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By The Numbers

Arsenal Adjustments: Foreign Substance Fallout

by Matt Williams
Updated On: June 30, 2021, 1:28 pm ET

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In this week’s “By The Numbers” breakdown the analysis will focus on the foreign substance crackdown, but with a very specific scope. There have been countless pitchers across the league that have seen a major dip in arsenal rotations per minute (RPM) since Major League Baseball officially implemented mandatory inspections on June 21. However, there has been a wide gap in how much the crackdown has impacted each pitcher, mostly due to the brand of “aide” they each lost. The audience has no way of knowing who was using Spider Tack compared to a basic sunscreen and rosin mix, but you could certainly make an educated guess based on results and RPM measurements.

The focus of this week’s breakdown is not to start a witch hunt. Anyone using a foreign substance for grip assistance did so with the knowledge that Major League Baseball was not going to be enforcing the rule. At least that is what they were explicitly told in the offseason. Although certain pitchers have taken advantage of the past “loose” agreement in baseball to overlook in-game infractions, the use of performance-enhancing foreign substances, such as Spider Tack, has forced the issue.

The manner in which Major League Baseball has decided to handle this matter is a conversation on its own and also not the topic for today. Instead, for fantasy baseball purposes, we are going to not only identify pitchers who have seen a shift in their overall RPMs but those who have made a tangible change to their arsenal in order to deal with the situation. 

Have certain pitchers lost the ability to throw a certain pitch? Will certain pitchers change the way in which they attack hitters due to the future effectiveness of their new arsenal? Let’s dig in through the first week of pitching performances since the official ban to see what “sticks” out. Pun intended.

Reminder: These are just one (or two) game sample sizes. The research is an attempt to identify interesting trends to watch for going forward. As stated above, many pitchers have used foreign substances for either grip or performance. The exercise below is to see if the new landscape has changed the way in which specific players will utilize their arsenal going forward.

We are focused more on process than results, as you notice that several players had great success despite a noticeable change in pitch mix or spin rate. Keep an open mind and let’s take a look one day at a time throughout the first week of an officially substance-free game.

These are small sample sizes​ and the discussion is meant to identify variables to look for in the future. No conclusions should be made on a one or two game sample size.

 

Monday, June 21


Tyler Mahle vs Twins 4 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 8 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 51.5%/53%

Slider: 36.6%/33%

Splitter: 11.8%/14%

 

The right-hander did not have his best outing of the season against the Twins but still managed to generate eight strikeouts thanks to a 45 percent whiff rate on his slider and 83 percent whiff rate on his splitter. Overall, the 26-year-old’s game plan was the same as it typically has been despite a drop in spin rate across the board:

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -124 RPM

Slider: -196 RPM

Splitter: -218 RPM

 

Here we have an immediate example of a pitcher that did not seem to lose any “swing and miss magic” while seeing a moderate drop in spin rate. Mahle did struggle with his control, allowing for a ton of hard contact within the strike zone and over a 55 percent line-drive rate.

 

MAhle Command

 

Mahle carried a 36.6 percent Zone rate during the outing, which was the third-lowest of the season so far. Let’s take a look at the right-hander's command during his next outing:

 

Second Start (Sunday June 27)

6 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 7 K

 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 51.5%/51% (-199 RPM)

Slider: 36.6%/31% (-147 RPM)

Splitter: 11.8%/17% (-93 RPM)

 

Mahle’s Zone rate actually dropped to 31.4 percent on Sunday, but the right-hander allowed only one walk. During Mahle’s first start, strikeouts were not an issue, but hard contact due to poor command was. On Sunday the right-hander allowed the third hardest-hit home run of the entire season, a 117.4 miles per hour blast off the bat of Ronald Acuna.

The big standout during the outing was that the Braves were swinging at 90.9 percent of pitches in the strike zone (previous high was 72.7 percent). That is quite high. Luckily for Mahle, Atlanta only connected on 70% of their swings, which is a season-best for the Reds pitcher.

