Joel Peralta, Alex Gordon and The Process | The Process Report

Joel Peralta, Alex Gordon and The Process

In the eighth inning of a scoreless game, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon made what looked like curious move to some. With runners on first and second and two outs, left-handed pitcher Jake McGee on the mound and left-handed hitter Alex Gordon strolling up to the plate, Maddon made his way to the mound and motioned to the bullpen. Instead of the conventional lefty-on-lefty matchup, Maddon summoned Joel Peralta, the 38-year-old right-hander with a 90-mph fastball, to face Gordon. Curious? A bit. Rooted in good process? That too.

By now it is no surprise to see Maddon defy traditional matchups in favor of atypical ones as long as the data backs the decision. In this case there is such support. Although he is a lefty himself, Alex Gordon has hit .324/.295/.525 against left-handed fastballs since 2012 (hat tip Jason Collette). Jake McGee, despite adding a curveball this spring, still throws his fastball 90 percent of the time.

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On the other hand, Peralta, the righty, has carved a niche as a one of the “best left-handed relievers” in baseball by throwing off-speed and breaking balls with conviction, and more importantly success, going against the platoon split. It is true that Gordon is a better overall hitter versus righties than he is versus lefties, but that is predicated mostly on feasting off fastballs. Against right-handed, off-speed pitches and curveballs – Peralta’s go-to pitches – he has hit just .230/.272/.336 since 2012.

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The Peralta versus Gordon plate appearance lasted five pitches (four curveballs, one fastball), ending in a walk to load the bases. Even though the result was negative – although not terrible – the process was sound. Also consider walking Gordon set up a matchup against Danny Valencia, a .230/.270/.361 career hitter versus right-handed pitching, creating another favorable matchup for Tampa Bay even with the bases loaded. Peralta struck out Valencia with ease on three pitches – curveball, fastball, curveball – to retire the side. The Rays would score the winning run in the top of the ninth inning.

Few would have questioned Maddon had he left McGee in to face Gordon. That said, Maddon has never managed to avoid scrutiny. Instead, he strives to avoid losing even if the process may appear unorthodox at first.



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