Darin Gorski had a rough Wednesday afternoon. He he had trouble throwing strikes. I counted 48 pitches, of which 25 were balls. (I might have missed a pitch or two – Adam Rubin had him at 49 pitches.) Either way, Gorski’s strike percentage was under 50%. By my count, he threw first-pitch strikes to just five of the 12 hitters he faced.
Gorski acknowledged his location was not sharp and it was a problem: “It was just a matter of some close misses and not really having the fastball command that I wanted, but it’s still early so it’s something to work on,” he said after the game. As for why he struggled, “Maybe [I was] trying to be bit too fine. Could be a little bit of the approach and being able to find that command.”
His two part cure: mechanically “keep everything smooth and consistent and go from there” and in approach, be “aggressive in the zone.”
Gorski’s fastball was anywhere from 85-90 on the Tradition Field stadium radar gun which today matched the scouts’ guns behind home plate exactly. He touched 90 once, but mostly worked at 86-88 mph.
His changeup at 79 mph remains his best weapon. He has good armspeed with the offering and a little sink. I have notes on at least eight changups, and I think that he threw a few more, giving changeup usage of at least 16% (and I think closer to 20%). By the standards of Major League pitchers, that would put him in the most changeup reliant category were he to maintain that rate all year. In fact, the list of the top eight guys who threw the most changups in 2012 includes a whole bunch of lefties who share Gorski’s profile with a fastball around 88 mph (more or less): Mark Buehrle (less – 85 mph), Jason Vargas, Chris Capuano, Cole Hamels (more – 91 mph) and Tommy Milone. Again, lefties who do not light up radar guns can carve out careers by keeping batters honest with their changeups and fastball command.
Gorski used his changeup early in counts and often in classic hitter’s counts like 1-0 and 2-1 when other pitchers would throw their fastball. This usage was very conscious, as Gorski said of his changeup, “It’s how I keep guys off the fastball. I’m trying to make that pitch work for me in certain counts.”
That preceding list of lefties though, all feature above average Major League control. Their career walk rates: Beuhrle (5.4%), Vargas (7.2%) -and 6.7% and below in each of the last four years – Capuano (7.4%), Hamels (6.1%) and Milone (4.4%). Gorski last year at AA: 8.5%.
Gorski showed a short curveball at 74. He’s tightened up the offering in the last few years, and I liked it better than the sweepier slider he used to throw. He did not use it very much, focusing on his fastball/changeup combo.
So, a lefty like Gorski, can have success working off a fastball averaging 88 mph, needs 1. to throw his changeup a lot, and 2. keep runners off the base paths via above average walk rates. Wednesday, when he walked three batters, and did not strike out a single one, in two plus innings he did one of the two.
Of course, this outing took place on February 27 in a game that did not matter. Gorski, who spent all of 2012 at AA, is not really pitching to make the big league team. Rather, in addition to preparing for his AAA season, he’s learning what does, and does not work against Major League caliber hitter. Hint: it helps to throw strikes.