Bizarre.

On the surface, there certainly seemed to be a better game plan implemented on Sunday, with Mahle cutting the line drive rate in half while increasing ground balls from 22.2 percent to 43.8. However, if you look at the chart below, it’s more likely that the Braves simply did Mahle a favor.

 

Mahle 2nd

 

Mahle was all over the place on Sunday, missing wildly both high and low. On the other hand, there were very few misses in the middle of the plate. At least compared to Monday’s start. The question is if the lack of grip enhancer is responsible for Mahle’s loss in command, and if so, will this be temporary?

 


J.A. Happ vs Reds 4 2/3  IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 5 BB, 4 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 56.3%/59.0%

Slider: 19.1%/15.0%

Sinker: 13.9%/25.0%

Changeup: 9.0%/1.0%

Curveball: 1.8%/0.0%

 

Happ saw a definite change in his pitch mix during his matchup against the Reds. The left-hander completely abandoned his changeup, while nearly doubling his sinker usage.

It should not come as a surprise that the one changeup thrown during the game had a 197 RPM loss compared to Happ’s season average. However, the southpaw's sinker also saw a drop of 173 RPMs. It’s likely a command issue between the two offerings, especially considering Happ allowed a season-high five free passes.

Here is the only changeup Happ tossed during the game:

 

Happ Changfeup

 

Happ saw his O-Swing register at a season-low 18.5 percent in the contest with only a 42.6 percent swing rate. Let’s hope he adjusted during his second start of the week.

 

Second Start (Sunday, June 27)

6 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 7 K vs Indians

 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 56.3%/59.0%

Slider: 19.1%/28.0%

Sinker: 13.9%/9%

Changeup: 9.0%/4.0%

Curveball: 1.8%/0.0%

 

So much for rolling with the sinker. Happ continued the boycott of his changeup, which dropped to negative 325 RPM during the game, while also putting his sinker (-222 RPM) in the corner. The veteran lefty became an almost two-pitch starter on Sunday versus the Indians.

The results were favorable, but this is certainly something to watch going forward as Happ appears to have lost confidence in one or two of his pitches.

 

Tuesday, June 22


 

Sandy Alcantara vs Blue Jays 8 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Sinker: 29.3%/50.0%

Changeup: 26.5%/19.0%

Slider: 20.6%/23.0%

Four-Seam: 18.9%/1.0%

Curve: 4.7%/7.0%

 

Here we are with yet another strong pitching performance during foreign substance week, this time from Sandy Alcantara. Yet this was one of the games that stuck out the most when researching arsenal changes. Alcantara, known for inducing ground balls, has always led the charge with a strong sinking fastball. However, the Marlins right-hander increased the usage of his sinker from 29.3 percent to a whopping 50 percent against the Blue Jays.

 

Sandy Usage

 

The increased sinker came at the expense of Alcantara’s four-seam fastball, which was all but erased from his arsenal. The 25-year-old also dialed back how often he threw his changeup during the contest as well. Guess which offerings saw the largest drop in spin rate?

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Sinker: -76 RPM

Slider: -55 RPM

Changeup: -121 RPM

Curve: -37 RPM

Four-Seam: -145 RPM

 

The puzzle pieces fit and this certainly looks like a very intentional pitch mix adjustment. Let’s take a look at Sandy’s start from Sunday afternoon.

 

Sunday, June 27 (Second Start)

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Sinker: 29.3%/46.0%

Changeup: 26.5%/24.0%

Slider: 20.6%/17.0%

Four-Seam: 18.9%/6.0%

Curve: 4.7%/8.0%

 

The changeup usage came roaring back on Sunday, but with little success. Alcantara generated a 31.4 percent whiff rate during the season on his change-up but managed to get just one swing and miss over 22 thrown during the contest. In fact, the right-hander posted a meager 12 percent whiff rate for the entire game.

