Jedd Gyorko: Process and Results

Last evening I was at a meeting so I missed the start of the series finale between the Padres and Brewers. Out of the house, and on the go, it was twitter that I turned to for game information. I first checked the game during the bottom of the 2nd inning and I was immediately greeted by tweets of, “That’s so Padres!” and “What is Gyorko thinking?!” I’m paraphrasing here,  but if you were on twitter, then you know what I’m talking about. But why the painful rejoinders (aside from the usual reasons) from Padres fans on this particular play?

  1. Well, the bases were loaded, with zero outs.
  2. Chris Denorfia had just walked on four pitches from Brewers’ pitcher, Marco Estrada.
  3. Jedd Gyorko came out swinging at the first pitch and lined in to a double play.

Bummer.

Gyorko, what were you thinking!? Man, that’s so Padres! Look I did it too.

Shortly after the play I saw a tweet, that questioned Jedd Gyorko’s approach at the plate. This observation/accusation led me to an important inner-monologue that I shall sum-up in the following way: CONTEXT!

What was the context of Gyorko’s AB, aside from the bullet points listed above?

Context

In this game situation there are additional factors to consider. Such as:

  • Prior to Chris Denorfia’s 4 pitch walk how did the previous two batters (Alonso and Quentin) reach base? Did they too walk on 4 pitches? Did they walk at all?
  • If they didn’t walk did they reach base after ABs where Marco Estrada looked particularly wild?
  • What kind of a pitcher is Marco Estrada? Has he walked a lot of batters this year? What about historically?
  • Did Jedd Gyorko chase a pitch that was a marginal strike or out of the strike zone entirely?

These questions are important to ask. And I’m not just talking about the overly critical fans – these are also questions that Jedd Gyorko must ask (aside from the last one) and ultimately the answers he finds will determine his approach.

The Answer!

So how about those answers? Let’s take a look at baseball-reference.com’s game log from last night as well as Marco Estrada’s season and career numbers:

  • Prior to Chris Denorfia neither Carlos Quentin or Yonder Alonso had walked (both reached base by single). Unless the guys went all-Vlad-Guerrero out there, then we can assume (you saw it, I didn’t)  that Marco Estrada was finding the plate.
  • So Estrada had allowed two singles prior to the walk. Quentin saw two pitches, singling on the second one, and Alonso came out first-pitch-swinging and singled to RF. Marco Estrada allowed two hits and had thrown zero balls before trying to get really fine with Chris Denorfia.
  • Who is Marco Estrada? He’s a 29 year old Mexican who has a BB/9 of 1.8 in 2013. In 2012 it was 1.9. If you want a comparison, Edinson Volquez’ BB/9 is currently 3.6 in 2013 down from 5.2 in 2012. Edinson Volquez walks guys. Marco Estrada, not so much.
  • Jedd Gyorko made an out. It wasn’t a dribbler to the pitcher. It wasn’t an outside pitch that was topped to the SS for an easy 6-4-3 double play. It was a line drive right at the SS. Unfortunately Yonder Alonso is not the greatest base runner and was doubled off of 2B.

So did Jedd blow it?

The results don’t look good in a box score and they certainly didn’t look good to those following on twitter. But did Jedd Gyorko have any reason to believe that Marco Estrada would not be able to fire strikes with the bases loaded and zero out in the bottom of the 2nd inning? No, I don’t think so.

In fact, I think Gyorko should have been expecting a strike and at that time it’s simply a matter of whether or not it’s “Jedd Gyorko’s pitch – his strike“. It sounds to me like Jedd Gyorko got what he wanted and hit it hard but unfortunately the results weren’t there. But with that type of approach . . . they will be.

***

If you go to twitter look at @woedoctor’s timeline. He also weighed-in on the matter.

I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM where I offer random thoughts 7 days a week

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  • I blame Alonso’s base-running, or lack thereof, more than anything else. He got caught too far off of the bag and was the only reason why the Brewers turned that from just a screaming liner to the shortstop into a double play.

