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Statcast Pod: Marwin's improbable grand slam

May 10, 2017

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's episode of the Statcast™ Podcast. To hear more from Statcast™ expert and columnist Mike Petriello and director of content Matt Meyers, subscribe by clicking here.Petriello: We have to finish off here by inducting a new play into the

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's episode of the Statcast™ Podcast. To hear more from Statcast™ expert and columnist Mike Petriello and director of content Matt Meyers, subscribe by clicking here.
Petriello: We have to finish off here by inducting a new play into the Statcast™ Hall of Fame. Previously we put in Aaron Judge hitting the hardest-hit ball in the Statcast™ era and then before that we had Adam Rosales with the fastest inside-the-park home run trot. Each week, we are going to try to find a really interesting play. I do believe this is the first time we have ever talked about Marwin Gonzalez. The more I dug into him, the more fascinating I found him. We all remember those three straight Astros seasons with at least 100 losses and they've rebounded. They've become a really good team. He and Jose Altuve are really the only two guys that were there before that. Gonzalez came up in 2012, and he's shockingly been around all of these years.
Meyers: There are two Marwin Gonzalez things that have always interested me. One was I want to say 2013, when the Astros were about at their worst and Yu Darvish had just come over here and was at his peak and the Astros and Rangers would play each other and Darvish would get like three starts a year against the Astros, and it was like no-hitter alert every time. He actually took a perfect game into the ninth and it was Marwin Gonazlez who broke it up. It might have been with two out, I'm not sure. Maybe a line drive? The second, one of my favorite facts from last year, the first 25 home runs of his career were all solo home runs, which I'm 95 percent sure we confirmed is a record to start a career.

Petriello: He's being inducted into our Hall of Fame for the exact opposite reason. Last week against the Rangers, he hit a grand slam. Grand slams are great. No argument about that. We have a stat called hit probability. It takes the exit velocity and the launch angle of a batted ball, and combining those two things, it looks at them and says, "How likely is this to be a hit?" Marwin Gonzalez hit a grand slam that had a 4 percent hit probability. That's not a home run probability, but a hit probability. This is an audio podcast, so you cannot see the spray chart, though I have tweeted it. We looked at all of these balls that had similiar characteristics: 94 mph off the bat, 41-degree laugh angle. It is essentially a straight line across the outfield toward the corners; it is probably a lazy fly ball. If you hit it right down the line and you don't have as much distance to travel, that could be a home run. This home run had only been a home run three other times in Statcast™ history. One was by James Dozier down the left-field line, one was by Marwin Gonazlez right down the right-field line and the other by Colby Rasmus right down the line in Houston. Ballpark effects are amazing.

Meyers: What is also amazing about this is the moment. It happened in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Astros were trailing, 7-3, so it had a 4 percent hit probability, but then swung the win probability. The Rangers were like 90 percent win probability before the pitch and then like 90 percent after.
Petriello: I'm sure the pitcher's (Keone Kela) line got completely ruined by this. He walks off the field totally defeated. That's all he is going to care about, but that ball is an out 96 percent of the time. In one sense, he did his job, but in the other sense, he did give up a grand slam. It is just one of the random things in baseball.
Meyers: It's one of those things that make the game great. We work in probabilities and work toward things that come out in your favor. It should have come out in their favor, but things aren't going in the Rangers' favor this season. It is the Astros' fourth win when trailing by at least five runs. They hadn't had such a win since 2015.
Petriello: I picked the Astros to be my American League champions this year. I can't tell you how many people told me they couldn't beat the Rangers. I guess this is karma. That 4 percent hit probability is tied for the lowest on a grand slam in the Statcast™ era. Mookie Betts did this last year against Joba Chamberlain against the Indians. He did it over the Green Monster. He hit it 89 mph at a 35-degree launch angle. Anywhere else besides Boston, that is a lazy fly ball to left field. Ballpark effects. Marwin Gonazlez by the way is off to a great start. He had 13 home runs in 518 plate appearances last season. He already has nine home runs in his 86 plate appearances. He's a man of total extremes. He's been elevating. His fly-ball percentage in 2015 was 33 percent, 32 percent last year and now 41 percent. His ground-ball percentage was 44 in 2015, 47 in 2016 and 50 percent this year. He is doing both. His line-drive rate has changed dramatically: 22 percent in 2015, 20 percent in 2016 and 8 percent this year. All-or-nothing player.
Meyers: His home run reminded me of the ones Curtis Granderson hit when he came over to the Yankees, because all he did was try to hit fly balls to right field. They just barely got over the fence and that was the kind of one that Gonazlez hit. In Houston, the right-field line is pretty short. It is a weird ballpark. Left and right are short, it is center that is deep. When you pull the ball in Houston, home runs will happen with relative ease.
Petriello: A final fact about Marwin Gonazlez. He was signed by the Cubs in 2005. He was selected in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. He was traded to Houston in the Marco Duarte trade, who I don't believe ever made it to the Majors. Gonzalez spent 2012 as a Rule 5 guy and has been kicking around. Now all of a sudden, he's got power. Baseball is so weird right now. I love it. A 4 percent hit probability grand slam.