One thing is for certain, Alcantara has moved on from his four-seam fastball for the time being and is doubling down on his sinker.

Alcantara ended Sunday with the lowest O-Swing rate he has registered all season (18.6 percent) with just a 4.4 percent swinging-strike rate. Alcantara carries a 34.7 percent O-Swing and 12.6 percent swinging-strike rate for the year.

 

Sandy Sunday

 


Gerrit Cole  vs Royals 7 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 6 K

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 44.9%/43.0%

Slider: 20.9%/31.0%

Curve: 18.1%/17.0%

Changeup: 14.8%/8.0%

Sinker 1.2%/2.0%

 

Gerrit Cole has had a ton of success in his increased changeup usage this season, generating a 34.4 percent whiff rate. Surprisingly the right-hander limited the usage on Tuesday despite the offering being the only pitch without a dramatic drop off in spin rate:

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -225 RPM

Slider: -209 RPM

Curve: -148 RPM

Changeup: -98 RPM

Sinker: -326 RPM

 

This seemed likely to be a one-game anomaly (which turned out to be the case), while his increased slider usage turned out to be very successful. Cole generated a 42 percent whiff rate while increasing the slider usage from 20.9 to 31 percent.  Overall the high-salaried starter had a strong outing, at least in his first start.

 

Sunday, June 27 (Second Start)

5 IP, 5 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 6 K vs Red Sox

 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 44.9%/42.0%

Slider: 20.9%/30.0%

Curve: 18.1%/10.0%

Changeup: 14.8%/18.0%

Sinker 1.2%/0.0%

 

Well, hello changeup. Welcome back. The slider usage remained elevated while other secondary pitches continued to take a back seat. One would argue that the pitch mix Cole decided on was a poor choice given the results though.

Cole completely fell apart during his Sunday matchup against Boston in what was one of the worst starts of his career. Enrique Hernandez took the very first pitch thrown over the fence, which was the first time Gerrit Cole had ever surrendered a first-pitch round trip. It was one of three long balls the veteran pitcher would allow.

The 30-year-old did not seem to have the same rise on his fastball, which left it over the plate in the danger zone far too often. See chart below:

 

Cole Sox

 

Fans and analysts were very vocal about Gerrit Cole being dominated during the game, mostly due to his high-profile connection to the foreign substance issue. Many would be surprised to know that the Yankees right-hander saw a significant increase in spin rate from his Tuesday start:

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -72 RPM

Slider -87 RPM

Changeup: -4 RPM

Curve: -40 RPM

 

I bet you did not expect to see that.

Over his last five starts, which happen to cover the timeline in which Major League Baseball has made their intentions clear to crack down on foreign substances, Cole has a 4.65 ERA and has allowed nine home runs and walked eight over 31 frames.

Bottom line: Gerrit Cole is a mess. The right-hander is going to continue to tweak and learn to live with his new low-rise fastball. Home runs, in my opinion, should have been an expected part of the growing pains after losing the pitching aids so many pitchers have grown accustomed to. The swing and miss stuff is there, but the control is off as well as Cole’s command over his arsenal. This may take some time.

 


 

Charlie Morton vs Mets 7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 11 K

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 35.3%/45.0%

Curveball: 35.0%/42.0%

Sinker: 16.7%/1.0%

Cutter: 10.7%/10.0%

Changeup 2.3%/2.0%

 

Hey Matt, why are you breaking down Charlie Morton? He dominated the Mets.

Yes, he did.

Morton also completely abandoned his sinker, a pitch that was 16.7 percent of his attack prior to the game. It also happens to be the only pitch thrown by the 37-year-old that saw a significant change in spin rate:

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -95 RPM

Curve: -79 RPM

Cutter -54 RPM

Changeup: -87 RPM

Sinker: -217 RPM

 

The results of the game speak for themselves, but considering this is a one-game sample size I think it was worth noting that Morton’s sinker could potentially be “out of order.” We will have to wait and see during his next outing.

