Luke Hochevar Is A Perfect Ten

ST PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 21: Pitcher Luke Hochevar #44 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on August 21, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Raise your hand if you turned on Tuesday’s Royals tilt against the Rays expecting to have Luke Hochevar to outduel David Price. Raise your hand if you thought Hochevar would throw the best start of his career.

Because that’s what happened.

Baseball can be so confusing.

Eight innings. One hit. Ten strikeouts. It was the third time in Hochevar’s career where he struck out 10 batters. (His career high is 13 in a start against the Rangers in 2009.) It was the first time he reached double digits and didn’t allow a run.

His Game Score was 87. That’s the best Score of his career. And it was by far the best start by a Royal pitcher this year. (At least according to Game Score. This was against the Tampa Bay Rays. The team that gets Perfect Gamed with alarming frequency.)

Hochevar’s final line:

8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 SO

After the jump, a look at each of his 10 strikeouts...

First Inning
Desmond Jennings
1-2 Curveball
Swinging Strike Three

Hochevar flipped the script right away against Jennings, starting him off with a pair of cutters. He throws cut fastballs just 13 percent of the time against right handed batters. The curve isn’t a big swing and miss pitch for Hochevar, but it is the least likely of all his pitches to be put into play. Hitters are connecting (in play) on just 14 percent of his curves.

First Inning
Desmond Jennings
1-2 Curveball
Swinging Strike Three

Hochevar went cutter again and, like Jennings in the first, turned to his curve when he jumped ahead 0-2. Except to the lefty Pena, he didn’t bite at a pair of spinners down and in. The fastball was up and away, featuring a change in location and Pena missed.

Third Inning
Jose Molina
3-2 Slider
Swinging Strike Three

Hochevar threw eight sliders all game. His first one of the night was on the seventh pitch of Molina’s plate appearance. Perfect timing.

Desmond Jennings
2-2 Fastball
Swinging Strike Three

After starting with cut fastballs the first time around against Jennings, Hochevar goes to his curve ball for four consecutive pitches. The first three were away and the fourth one was belt-high on the inner half. Jennings took all four curves.

According to PITCH f/x, Hochevar has been increasing his usage of the curve. In April and May, he featured it 11 percent and 14 percent of the time, respectively. In the next three months, he’s thrown the curve more than 21 percent of all pitches.

Fifth Inning
Ben Zobrist
2-2 Slider
Swinging Strike Three

Overall, Hochevar throws sliders 10 percent of the time to left handed batters. When they have two strikes against them, they get a slider 21 percent of the time.

Of Hochevar’s eight sliders, seven of them went for strikes, four of them were swings and misses.

Carlos Pena
2-2 Cutter
Swinging Strike Three

Hochevar gets a swing and a miss on his cutter 19 percent of the time. It’s his most frequently missed pitch.

Luke Scott
0-2 Cutter
Swinging Strike Three

Another cutter to finish off the side. The first two pitches were on the outer half (and probably outside the strike zone), he fouls off the third pitch - a curve - but the final pitch of the plate appearance was about letter high.

Scott_0721_medium

Sixth Inning
Jose Molina
0-2 Curveball
Looking Strike Three

Two fastballs low and away. A curve on the inside corner about belt high. Three pitches. Molina never got the bat off his shoulders.

Molina_0721_medium

BJ Upton
0-2 Curveball
Swinging Strike Three

Hochevar got three swings and misses with his curve on Tuesday. Two of them resulted in strikeouts.

Eighth Inning
Luke Scott
2-2 Fastball
Swinging Strike Three

Hochevar’s final punch-out of the night was a 92 mph fastball on the outer half.

That’s notable because Hochevar has had difficulty pacing himself in order to maintain velocity. From Brooks Baseball, here is his pitch speed chart from Tuesday’s game:

Hochevar_0720velo_medium

That’s not a normal Hochevar speed chart. The typical one (when he goes at least 100 pitches) shows a dip in velocity beginning around pitch 80. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s just been a fact of Hochevar. Except on Tuesday, he seemed to dial back just a bit… His spike on the speed chart isn’t as high as it has been in the past, and maybe that was the key in maintaining.

For the game Hochevar threw 105 pitches with 65 of them for strikes. He got 14 swings and misses and nine of those came when he had two strikes on the batter. Efficient.

The combination of maintaining velocity, hitting his location and using one pitch to set up another resulted in one of the finest starts of his career. Good Hochevar.

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