'Inside' Evan Gattis' red-hot start 

April, 12, 2013

Evan Gattis has been destroying baseballs for the last calendar year, and it hasn't mattered whether he was playing in the minor leagues, winter ball or against the Philadelphia Phillies.

He is hitting everything, from a stance that seems very Barney Rubble-esque. Gattis is large, at about 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, stands with a slightly open stance and a crouch and doesn't wear batting gloves. It's like he's swinging a sledgehammer, and from that setup, he has blasted everything on the inner half of the plate, such as this pitch against the Marlins on Wednesday night.

Now the onus falls on the pitchers around the league to try to make adjustments, and you can bet that scouts, pitchers, catchers and pitching coaches are working to come up with a plan on how to beat Gattis at the plate. This is the rhythm of adjustments in the big leagues: For each player having success, there are dozens who are looking for a way to neutralize him. The same thing is happening with Chris Davis, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Upton.

The following numbers from Justin Havens of ESPN Research confirm that Gattis is destroying everything on the inner half (while hitting pretty well on everything):

Inner half: .545 BA; 1.765 OPS

Outer half: .250 BA; .808 OPS

Upper half: .357 BA; 1.143 OPS

Lower half: .444 BA; 1.434 OPS

I asked ESPN MLB analyst Curt Schilling for a diagnosis of Gattis as well as what kind of pitching plan he would implement against him. Schilling indicated that he would need more information to develop a complete plan, based on swing percentage and whether the inner-half damage was on fastballs or soft stuff.

"I'd definitely start him like I did 99% of the guys in the big leagues -- fastball away," Schilling wrote in an email. "No one can protect both sides at 93 mph+ -- no one. What I'd do is start him away, and when ahead I'd work splitters middle in, since the split is a ball that never ends up a strike. You give him a ball in the 'area' he wants it, but when it arrives, it's no longer in that area."

ESPN Stats & InformationHeat map of Evan Gattis' plate appearances during the 2013 season. Red indicates higher OPS.
Schilling referenced the hot-zone chart (right) that Havens sent along.

"I will bet you dollars to donuts that red in is not power red," Schilling wrote. "And if you notice, that blue spot at the hands? That's definitely where I'd go late count. Basically I'd start him away first at-bat, then pound him in off middle, then try to close away.

"With the second at-bat, I'd start away, and stay away, because after that 1st at-bat, he's going to have felt my 95 on his hands and will be wanting to get started early. So he spends at-bat No. 2 looking in, but I never give him anything there.

"Now on the third at-bat, he knows I am going away early, so I start with a curveball, or slider -- a curveball if he's cheating, slider if he's diving, because with the slider he ends up rolling over. But after that first strike, I beat the crap out of him corner in, and off, because at that point he THINKS I am going away at some point, and when you throw 93+ and you have a hitter thinking one side, he can't get to the other."

The Nationals will have their own thoughts Friday regarding how to pitch to Gattis, because the one thing he has shown is that no pitcher can keep throwing him fastballs inside. Every day in Major League Baseball, it's all about adjustments.

Fight fallout

With the Dodgers leading the Padres 2-1 in the sixth inning and the count 3-2, there was no chance that Zack Greinke was trying to hit Carlos Quentin on purpose.