 


Freddy Peralta vs Diamondbacks 6 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 4 BB, 10 K

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 54.2%/60.0%

Slider: 28.4%/13.0%

Changeup: 9.4%/13.0%

Curve: 8.0%/15.0%

 

Freddy Peralta had a very strong performance on Tuesday against Arizona, so it is unlikely anyone is too concerned. However, there was one obvious change to the 25-year-old plan of attack that stood out.

The right-hander’s slider, which has been his best swing and miss pitch for the season, was cut by more than half during the outing from 28.4 percent to just 13 percent. Before you ask, yes, it was the only pitch in Peralta’s arsenal to see a major drop in spin rate which makes the decision stand out a bit more.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -94 RPM

Curve: -68 RPM

Slider: -146 RPM

Changeup: -13 RPM

 

It should be noted that even though Peralta cut down on the usage of his slider, he was able to generate an 80 percent whiff rate with the offering regardless on Tuesday (4-for-5 swings). In fact, five of the right-hander’s 10 strikeouts came via the slider.

 

Peralta Slider

 

This article was completed before Freddy Peralta’s start on Monday, but here is a quick summary of his pitch mix and spin rates from the game:

6 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 8 K vs Cubs

 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 54.2%/53.0%

Slider: 28.4%/17.0%

Changeup: 9.4%/12.0%

Curve: 8.0%/18.0%

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -76 RPM

Curve: -50 RPM

Slider: -119 RPM

Changeup: -103 RPM

 


 

Blake Snell vs Dodgers 5 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 48.4%/59.0%

Slider: 20.3%/18.0%

Changeup: 16.2%/12.0%

Curve: 15.1%/11.0%

 

This was somewhat of a minor change in pitch mix from Blake Snell, throwing more four-seam fastballs while dialing back his slider and curveball. However, given that the alteration lines up with a corresponding loss in spin rate, it was worth noting.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -18 RPM

Slider: -109 RPM

Changeup: -23 RPM

Curve: -175 RPM

 

Again, this is not a dramatic change, especially during a one-game sample. However, Snell’s best weapon by far this season has been his slider at a negative five Run Value while both this curve and slider have generated over a 40 percent whiff rate. If you are going to dial back both of your primary weapons, that could be an issue going forward.

 

Snall SM

 

Snell posted his second-lowest O-Swing rate of the season on Tuesday will be interesting to follow moving forward to see if he gains confidence in his breaking pitches in his next outing.

 

Wednesday, June 23


 

Dylan Cease vs Pirates 5 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 7 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 47.7%/41.0%

Slider: 29.0%/29.0%

Curve: 13.7%/19.0%

Changeup 9.7%/10.0%

 

There was honestly no significant change in Dylan Cease’s pitch mix on Wednesday other than your typical start-to-start variation. The 25-year-old did mix in his four-seam fastball less, which lines up with his largest spin rate loss, but nothing that jumps off the page.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -259 RPM

Slider: -185 RPM

Curve: -148 RPM

Changeup: -104 RPM

 

Cease has seen a drop in his chase rate (O-Swing) over his past two starts. However, the most interesting thing to note is the 56.6 percent Zone rate on Wednesday, which is well above his season average, which led to a season-high swing rate by an opposing offense.

 

 

Cease Zone

 

It is possible Cease “got away with one” versus a lowly Pirates offense, but if his previous start against the Astros (which may be unfair) is an indication, you may want to keep an eye on the White Sox right-hander moving forward.

