Is Matt Wieters At Fault For Kevin Gausman’s Struggles?

Is Matt Wieters At Fault For Kevin Gausman’s Struggles?

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Kevin Gausman‘s career in Major League Baseball hasn’t exactly gotten off the start we were all hoping to see. Through his first four outings, Gausman is 0-3 with a 8.84 ERA over 19.1 innings pitched. His 1.76 WHIP is much higher than the 0.99 he posted in the Eastern League and opponents are hitting .346 against the young righty.

Kevin GausmanGausman’s best start came on June 2 against that pesky Detroit Tigers lineup. The kid earned a no decision in his six innings of work, he surrendered just one earned run on five hits, walked none and struck out four. Interestingly enough, Chris Snyder caught Gausman in that start, while Matt Wieters has been behind home plate for the other three.

How long is it going to take for fans to start blaming Wieters’ pitch selection for Gausman’s subpar performances? Wait — I think they just did.

Out in St. Louis, the Cardinals promoted Michael Wacha, a right handed pitcher selected 19th overall in the 2012 MLB draft, on May 30. Wacha attended Texas A&M and made his debut for the Cards at age 21 with a 7 inning effort in which he surrendered just one earned run, handed out no free passes and struck out six against the Royals.

Many credited Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina for Wacha’s success in his first taste of the big leagues. This is a common trend in St. Louis. We hear a lot about Wieters’ game calling and defensive ability behind the plate in Baltimore. Why hasn’t Gausman seen the same sort of success as Wacha?

How much of an influence do these catchers really have on their young pitchers? Do Wieters and/or Molina really know enough about these young arms to call games effectively for them? Or are their successes or failures more a testament of how the pitcher works?

All interesting questions. I certainly believe that Wieters, like Molina, is an excellent game caller. I’ve only heard two dozen different Orioles pitchers mention it casually in various postgame interviews. The Gausman hasn’t been successful is simply because he hasn’t worked the lower third of the strikezone as effectively as he did against the Tigers. It doesn’t really matter who is behind the plate.

On Sunday, Evan Longoria hit a fastball in the middle of the zone for an RBI single in the first and Ben Zobrist drove in a run in the second on a belt-high 95 MPH pitch. Of the eight hits Gausman gave up on Saturday, only one was in the lower third of the zone according to my observations of the PITCHf/x data provided by BrooksBaseball.net.

Kevin Gausman PITCHf/x - June 8, 2013 vs. Rays

Is that Matt Wieters fault?

Look how effective he was down in the zone against the Tigers. Both double play balls were on pitches in the lower third, three of his five hits allowed were on pitches above.

Kevin Gausman PITCHf/x - June 2, 2013 vs. Tigers

It should be noted that Arizona’s offense touched Wacha up for six runs over 4.2 innings in his next outing. I don’t blame Molina for those numbers. Wacha is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Mets in New York. If he keeps the ball down in the zone, I’m sure he’ll be just fine.