Tony Gonsolin was one of the league’s biggest breakout stars last season. He pitched to a 2.14 ERA across 24 starts striking out 119 batters enroute to a 16-1 record, which is very impressive despite win loss records being relatively meaningless. The 2022 All Star is off to an even better start this year with a 1.13 ERA and 19 punch outs across 24 innings. Down below we are going to break down the starter and what Atlanta Braves hitters should be expecting come Wednesday.
Pitch #1 - Four seam - 2023 usage rate - 34.4 percent
2023 stats - .149 xBA, .277 xSLG, .214 xwOBA
Average velo - 92.6 MPH - Spin rate - 2,238 RPM - vertical movement - 15.4 inches - horizontal movement - 9.6 inches
Gonsolin’s four seam usage has taken a somewhat steady dip over the last few seasons going from 43.6 percent in 2021 to 39.1 percent last season and now at 34.4 percent. The expected metrics on this pitch looks fantastic, but there’s only been 23 batted balls against it in the early going of his season. Over the last three years he posted an xBA ranging from .255 to .277 in each season and an xSLG of .436 twice along with a .480 season. As a result, it is safe to assume that Gonsolin’s numbers are going to resort back to his average over the last three seasons, meaning he is almost due to take a step back with his four seamer in one of his upcoming starts and it very well might be this one.
Pitch #2 - Split finger - 2023 usage rate - 28.7 percent
2023 stats - .283 xBA, .457 xSLG, .373 xwOBA
Average velo - 83.4 MPH - Spin rate - 1,436 RPM - vertical movement - 38.7 inches - horizontal movement - 13.1 inches
This pitch is basically the exact opposite of his four seamer as the expected metrics are way worse than his averages on the past few seasons. The movement on the pitch is up a bit making his early season struggles with it likely an anomaly. Last season amongst his four pitches it forced the highest chase rate at 39.1 percent, 2.7 percent higher than this season’s mark. His whiff rate this season is notably down significantly at 21.1 percent, an 11.2 percent decrease from his 2022 season. Unlike his fastball, Gonsolin is likely to have a strong showing with this pitch in the near future.
Pitch #3 - Slider - 2023 usage rate - 22.5 percent
2023 stats - .221 xBA, .267 xSLG, .246 xwOBA
Average velo - 86.4 MPH - Spin rate - 2,466 RPM - vertical movement - 31.5 inches - horizontal movement - 3.1 inches
This is a pitch that Gonsolin induces a lot of soft contact with. The average exit velocity of 83.9 MPH is down 1.3 MPH from last season and 0.4 from 2021. He traditionally does a good job of getting batters to hit this pitch in the ground as well making it even more effective with a ground ball rate of 44.4 percent this season. Notably, this is Gonsolin’s most used pitch against right-handed batters with a usage rate of 34.6 percent, compared to just 9.7 percent for lefties, his lowest mark amongst his pitches.
Pitch #4 - Curveball - 2023 usage rate - 14.4 percent
2023 stats - .411 xBA, .554 xSLG, .498 xwOBA
Average velo - 81.2 MPH - Spin rate - 2,602 RPM - vertical movement - 52.9 inches - horizontal movement - 4.3 inches
There isn’t a whole lot to discuss with this pitch seeing as he’s only thrown it 58 times this season and it’s had four batted ball events. Over the past two season’s Gonsolin had about split the in zone/out of zone usage with this pitch but this year the out of zone percentage is up to 58.6 percent. The chase rate though is a lowly 11.8 percent, down five percent from last season.
Key matchup - Austin Riley - Riley is struggling to follow up on his 2021 and 2022 success as his expected metrics are down across the board. A big part of this is due to his newfound struggles against four seamers, Gonsolin’s most used pitch. As of May 22nd, his run value per 100 against them this year is -1.6, down 2.1 from last season and 3.3 from 2021. As a result, I expect Gonsolin to attack Riley with four seamers early and often in this one.
Prediction - Gonsolin throws scoreless five innings and strikes out six.