 


Garrett Richards vs Rays  1 2/3 IP, 4 ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 0 K

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 58.4%/63.0%

Slider: 25.9%/17.0%

Curve: 15.3%/20.0%

Sinker: 0.5%/0.0%

 

We could get into Garrett Richard’s arsenal, but the truth is that it did not matter what the veteran tossed to the plate on Wednesday. The 33-year-old generated an 11 percent whiff rate including zero swings and misses on his breaking pitches and was completely ineffective.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -255 RPM

Curve: -505 RPM

Slider: -210 RPM

 

It was an interesting choice by Richards to increase his curveball usage from 15.3 percent to 20 percent given the dramatic loss in spin rate. Other starting pitchers seemed to be self-aware and prepared for what was going to happen by adjusting their arsenal, but the Red Sox right-hander decided to go the “YOLO” route instead, throwing anything he wanted and hoping for the best.

 

Rcihards Spin

 

This was not a great strategy. However, there is likely nothing Richards could have done to change the result and it is possible we are seeing the end of the veteran pitcher's career before our very eyes.

 


Robbie Ray vs Marlins  6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 K

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 56.9%/64.0%

Slider: 28.7%/28.0%

Curve: 9.6%/3.0%

Changeup: 4.5%/5.0%

Sinker: 0.3%/0.0%

 

Robbie Ray primarily gets by with his four-seam fastball and slider but has been able to mix in his curveball with great success this season. The Blue Jays southpaw has generated an outstanding 46.7 percent whiff rate on the curveball while mixing it in nearly 10 percent of the time, giving Ray a dangerous third pitch for hitters to worry about.

Not on Wednesday.

On Wednesday Ray mixed in his curve for just three percent of his arsenal. You know what’s coming by now:

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -19 RPM

Slider: -14 RPM

Changeup: -29 RPM

Curve: -270 RPM

 

Ray Curve

 

A curveball that does not curve is not very useful.

Robbie Ray has been having a fantastic season, due primarily to his newfound ability to limit walks. However, the loss of his curveball would certainly take away a dangerous tool out of the left-hander’s arsenal. The 29-year-old posted a 7.3 percent swinging strike rate on Tuesday (15.4% is his average) while allowing 97.1 percent in-zone contact. Keep an eye on Robbie Ray because there are possible reasons for concern moving forward if he is unable to adjust.

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Trevor Bauer vs Padres  6 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 10 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 42.0%/24.0%

Cutter: 21.3%/21.0%

Slider: 18.2%/25.0%

Curveball: 11.2%/8.0%

Sinker: 5.2%/19.0%

Changeup: 2.2%/5.0%

 

This should be the least surprising and most complicated pitcher in the article. Trevor Bauer is not only the president of the foreign substance witch hunt, he is also a member. 

The outspoken right-hander does not typically keep to a standard pitch mix, so it is difficult to take much away from any changes in his plan of attack from Wednesday’s start versus the Padres, but we will learn a bit more when we check out his spin rates.

Bauer did post his second-lowest Zone rate of the season at 33.9 percent, which could certainly be due to decreased grip. However, this is just a one-game sample size.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Slider: -137 RPM

Four-Seam: -182 RPM

Cutter: -69 RPM

Sinker: - 95 RPM

Curve: -119 RPM

Changeup: -97 RPM

 

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the two offerings with the smallest shift in spin rate (cutter and sinker) jumped to the top of Bauer’s priorities list on Wednesday. Bauer’s four-seam fastball, which was the most valuable pitch in baseball by Run Value, now appears to be just another face in the crowd due to its loss in potency.

 

 

Bauer Mix

 

This article was completed before Trevor Bauer’s start on Monday, but here is a quick summary of his pitch mix and spin rates from the game:

 

6 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 8 K vs Giants

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 42.0%/15.0%

Cutter: 21.3%/29.0%

Slider: 18.2%/23.0%

Curveball: 11.2%/11.0%

Sinker: 5.2%/11.0%

Changeup: 2.2%/10.0%

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Cutter: -106 RPM

Slider: -130 RPM

Four-Seam: -291 RPM

Sinker: -146 RPM

Curve: -165 RPM

Changeup: -113 RPM

 

Thursday, June 24


Walker Buehler vs Cubs  6 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 K 

 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 49.2%/44.0%

Curve: 15.0%/11.0%

Cutter: 13.7%/22.0%

Slider: 12.5%/9.0%

Sinker: 8.4%/9.0%

Changeup: 1.2%/6.0%

 

Walker Buehler made only minor adjustments to his pitch mix that can be explained away as a one-game anomaly. However, the underlying numbers suggest the 26-year-old struggled a bit during the substance-free era. Buehler posted a chase rate over seven points below his average with a swinging strike rate 25 percent below his typical mark. 

