When Jason Motte gave up a 9th inning home run to Paul Goldschmidt last night, a good portion of Cardinal Nation on the tweeter machine questioned everything from the pitch selection to the height of Motte’s socks. While hindsight may indeed be 20/20, the postmortem approach to analyzing pitch outcomes still leaves some questions unanswered. Fortunately, we all live in a day and age in which “guessing” equates to “analysis”, so let’s make some uneducated guesses just for fun.
- Against Miguel Montero, Motte’s pitch sequence included 2 four seam fastballs, a cutter, and what appeared to be an attempt at a changeup. Both the cutter and changeup missed the zone, but his 4 seam fastball looked fairly solid. Montero eventually struck out looking on a ball that appeared to be just slightly off the plate.
- The strikeout brought up Goldschmidt who hit a home run on the 9th pitch of his at-bat. Credit here goes to Goldschmidt for pushing Motte that far after swinging strikes on the 1st and 4th pitches of the at-bat. As Motte went deeper into the at-bat, Goldschmidt looked to be getting his timing down on Motte’s four seam fastball which Motte was elevating into the middle of the zone. The home run was hit off of a high cutter that simply failed to “cut”. Again, credit here goes to Goldschmidt for hitting a mistake by a major league closer.
- Chris Young went up looking for a fastball and got it. Location wasn’t an issue, either. Motte put a 96 mph fastball just over knee high on the very outside edge of the plate, and Young tagged it.
NOW GUESSING: Some may find it worth noting that Motte’s cutter averages about 2.30 inches of horizontal movement and -24.32 inches of vertical movement while traveling an average of about 90 mph. The 5 cutters thrown to Goldschmidt had only an average horizontal break of 0.07 and a vertical break of 2.37. The fastest cutter of the night may have actually been a two seam fastball that showed up as a 92.7 mph cutter.
MORE GUESSING: Nothing in the release point or spin rate data supports the conclusion that Motte was substantially different last night than any other night. The velocity and movement information imply that maybe he was simply having a bad outing. His velocity was in the normal range (for Motte anyway; not for regular humans), and he simply was beaten on a cutter by a guy with serious home run power.
Obviously, some people will still question the pitch selection. Not me. Goldschmidt starting jumping on the four seam fastball, and Motte simply tried to get him with a cutter that missed location. These things happen. Sometimes they even happen to a guy who can hit triple digits on the gun. Sometimes they happen to guys who have a 2.90 ERA in 261 appearances over 5 seasons. Even a guy with a ridiculously low 0.967 WHIP, a really high SO/9 of 10.3, and an 84% save percentage on the season gets hit occasionally. Motte got nailed twice last night, but he’s been the hammer far more frequently.
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and move forward.
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Image and pitch data courtesy of Brooksbaseball.net.