Kevin Gausman Is Having A Strange Year

Kevin Gausman

Coming off of a scary comeback hit to the mound that went off his ankle against the Tampa Bays Rays, Gausman’s status is uncertain for the near future. That uncertainty is similar to the uncertainty someone would have in evaluating his season. Leading the league in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and HR/9 (Home Runs per 9 innings) it would seem he’s turning in one of his best seasons of his career.

While this year hasn’t been atrocious, it hasn’t been paying the same dividends as his breakout last season. He’s sitting at a 6-6 record in 16 games and an ERA of 2.86, which is not a top 10 ERA in the MLB. What’s the cause for this head-scratcher of a stretch?

Gausman’s Pitching Arsenal

Gausman does a terrific job of getting hitters to swing at pitches they have no business trying to make contact with. His split-finger pitch has given hitters fits all season long, picking up where he left off last year. This season the split-finger has given up an expected weighted on-base average of .192. Over two seasons that pitch has been his main strikeout pitch, with 64 so far this year and 138 last season.

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A pitch he throws nearly half the time is his 4-seam fastball, which hasn’t been fantastic this year. His other two pitches haven’t been fantastic either, that being his changeup and slider. He’s using his slider nearly twice as much as last year on a rate basis, which has effectively replaced his changeup. He’s only throwing a change up 2.6% of the time and it’s easy to see why, as opponents are slugging .857 against it.

Gausman’s Career Moving Forward

So what’s to take away about this odd season for Gausman? His fastball hasn’t been as effective as it was last season and his tertiary pitches are getting smacked around. He’s had a great split-finger though, picking up from the efficiency of that pitch earlier in his career.

Some of these underlying stats have me believing that bad luck has been part of this slowdown. He was overperforming a bit last season, but to lead the league in fielding-independent pitching and to be struggling in surface stats shows some things happening are out of his control.

Gausman is still one of the best in Major League Baseball in making batters chase, not giving bases up on walks, and has one of the best split-finger deliveries. He’s giving up too many hits at nearly 10 hits per 9 innings, but he’s keeping balls in the park. He’s only giving up 0.2 home runs per 9 innings this year.

With keeping the positives in mind, a worst-case scenario should not be the go-to. Once he comes back from his ankle injury I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounces back post-all-star break and/or next season. With a strange season for Gaus personally and a disappointing start for the Blue Jays overall, they need this all-star break. Keep an eye out for Gausman to bounce back soon and get over this odd hump.

Stats provided by Baseball Savant and FanGraphs.


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