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -260 RPM

Cutter: -251 RPM

Curve: -322 RPM

Slider: -274 RPM

Sinker: -127 RPM

Changeup: -96 RPM

 

It is interesting to see Buehler utilize his changeup more on Thursday considering it was his only pitch to not see a dramatic spin rate decrease. Perhaps the changeup is more viable with the rest of the right-handers’ pitch mix now that the rest of his arsenal has fallen back to earth so to speak. After all, it was the putaway pitch for three of Buehler’s strikeouts on Thursday.

 

Walker Change

 

Buehler, like most pitchers, is going to be fine. The interesting thing is to see how they deal with short-term adversity and how this may impact their long-term performance. 

 


 

Chris Bassitt vs Rangers  7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 4 K

 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Sinker: 38.4%/50.0%

Four-Seam: 18.7%/8.0%

Cutter: 17.9%/11.0%

Slider: 9.8%/24.0%

Changeup: 9.1%/6.0%

Curve: 6.1%/2.0%

 

The Athletics right-hander made a fairly significant change to his pitch mix on Thursday against three Rangers. Bassitt committed to the sinker more than ever while shelving his four-seam fastball, opting instead to go with his slider as the main secondary.

Normally increasing the usage of a dominating pitch would be a great thing to see, as Bassitt generated a 47.7 percent whiff rate on his slider this season. However, on Thursday the 32-year-old was only able to collect two swings and misses all games (14 percent whiff rate).

 

Bassitt Slider

 

Bassitt was definitely having trouble commanding his slider.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Sinker: -97 RPM

Slider: -170 RPM

Cutter: -19 RPM

Four-Seam: -104 RPM

Changeup: -144 RPM

Curve: -122 RPM

 

The pitch mix adjustment left Bassitt with his lowest swinging strike rate of the season at 4.8 percent while generating a mere 38.5 percent swing rate from opposing hitters. 

 

Friday, June 25


Taijuan Walker vs Phillies  5 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 30.9%/41.0%

Sinker: 25.4%/19.0%

Slider: 22.3%/34.0%

Splitter: 12.3%/4.0%

Curve: 9.1%/1.0%

 

Taijuan Walker essentially changed up his entire pitch mix on Friday. The Mets right-hander completely removed the curveball and splitter from his attack while going to a four-seam and slider as his primary weapons.

 

Taijuan Chart

 

Walker was still able to have success by changing eye levels and mixing at different speeds. The 28-year-old was able to hold the Phillies to an 8.23 percent line-drive rate, keeping them limited to weak contact through the air or ground. Not a bad plan.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Four-Seam: -189 RPM

Slider: -78 RPM

Sinker: -167 RPM

Splitter: -230 RPM

Curve: -510 RPM

 

Any guesses as to why Walker decided to table his curveball and splitter? While it’s possible we see those offerings mixed back in soon, it is obvious that they will no longer be a featured part of the pitch mix by the Mets right-hander. 

Walker survived this latest start by pitching to contact. In fact, he allowed a 94.4 percent in-zone contact rate, which is his highest mark for the entire season. That is not something you want to see if you are also posting a 5.9 percent swinging-strike rate unless you plan on becoming a hard-core sinkerballer, which Walker is not.

It is possible that Taijuan Walker can work his way through this arsenal change, but there are some concerning warning signs here.

