‘Bucs Breakdown’ is a new feature where I’ll inspect a plate appearance that had a big impact on the game.
By the time Eduardo Escobar came to the plate in the fourth inning, the Diamondbacks already had a secure 5-0 lead on the Pirates. To say Chris Archer was off his game is like a boxer knocking out his opponent with one punch and saying he barely hit him.
Can we give Archer some slack since this was his first start of the injured list? Perhaps if he was able to keep the game respectable which, by all intents and purposes, was over by the close of the first inning.
But, let’s inspect the Escobar home run anyway since this was the at-bat that basically sunk the ship.
Archer started Escobar off with a 93 MPH sinking fastball down and in, which was fouled off. Archer then went to a slider down and away that was taken for a ball. He repeats the same pattern again, this time with a four-seam instead of his sinker, with the same results but slightly different locations.
Then, on the fifth pitch, Archer deals Escobar a slider that heads middle in. Escobar doesn’t hit sliders great (85 MPH exit velocityq) and has a wOBA of .270 against the pitch.
So what was the mistake here? Well, we could point to the lack of velocity variation which did little to upset Escobar’s timing. Archer also employed on ‘in-out-in-out-in’ approach with his location. It could be that Escobar picked up on this pattern.
However, it goes a little further than that.
Notice the zone where the slider was located. That’s his second-highest exit velocity zone in 2019. Archer dropped in right in Escobar’s wheelhouse and he hammered the pitch out of the park for a two-run homer that put the Diamondbacks up 7-0 and effectively drove the nail in the coffin of the Pirates.
-Graphs courtesy of Fangraphs, MLB.com, and Baseball Savant.