Zack Godley’s work in the major league rotation through three starts has really been something to behold. When Chase Anderson was finally decommissioned, it wasn’t Allan Webster, A.J. Schugel or Aaron Blair called up. Maybe the Diamondbacks have something against guys whose first names start with the letter “A” because they went in the exact opposite direction by calling up Godley instead. The results, well, the results have spoken for themselves: three starts, eighteen innings pitched, three earned runs, seventeen strikeouts, five walks, fourteen hits and two homers. Two of the outings were of the shutout variety, so he hasn’t exactly flown under the radar. He’s exploded upon it.

By ERA, Godley’s 1.50 mark resembles his last name. That’s pretty dominant. By FIP, he’s still been decent with a 3.81 mark and by xFIP he’s been better at 3.39. I think at this point, everyone’s taken notice of what Zack Godley has done in his first three starts, it’s now about projecting what his true talent level is and who he becomes for the Diamondbacks down the road. Is he a rotation fixture? Did he catch lightening in a bottle somehow? Is his luck about to run out or is this a relatively sustainable approach that we’re seeing out of the seemingly unknown 25-year old?

Let’s start with the stuff itself, and by stuff, I mean raw pitches. While a handful of fastballs from his first start were categorized as four-seamers, there haven’t been any of late and that was either a short-lived pitch or a misclassification for a new pitcher. I’m thinking it was more of the latter, but either way, let’s work with the assumption that Godley deliberately throws a cutter, a two-seamer, a changeup and a curveball. The mixture of fastballs is unique in that one has glove-side run (cutter) and one has arm-side fade (two-seamer). Nothing is straight and it’s generally assumed that it’s tougher to square up a pitch with movement than one that’s on a consistent path. The changeup comes in at seven to eight miles per hour slower with a little less horizontal movement than the sinker but more depth. The curve is pretty much 12-6 with a decent amount of drop. Here’s the full breakdown via

Godley Pitches

None of those pitches are wildly out of the norm, but none are particularly bad, either. They’re essentiall four workable pitches that can play to average with good command. There’s no out pitch here – not a dominant fastball to blow by hitters or a hammer curve that guys just can’t touch. But that was never forecast for Godley and it’s no surprise that the arsenal looks pretty run-of-the-mill.

Of course, there are ways to make that kind of arsenal play up. The most obvious way to do that is through command and being able to really put the ball where he wants it. That’s come and gone throughout his starts. Another way is by deception, but as you’ve probably seen, Godley’s delivery is mostly straightforward, although you could argue he does a good job hiding the ball. One way is sequencing pitches to achieve maximum efficiency. We’ve only got three starts to work with here and no real methodology, but here’s one example: after throwing two consecutive two-seamers down and in to the right-handed Ryan Zimmerman, Godley switched it up and threw a cutter in on his hands. The pitch started similarly to the two-seamers, but instead of running in off the plate, the ball cut slightly, just enough get the inside corner for the backwards K. You’ll see what I mean at the 1:00 mark in the video below:

There might be something to this. Having a cutter and two-seam fastball seems like a nice pairing in so far as they come out of the same arm slot but behave differently after being thrown. They’re not wipeout sliders and they aren’t going to generate a ton of swings and misses, but they may be likely to avoid being hit hard regularly. And, Godley’s changeup is decent and plays well off of the two-seam look as it, too, comes out of the same arm slot and he does a good job maintaining his arm speed to disguise the offering. With the drop in speed and the increase in sink, the pitch looks like a two-seamer, then delays and falls. The curve stands out by itself, and that’s mostly by design. It’s a pitch that he’s thrown sparingly, but it’s been effective when thrown, at least in terms of whiffs.

And if it looks like I’m trying really hard to figure out why Zack Godley has been good, it’s because I am. Ryan wrote about Godley’s debut early last week and I went on record as saying that I didn’t expect a lot from him moving forward. We’ve seen plenty of guys that don’t have much in the way of a scouting report on them come up for a start and catch a team by surprise. The Brewers had just traded a veteran in Aramis Ramirez before the game and they’re really bad to begin with, so I felt like Godley probably benefitted from some good timing on his end. But what he did on Monday night was impressive yet again, although some sparkling defensive work helped save him some trouble. And as I watched his start, a point that Ryan made kept coming back to me: Godley was very frequently pitching outside the strike zone and getting away with it. Don’t believe me? It’s not as if he’s exactly “pounding the zone.”

Godley Heat

Maybe that doesn’t look extreme enough. After all, the zone quadrants here are pretty big, so if he’s just missing by a hair or two, that might be a good thing. Let’s instead look at Godley’s zone rate, the percentage of his pitches that are in the strike zone among all starters with at least ten innings pitched this year (230 total pitchers):

Godley Zone

Yeah, Zack Godley has thrown the lowest frequency of pitches in the strike zone in baseball out of the 230 starting pitchers in the majors with at least ten innings pitched. It’s not even close, either. He’s thrown 5% fewer strikes than the next lowest starter, Homer Bailey (38.7%). Throwing in the zone too much can be a problem as well and it’s important that each pitcher find the right balance. In general, pitching in the zone more leads to a better FIP and better overall results. Godley, so far, is clearly an outlier here (circled in black).

Godley Graph

This is easily obscured, however, as Godley has generated an average number of strikes. In fact, he’s 134th in strike rate at 63.39% strikes. Strikes are sometimes in the zone, but sometimes they’re out of the zone in the form of  a foul ball, a swing and a miss, a ball put in play or a called strike outside the strike zone (robot umps?). Godley is using one of these at an inordinate pace to make up for the lack of pitches in the zone.

He ranks first in the majors, again out of the 230-pitcher sample, in outside-the-zone swing rate. Batters are chasing nearly half of his pitches out of the zone (49.1%). This huge number is partly a sample size issue, and it should be noted that the next closets pitcher to him in terms of generating whiffs, Joe Ross of the Nationals, is at 40.0%. Some other notables pitchers in this category, like Drew Smyly (39.9%), Jose Fernandez (38.8%), Masahiro Tanaka (38.7%), Max Scherzer (37.4%), Patrick Corbin (37.1%), Felix Hernandez (34.3%), Chris Archer (34.3%) and Clayton Kershaw (33.7%), are far, far below Godley in getting batters to chase. Oh, and after profiling his pitches, this just seems weird and lucky, because his stuff is nothing like that of the pitchers named above, yet he lies far ahead of them in this category.

When Godley came up, there was really no scouting report on him, at least not a well-defined one. The Brewers’ coaching staff might have called around the minors for a report and dug up some video, but Godley hadn’t been broken down like most MLB starters are. After three starts and a ton of pitches out of the zone, one has to wonder: what happens when opposing teams catch on to this and just stop swinging? Does he have the stuff to adapt? Can he make those adjustments? The league catches up with everyone not named Paul Goldschmidt and while Zack Godley has been a great surprise, it’s not likely to last, at least not without some serious adjustments.

This shouldn’t be surprising. He’s made three starts. Anyone can get hot for three starts and it happens all the time, these just happen to be his first three starts. Calling it a sample size issue is an unsatisfactory explanation to a lot of fans, but when you do the research and dig in, well, it appears to be a sample size issue –  it’s just that now it’s a more reasonably backed up one. Who Zack Godley is long terms remains to be seen and it’ll largely depend on his ability to counter the move that will be made by his opponents. On one hand, he was a 25-year old in A-ball for a reason. Then again, he’s proven that he can get guys out, even if it’s in an unsustainable way. How that all shakes out is a mystery, but do me a favor and just take it easy when projecting the rest of his career. We’ve seen very little of Zack Godley, and even if we like what we’ve seen so far, there isn’t enough to get worked up about just yet.

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16 Responses to Just How Good is Zack Godley?

  1. James says:

    The movement on Godley’s pitches has always been the issue with him. It is one of the reasons many have seen him as a bullpen arm in the long run. He has the pitch selection and stuff that middle relief is his floor. However, if he is able to get a better handle on his movement, then he can be dominating. The thing is, controlling the movement on his two fastballs in such a way that he can consistently pound one spot time and again has never been a talent of his, meaning that those pitches cutting or fading out of the zone are difficult for him to repeat. Eventually, if he is unable to repeat the spotting with regularity, teams and umpires are going to adjust.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      This is great! I agree, the issue for him is going to be commanding the pitches. When he’s been down in the zone, he’s been good. When he’s hung a cutter or two, he gets hit. The ability to establish strikes once batters start taking a more patient approach is the key. They’re doing him huge favors right now. I see more of an Andrew Chafin type of guy out of him, but maybe he gets this thing figured out and becomes a cost-controlled back end starter. We’ll see how he adjusts and grows.

  2. Jeff says:

    Just as I stated in my comment yesterday, his perceived velocity is what makes him tick. As I learned from astros pitching coordinator Brent Strom in my own quest to reach the bigs, Strom preached effective movement and how it is the best way a pitcher can change speeds. Through effective movement a pitch running in on a right handed hitter at 92 appears to be much faster to the hitters eye. While that same fastball at 92 when thrown with cut away from the hitter appears much slower. This is the essence of changing speeds, not necessarily deceiving the radar gun but deceiving the hitters eye. It would be more accurate to describe this as changing velocity which would then account for the movement. Either way if a pitcher can command such an arsenal, he can be very successful! This effect would also probably be hard to quantify in your data, however it most definitely accounts for the amount of chased strikes you see above. Hitters see a fastball and have no idea if it will cut into the zone or run out. Either way, what godley is doing is perfect in the terms of what Strom was talking about, and if he keeps his command, he could be a force while lacking a single dominant pitch.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      I noticed that yesterday. There’s really no way to quantify it, but we know it exists. I’ll be continuing to look and see if he’s “tunneling” his pitches. In the meantime, you might enjoy this if you haven’t already see it:

      • Jeff says:

        That is exactly what I was trying to sum up in so few words! I am impressed Wiser haha you know your stuff! But that is exactly what godley has been doing. A great comp to this type of pitching is Roy Halladay. If you dig up some old halladay video like I just did and just watch the stuff, 89-93 w/ tons of run and sink, it should seem very familiar and almost feel like you are watching a godley game north of the border. Albeit, halladay threw the curve more, but the comp is still very strong. However that will give you an idea of the potential elite upside if the command is there.

      • Dave-Phoenix says:


        Interesting that Trevor Bauer is a pitcher that adheres to this philosophy.

        I wonder if the reason that Trevor Bauer and Miguel Montero butted heads so much is because Miggy was calling pitches in patterns that did not adhere to Bauer’s EV philosophy.

  3. Rizz says:

    Godley’s LOB% is 99% which is just insane. Ray had a crazy high LOB% in his first four starts, in which he had an ERA around 1.

  4. Dave-Phoenix says:

    We’re not gonna find out this year. Godley has already pitched as many innings this year as the D-Backs are comfortable with considering he switched from relief pitcher to starting pitcher. He only going to get one more start at most, before they shut him down.

    But with such a small subset to judge him on, its hard to say.

    Godley definitely got into trouble during these starts and judging from what we’ve seen he will probably get in trouble a couple of times each start. He was able to get out of it these couple of times, but will he be able to do that consistently? We need more data to determine that.

    What I liked most watching Godley pitch against the Nats was seeing him throw two different pitches (sinker and cutter) from the exact same arm slot. He got a few called strikeouts from hitters freezing on his cutter after swinging and missing on his sinkers. Being able to throw two different pitches from the same arm slot is always a formula for success. It makes hitters have to “guess”.

  5. Jim Ellis - Austria says:

    One more quality start and, perhaps another win, and we have ourselves some real trade potential in the off season. Also, having him back as the long reliever/ spot starter sounds appealing for 2016-17 as well. This is all good fun to watch and this article helps me understand the prospect with real depth. Thanks as always!

  6. Puneet says:

    Jeff, that graph with Godley circled waaaay far away from any other pitcher made me laugh a lot.

    What do you think about them optioning him to the minors? I think it’s two things – one, that his luck is about to run out as scouts figure him out; two, that he’s going well past exceeding his prior innings amounts in recent years.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      First, I’m glad I posted this at 5:00am and not at noon today! I think it’s primarily an innings issue, but they’re aware of what’s going on. They know he’s not nearly as electric as he’s appeared (although at times, he’s made big pitches). There’s room for improvement and they’ll keep working with him to make that improvement. Getting him out of dodge before he could get blasted might have been deliberate or it might just be timing. I don’t know about that one.

  7. Dave-Phoenix says:

    Just got word…. Godley was sent down due to innings pitched

  8. Jim says:

    Too bad that there is nobody on the Diamondbacks that can’t be demonstrated as being mediocre if he is just analysed enough.

  9. […] explained on Wednesday, the way he was going about his business three starts into his tenure was very unusual. On the point about being converted from relief — Godley threw just 55.1 innings in 2014, […]

  10. […] then rushed up to the majors in the second half of the season where he somehow survived despite not throwing strikes. Regardless, this is the kind of pop-up season that makes people rise up and take notice. Here, […]

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