Thursday, May 5, 2016

Pitching Matchup to Watch: Cinco de Mayo

Because of the short schedules on Mondays and Thursdays, I've decided to make a slight modification to the pitching matchups feature: on Mondays and Thursdays, I'll only pick one matchup (perhaps two if there are really good ones), but I'll break down the matchup a little more. Not a full-length breakdown a la my Jon Gray piece, but a little more depth than I have been giving. I think this will provide more interesting info than subjectively ranking mediocre pitching matchups. We only want to know about good pitching matchups, not mediocre ones.

Today's pick: Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 2.87 ERA) vs Kevin Gausman (0-1, 2.45 ERA)

Kevin Gausman has long teased scouts and fans with his potential, but has never really done more than tease. On the surface it may seem he's finally breaking through, with a 2.45 ERA on the season, but that ERA is a full run lower than his FIP, which is right around where it always sits. He has made a noticeable improvement to his GB rate, but overall this is the same old Gausman. He has actually taken a step backwards in terms of swinging strikes, but he's taken a substantial leap forward in first pitch strike percentage. That being the case, we would expect both his strikeout rate and walk rate to shrink, but they have actually both grown slightly. Gausman is fun to watch, with his big fastball and devastating forkball. He'll take on the sputtering Yankees offense.

Although Gausman is a fun side-show, the real draw here is Tanaka. The Yankee ace has seen a huge jump in groundballs this year, as well as a rebound in swinging strikes (which fell off last year after a strong rookie season). In addition to his effectiveness, Tanaka brings a level of entertainment, with his wide array of pitches (he throws a fastball, sinker, cutter, splitter, slider and curve). His splitter is devastating and is truly a pleasure to watch. He'll take on the Orioles offense that leads the American League in home runs.

In addition to the best pitching matchupof the day, you'll also get to see the rubber match of a three game set between AL East rivals.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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