Over the first 10 starts of the season Vladimir Gutierrez had his ups-and-downs, much like you’d expect from a rookie. But in that span he seemed to be getting by at times by the skin of his teeth, as they say. He had just three starts with at least six strikeouts, and in total he had 25 walks and 37 strikeouts in 54.1 innings while giving up 11 home runs. The peripherals would have suggested a much worse outcome than a 4.97 ERA in that stretch.
He went eight days between his 10th start and his 11th start. And since then things have changed in a big way for the Cuban-born right-handed starter. In the six starts since he’s posted a 1.86 ERA while allowing just three home runs in 38.2 innings, walking just 10 batters, and he’s struck out 36.
Home runs are way down. Walks are way down. Strikeouts are way up. That’s a good recipe for improvement.
The big difference could be that he’s throwing less curveballs and more change ups. In those first 10 starts his curveball was his choice 22% of the time and he threw the change up just 8% of the time. But in the last six starts he’s thrown the curveball just 14% of the time and gone to the change up 15% of the time. Both his fastball and slider selection has remained the same in both stretches. Basically, he’s doubled the usage of his change up at the expense of throwing fewer curveballs.
While it’s tough to directly link that to the change in his batted ball profile without taking a very deep dive into things, his groundball rate has gone from 38% in that first 10-game stretch to 47% over the last six games. That’s going from below league average to above-league average when it comes to generating ground balls.
Baseball is about adjusting to what is and what isn’t working. Gutierrez seems to have found something that is working very well right now.
Tyler Naquin wins Player of the Week
Tyler Naquin has been killing the ball for the last 12 games. In that span he’s hit .457/.500/.935 with five doubles, a triple, and five home runs. On Monday he was named the National League Player of the Week. In the seven games last week he hit .500/.552/1.154 while scoring nine runs, driving in five, and walked more than he struck out.
His recent run has pushed his season line up to .268/.333/.482 with 22 doubles, a triple, and 18 home runs. Naquin has even added in five stolen bases for good measure. That’s not a bad run for a guy who was seen as arguably, at best, the 4th outfielder when the season began.