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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 05/24/2011

Why is Tom Gorzelanny giving up so many homers?


In his career, allowing home runs has really not been a problem for Tom Gorzelanny. Before this season, Gorzelanny allowed one every nine innings. In 96career starts prior to his arrival with the Nationals, Gorzelanny gave up three or more home runs in a game four times.

This season, after he gave up three more homers last night, Gorzelanny has allowed 11 homers in 2011 in 53 innings, or 1.9 every nine innings, about twice his career home run rate. The spike owes largely to Gorzelanny’s last 15 1/3 innings, during which he has allowed six homers.

The glut of homers has infuriated Gorzelanny, who said he felt sharp last night but found no consolation in that. “Not when you give up six runs,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how you feel.”

Gorzelanny’s strikeout rate suggests the quality of his pitches by itself is not to blame. He’s still making batters swing and miss, striking out 8.2 batters per nine innings this year, best on the Nationals and in the top 15 among NL starters.

“It’s an odd thing,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “Tom strikes people out. When you strike people out, it’s an indication that your stuff is that good. Tonight, he was striking people out. Certainly, the longball has gotten him lately. I like to look at the positive. His stuff is obviously there.”

Gorzelanny believes he is simply paying for his mistakes, and making them too blatantly. There is a clear and obvious correlation, he said, to the pitches he’s thrown that have turned into homers: “They’re right down the middle, about thigh-high. They hit them as hard as they can, and they go over the fence.”

The most important underlying factor seems to be Gorzelanny giving up gobs of fly balls. He entered last night allowing line drives on 14 percent of the balls opposing hitters put in play, which is quite good. But he also had a .48 groundball/flyball ratio, a drastically low number – last year, he had a .71 GB/FB rate. Before last night, 11 percent of fly balls have been home runs, which suggests some bad luck but is especially harmful because he’s allowing so many balls in the air.

Balls on the ground don’t turn into home runs. Gorzelanny’s stuff is still sharp, but he must produce more grounders to stop allowing homers, which is what he’s usually found a way to do.

“I haven’t done this before,” Gorzelanny said. “I don’t think I need to change. I just got to try to execute each time out, pitch the way I know how.”

FROM THE POST

The Nationals lost for the fifth time in six games, the latest an 11-3 beating against the Brewers in the series opener.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Rochester, Syracuse 0: Yunesky Maya allowed four earned runs in 7 2/3 innings on six hits and four walks, striking out seven. Jesus Flores went 1 for 3 and is hitting .250.

Akron 12, Harrisburg 8: Rick Ankiel went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in his rehab assignment. Tyler Moore went 3 for 5 with a double.

Kinston 5, Potomac 3: Cameron Selik allowed three runs in five innings on three hits and two walks, striking out six. Eury Perez went 2 for 3. Cutter Dykstra went 1 for 3 with a double. He’s hitting .216.

Hagerstown 10, Greensboro 5: Bryce Harper went 1 for 4 with a walk, two runs and a strikeout. Matt Grace allowed one run in five innings on seven hits and two walks, striking out three.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 05/24/2011

 
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