support he was over throwing anything and/or abandoning his off speed pitches. And, again, I have yet to read anything from anyone that Chacin is tipping pitches. Maybe that is coming?
Now for the Alvarez home run. Here is the first picture and again it is low and this time the pitch is just inside, but close enough to call over the center of the plate.
But look at Hernandez’s glove again, this ball was breaking hard downward and towards Alvarez’s back foot. Not an easy pitch to hit out of the park (although many will say that left hand batters handle the low and inside pitch well and maybe this is an example – times two – of that old baseball adage).
Here is the plot from PitchFX in which the homer was hit:
That is catching a lot of the plate, but look at the location of the other pitches. To take it a step further look at the break. The pitched moved over 10 inches in horizontal break! TEN INCHES!
I will conceded to Martin that both pitches caught more of the plate than I had originally thought, but will definitely not agree with anything that says either pitch was bad. Both were low and both had a lot of break. In Jones’ at-bat there weren’t enough pitches thrown to establish any sort of velocity range but in Alvarez’s at-bat there was plenty of difference in pitch velocity.
I think Martin is trying to stir the pot.
If you ask me, and if you read all of this you must have some interest in my option, nothing can be said negatively about Chacin in that inning. If CarGo catches those two fly balls Chacin gets out of the fifth and doesn’t even see Jones and Alvarez. Who knows what happens in the sixth? Maybe they both come out and homer anyway? But we will never know and placing the blame, any or all of it, on Chacin for today’s loss is total misplaced.