Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 9/13/12

There is no hitting A.J. Griffin this season. The 24-year-old rookie continued his remarkable run through the American League Wednesday night as he stifled the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to the tune of eight shutout innings. The swiftly rising righty struck out six Angles against six hits and no walks. The dominant outing lowered Griffin’s ERA to 1.94 to go with an splendid 2.98 FIP.

The plan of attack for Griffin was a simple one: get ahead and stay ahead. The Angels seemed only happy to oblige.

Back on May 3rd, Brandon Morrow tossed probably his best start of the season, a three-hit shutout against the Angels with just three hits allowed. Morrow dominated by getting in pitchers’ counts (18 first-pitch strikes, 46 of 102 pitches in 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2 counts), largely thanks to the Angels taking just three swings against his first pitches — and one was a foul bunt.

The Angels used a similar approach against Griffin on Wednesday and generated similar results:

Los Angeles hitters took just six swings at Griffin’s 29 first-pitch offerings. Most strikingly, they let his 90.9 MPH (average) fastball by nine times while swinging just twice, producing two foul balls. The fastball as a whole generated a not-in-play strike (called, swinging or foul) 34 out of 70 times, keeping counts consistently in Griffin’s favor.

Staying ahead keeps Griffin’s entire arsenal in play. A 90-92 MPH fastball loses much of its effectiveness without off-speed pitches — in Griffin’s case, including a 70.4 MPH average curveball — to keep hitters from jumping on the fastball. Observe, Griffin’s pitch selection by count coming into Wednesday’s start:

This graph shows pitch type by count — the number of balls is denoted on the top, strikes on the bottom. Therefore, the second column shows 0-1 pitches, the fourth shows 1-0, etc.

In Wednesday’s start, we see much the same pattern. Griffin will start a hitter out with any pitch; after that, the curveball, cutter and changeup come out to play in 0-1, 0-2, 1-1 and 1-2 counts but are largely stashed when Griffin falls behind:

Four of the Angels’ six hits came on two-ball or three-ball counts; three of them came on fastballs. Griffin only threw 20 fastballs in these counts; he threw 50 fastballs in zero-ball or one-ball counts and allowed just one hit.

Griffin mixes things up enough on his first pitches to keep hitters guessing, and he’s accurate with everything he throws. Entering Wednesday’s start, 62.1% of Griffin’s first pitches went for some kind of strike, including 42.9% called strikes. A fantastic 60% of his non-fastball first pitches remained in the zone as well. Griffin’s breaking stuff has the kind of movement that makes hitters want to take pitches — his curveball has generated whiffs on 35% of swings and his cutter on 27.5% of swings, both a full standard standard deviation better than average.

His control presents opposing hitters with a zugzwang as soon as they enter the batter’s box. Hitters can look to swing on the first pitch to avoid falling behind but be confronted with an unpredictable pitch mix and devastating breaking stuff. Or, they can wait, hoping for a ball, but watch as Griffin peppers called strike after called strike only to be confronted by the same devastating breaking stuff in a two-strike, must-swing situation.

The kind of situation that leads to this:

The thought process behind the Angels’ approach against Griffin on Wednesday was understandable — get into a hitter’s count, where his fastball can be beaten. Unfortunately for the Angels, Griffin’s pristine control has made most at-bats a no-win situation, and Wednesday was no different.

Graphics made with Tableau Public. PITCHf/x data from JoeLefkowitz.com and Brooks Baseball

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Three teams achieve separation in Aldridge chase

WATCH: Serena Williams wags finger at Wimbledon crowd, says, 'Don’t try me'

Report: Rajon Rondo headed to Sacramento Kings

Dez Bryant deal with Cowboys could be announced Monday

Brandon Saad, Ryan O’Reilly sign long-term contracts with Columbus, Buffalo


Mavs solidify future, sign Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan

A-Rod, Yankees settle dispute over home run milestone bonus

Report: Robin Lopez, Knicks finalizing four-year deal

Becky Hammon will coach Spurs' Summer League team

Jimmy Butler on Derrick Rose: ‘I don’t think we have any issues’

Yankees get A-Rod's 3,000th hit ball for $150,000 donation

The top American sports moments since the last Fourth of July

Nine former college football rivalries that need to come back

The most patriotic uniforms in American sports

Jeanie Buss: Brother Jim will step down if Lakers don't make deep run within two seasons

DeAndre Jordan to Dallas: The Los Angeles Clippers are literally mad men

Remember when the Cincinnati Bearcats were the scariest team in America?

Are the Angels now the worst organization in baseball?

Five reasons the Browns should play Johnny Manziel

Blue Jays need rookies to keep producing for success in 2015

WATCH: Sean Doolittle gets cup check from teammate

University of Florida developing high-tech smart mouth guard

Pat McAfee is the best punter in NFL history

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Russell Wilson 'would definitely consider' playing for Mariners

Solo, Rapinoe among USWNT stars up for World Cup awards

LBS on Sports Jeopardy! Here's how how it went

College football's 35 most patriotic helmets

A brief history of non-star All-Stars

With Love retained, the Cavs can take care of LeBron

Grading the deal: Davis commits to Pelicans

Obama Administration: Change name if Redskins move to D.C.

Deciding what the All-Star Game means

Odell Beckham Jr. offered professional baseball contract

Orioles keep finding a way to win

Lloyd sends USWNT to World Cup final

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.