    • Completely agree. On a line drive in front of you, you have to freeze there. If it lands for a hit there’s a decent chance you are going to score anyway. If not, then the bases remain loaded and there’s still no one out. Everything happened so fast so I give Alonso a bit of a break there. But, even little leaguers are taught that on a ball in the air in the infield, freeze or go back to the bag.

    • You blame Alonso for Gyorko’s approach?

      • Yes. I mean no. I don’t see why there’s all this criticism of Gyorko. He got a pitch he could hit. He hit the ball hard. He just hit it right at somebody. If he had popped it up to the SS, I could maybe see the point of questioning his approach.

  • I look at it this way; You’ve got a young hitter who is scuffling. And he knows the pitcher HAS to come after him there. And you know what? He squared-up a first-pitch fastball. The results aren’t so much important (to me, at least). It was solid contact, some of the best he’s had in recent weeks. Will Gyorko get to a point where, in a similar situation, he looks to work the count more in the future? Who knows? It will all depend on the situation. This is about a guy hunting for a fastball, hitting it on the screws and trying to crush with RISP. You can live with that — absolutely. And this is what the team preaches now — be aggressive, swing a strikes, if you get a pitch to hit, jump on it, regardless of count.

  • I would have loved for somebody to have asked Gyorko what his thought process was in that situation, just to see if it squared with the theories thrown about. Now, how about what possessed Alonso to stray that far off the bag on a line drive to an infielder directly in front of him during a bases loaded, no-out situation…?

    • Geoff Young

      I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow, but for me, Alonso’s baserunning was *the* issue on that play. If Gyorko sees the same pitch in the same situation, I hope he attacks it again. And I hope whoever is on second base has a little better awareness.

      • Couldn’t agree more.

  • What is ironic was the one hit that Jedd did have last night was on his worst hit ball. The only thing you can really ask of a batter is to attempt to do what they have some control over, find a pitch that they believe they can hit hard. Jedd did that. Which is why I, and others responded on Twitter to the tweet by Steve getting on him. ( I am making my first forays in the brave new world of Twitter.).
    I would be much more concerned if he was not going up to the plate and not looking for a fastball to hit. That is a problem.
    As always, nice article.

  • I think important to separate the Alonso gaffe and Gyorko first-pitch swing. Cause and result? Sure,but it gets too far off-topic here. Bryant has a good point and I would have asked postgame but players scattered fast and I didn’t see him. A good follow-up question, though.

    • Honestly, I feel that the argument about whether swinging first-pitch after a four-pitch walk is acceptable is applied more as an unwritten rule. Corey, if you do get the opportunity to ask Gyorko what he was thinking I hope you do, as that’s the only way to know what exactly he was thinking. But from my viewpoint it feels like a smart decision and I would hope he’d use that opportunity to be aggressive – regardless of the outcome.

      Going into last night, Gyorko had seen a lower percentage of fastballs than all but 19 other Major League hitters. Estrada, as noted above, is known for his control and his fastball has been pedestrian thus far in 2013 – lower in velocity, generating less whiffs, and getting absolutely tagged (.379 TAv). I’m sure that’s on the scouting reports and I’m sure Gyorko saw an opportunity, following a four-pitch walk and nowhere for Estrada to put him, to sit dead-red on the fastball.

      He got an 89-MPH cookie in the middle of the zone and he drove it. It just happened to be right at the guy. If you stress the results over the decision, he’s going to press and the outcome won’t stabilize. Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps blanket statements about situational awareness are the wrong way to address the problem.

  • Axion

    knee-jerk reactions to a first pitch swing based entirely on the outcome and “that’s so padres” make me an anti-social padres fan.

  • Melvin

    I’m the kind of fan who will cheer for a Padre line-out because it meant good process and sulk a bit after a Padre swinging bunt that accidentally becomes a hit. It’s just how I see the game. Line-outs don’t bother me.