Jaime Garcia goes to his sinker more often than any other pitch, but he may want to abandon it against Paul Goldschmidt today.
We’ve never really been able to answer the following question: “If a pitcher is most comfortable throwing right into the batter’s strength, how much should he change his strategy to avoid giving the batter what he wants?” Unfortunately, it’s one that the Mike Matheny, Yadier Molina (or Eric Fryer), and Jaime Garcia are going to have to figure out before Paul Goldschmidt steps into the box today.
Throughout his career, Garcia has thrown his sinker to right-handed batters about 37 percent of the time, which is more often than any other pitch in his repertoire by at least ten percentage points. That makes sense; a sinker from a left-handed pitcher should be tough to hit for right-handed batters. The pitch tails down and away, and should be pretty easy to miss or beat into the ground.
Wainwright: "Jaime (Garcia) has a swing-and-miss sinker."
— Jonathan Huskey (@jonathanhuskey) October 10, 2015
But then there’s this from Paul Goldschmidt against southpaws, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:
Against Sinker: 102 ABs, .451 BAA, .892 SLG, 11 HRs, 8 Ks, 4.4 percent whiff rate
Against Fourseam: 178 ABs, .343 BAA, .629 SLG, 13 HRs, 39 Ks, 7.6 percent whiff rate
Against Changeup: 106 ABs, .330 BAA, .500 SLG, 4 HRs, 22 Ks, 10.9 percent whiff rate
Against Slider: 90 ABs, .200 BAA, .356 SLG, 3 HRs, 44 Ks, 16.2 percent whiff rate
Against Curveball: 71 ABs, .225 BAA, .451 SLG, 3 HRs, 13 Ks, 6.4 percent whiff rate
Those are Goldschmidt’s career numbers against each of the pitches that Garcia can throw in order of how often he uses them against right-handed batters.
The pretty clear trend is that Goldschmidt does better against the pitches that Garcia throws more often. The numbers seem to indicate that throwing a slider or changeup more often against the Diamondbacks’ best hitter would be the best way to pitch him. If only baseball were that simple.
Everything was going well for Chad Green. Then Paul Goldschmidt hit a ball to Tucson.
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) May 17, 2016
Pitchers prefer to go with something harder at the beginning of the at-bat, which means that they are most likely using fastballs and sinkers to set up those sliders that Goldschmidt is having trouble with. Those breaking pitches may not be as effective on the first pitch of the at-bat.
Either way, though, it seems like a bad idea to attack Goldschmidt with sinkers early in the count. If Garcia tries to set up the slider with sinkers against him, there is a low chance that he will get to the count that he wants. As the minuscule whiff rate against sinkers shows, Garcia won’t be able to sneak one of those by him, so the lefty will need a different plan of attack.
My suggestion would be to go to the changeup early in the count and then use the fourseam fastball to change speeds. The changeup has given Goldschmidt some problems so far, and it’s much easier to control than a slider or some other pitch with more movement. This would allow Garcia to throw a pitch that he can control well enough to get ahead without giving Goldschmidt exactly what he wants to hit.
Once he throws the changeup early, he’ll still need to mix speeds, so that’s where he’ll need to use his fastball wisely. It would be smart to throw a fastball inside and off the plate somewhat frequently in order to keep him honest. Garcia can’t just throw offspeed and breaking pitches, or else Goldschmidt will eventually time one of those and get the barrel on it.
Pitching against Goldschmidt is always complicated, but it is even more so when he has a tendency to hit your best pitch out of the park. So far, Goldschmidt is 2 for 9 with a double, three walks, and three strikeouts against Garcia, so the Cardinals’ lefty has had some success against the All-Star.
Sustaining that success means that he’ll need to find a way to get to his slider. In order to do that, he may need to eschew his favorite pitch for something that Goldschmidt won’t enjoy seeing as much. The Cardinals’ coaching staff has a much better idea of how to pitch the stud first baseman than I do, but allowing Garcia to fall into the habit of using the sinker too much may not be a good idea against the Diamondbacks’ best hitter.
Photo captured by Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports