It’s been an exciting year to be a Reds fan. We’ve been able to return to the stadium, we’ve had great performances from our players and we’re in the playoff hunt! Part of the excitement and success of this season has been the stellar performances from the Reds rookies, headlined by Jonathan India’s stellar campaign for Rookie of the Year.
Vladimir Gutierrez is another rookie who has found success in his limited playing time. Over the span of the 17 games he has played in, his Win/Loss record (terrible metric for measuring pitchers) is 9-5. His ERA is a solid 4.03, roughly 19% better than league average. So far, he’s been a solid starter on any Major League team.
So if he’s so good, what the heck went wrong in Miami?
Quality of Outcome vs. Quality of Performance
Vladimir Gutierrez is a great example of how traditional pitcher stats don’t always paint the best picture of how well a player is performing. For example, let’s use an extreme hypothetical scenario. It’s possible for a pitcher to throw a complete perfect game, with every out being a robbed home run. At the end of the game, that pitcher would have a 0.00 ERA and WHIP for the night. He had great outcomes, but that doesn’t necessarily means he was pitching well.
While the above example is certainly extreme, it demonstrates how outcome stats aren’t the best way to evaluate players. A better metric would be to look at more predictive stats, such as expected ERA, strikeout percentage and spin rate. Regardless of the outcome, these provide a better look at how well the player is actually performing.
So, how well has Gutierrez performed for the year?
These numbers aren’t terrible. They’re certainly better than the above mentioned hypothetical pitcher only getting outs on robbed home runs. However, they’re not great. The most glaring weakness in Gutierrez’s game is his strikeout percentage. He’s only striking out 7 hitters per 9 innings, good for the 14th percentile in MLB. This poor swing and miss rate is likely due to a poor fastball spin rate and velocity. Simply put, he throws a very hittable fastball. He does have an above average curveball, though, which has helped him to be successful. His combination of a solid curveball with his fastball has resulted in limiting hard contact against him. This lack of hard contact has been a major contributor to his success so far.
With that background in mind, let’s look at Gutierrez’s start in Miami.
Gutierrez did not pitch well last night. He pitched three innings, throwing 67 pitches and giving up 5 earned runs. Of those 67 pitches, only 4 resulted in a swing and a miss.
Let’s compare his individual pitch mix against his 2021 average.
Overall, there’s not a significant difference here. For each of his primary pitches, his average velocity and spin rate were very close to his career norms. His fastball was getting slightly higher than average horizontal break, but other than that, no major differences stand out here.
Vladimir Gutierrez has gotten solid results during his rookie season. However, quality of outcome does not always equate quality of performance. When we dive into the metrics, we learn that Gutierrez isn’t a bad pitcher, but he’s not particularly exceptional either. Leaning on the law of averages, one could conclude that he was due for a rough outing. Unfortunately for the Reds, that rough outing was last night.
Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire