Zack Godley And His Fastball Are For Real

In the past, we’ve seen many pitchers have success as starters after stints as relievers. David Price, Chris Sale, Matt Shoemaker, and Danny Duffy to name a few. We are currently seeing a player have ease with that same transition. Arizona Diamondbacks righty Zack Godley.

Not a pitcher that will blow hitters away, Godley’s bread and butter is the movement on his pitches. A dropping sinker, a curveball with a lot of 12-6 movement, a cutter with depth, and changeup make up his repertoire.

After being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2013, he pitched in a relief role, not even making his first professional start until being sent over to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Miguel Montero deal in 2015. He made 17 starts that year between the Diamondbacks A+ and AA teams. Also making his major league debut that year, he pitched an impressive 36.1 innings

2016 was a different story though. Among 207 pitchers with 70 innings last year, Godley had the 5th worst ERA. This landed him back in the minors to start 2017, where he posted a 3.67 FIP in 24 innings. He wasn’t there long, as the Diamondbacks recalled him to fill a spot in the rotation earlier in late April.

And so far, the results have been terrific.

Godley’s recent success hinges on his ability to generate weak ground balls. Since his first appearance of the season on April 26, Godley has posted the third highest GB% in baseball.

Godley has always been able to generate ground balls in his career, but never with this amount of consistency and effectiveness. In the past, he has struggled with command on his fastball, but their seems to be some improvement with that. It is exceptionally difficult to quantify command directly, so instead here are the batted ball stats from his fastballs in 2016 and so far in 2017.

Season xAVG xSLG xOBA VH% PH% Exit Velocity Launch Angle
2016 .377 .695 .455 10.7% 25.0% 88.9 2.6
2017 .332 .502 .390 7.6% 27.9% 85.9 -2.0

To date, there has been significantly less damage done to his fastball this year when compared to last year.

Here you can view his 2016 and 2017 heatmaps side by side

(click the image to switch view, each heatmap should be labeled in the top left corner).

When he can command that fastball, along with his above-average movement, he’s untouchable. 

Instead of a throwing a fastball that was all over the zone in 2016, Godley has been able to keep the pitch down more often. That is where he gets hitters to swing at a bad launch angle, therefore producing ground balls. He’s even getting more strikeouts. Explained further in these GIFs. 





And why is he having this success? I guess maybe a new release point could be a probable cause.

So to summarize, I think Zack Godley is pitching well and a lot of it has to do with his fastball.

I think the success is here to stay too. I believe we still have yet to the best of that sinker.

If Godley can pitch well over a longer period of time, the Diamondbacks might have something matriculating with that pitching staff.