 

Saturday, June 26


Lance McCullers vs Tigers  5 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Sinker: 36.1%/48.0%

Slider: 23.0%/27.0%

Curve: 21.3%/19.0%

Changeup: 17.3%/4.0%

Cutter: 2.4%/1.0%

 

When you saw Lance McCullers on the breakdown list I bet you assumed the discussion would surround his curveball or maybe even his new slider. You would be wrong.

Instead, the thing that stands out is how the 27-year-old has completely abandoned his changeup. McCullers took on the Tigers with essentially three pitches on Saturday: sinker, slider, and curveball.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Sinker: -29 RPM

Slider: Up 47 RPM

Curve: Up 78 RPM

Changeup: -237 RPM

Cutter: Up 13 RPM

 

You could make an educated guess that Lance McCullers had a specific way in which he liked to throw his changeup. You could also make an educated guess that his method is no longer viable. Wink wink.

 

Mccullers Chart

 

While it is never ideal to have a usable pitch removed from a starter's arsenal, it is good news for anyone invested in McCullers that his issues seem isolated to just the changeup. 

 


Casey Mize vs Astros  6 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Four-Seam: 28.4%/25.0%

Slider: 26.3%/27.0%

Sinker: 22.7%/23.0%

Splitter: 15.3%/22.0%

Curve: 7.3%/3.0%

 

There is no significant change in Casey Mize’s pitch mix, but this performance still raised a few red flags worth discussing.

First of all, Mize surrendered a 100 percent in-zone contact rate to the Astros. That is not ideal considering it is very difficult to remain a high strikeout pitcher if you are unable to generate swings and misses in the strike zone. 

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Slider: - 87 RPM

Four-Seam: -165 RPM

Sinker: -190 RPM

Splitter: -248 RPM

Curve: -63 RPM

 

Mize was able to carry a respectable 30.9 percent whiff rate on his slider coming into Saturday’s game along with a 27 percent mark on his four-seam fastball. Against the Astros, those numbers dropped to 10 percent and 14 percent. The Tigers' right-hander still was able to be effective with his splitter, but this is just another player worth monitoring going forward.

 

Mize HH

 

Sunday, June 27


Marcus Stroman vs Phillies  3 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 3 K 

Season Pitch Mix vs Game Day Pitch Mix:

Sinker: 42.6%/47.0%

Slider: 22.5%/5.0%

Splitter: 14.9%/32.0%

Cutter: 13.8%/9.0%

Four-Seam: 4.1%/3.0%

Curve: 2.1%/3.0%

 

This outing is a bit complicated to break down when you consider Stroman’s recent hip issues and dealing with the passing of a loved one. However, it is very unlikely a sore hip would cause the right-hander to change into a near two-pitch starter.

The 30-year-old, after throwing one inning on June 22 of entirely sinkers and splitters, did so again on Sunday afternoon. Stroman shut down the use of his slider from 22.5 percent to five percent.

 

Spin Rate (Compared to Season Avg)

Sinker: -175 RPM

Splitter: -53 RPM

Cutter: -234 RPM

Slider: -191 RPM

Curve: -104 RPM

Four-Seam: -184 RPM

 

Stroman was clearly having trouble commanding the baseball on Sunday, missing high early and often. The right-hander was lucky to escape without more damage being done thanks to the Mets offense, in particular, a couple of back-to-back diving grabs in the outfield to start the game. 

 

Stroman Cahrt

 

It is possible Stroman is still dealing with a minor hip issue, but the more likely reason for his poor performance is the big elephant in the room. However, a lack of gripping substance is not the veteran pitcher's issue. Stroman needs to keep the ball down. 

 

Conclusion


 

It is very easy to look at spin rates and a parade of offense and look for someone to blame. That is not only a mistake but a waste of time. Major League Baseball has dropped this bomb in the middle of the season and it is on the players now to try and deal with the hand they were dealt.

As fantasy managers, it is your job to dig through the data and see what the likely future will look like for those pitchers impacted. For many, this will be a learning curve that they will soon figure out. For others, this will be a rocky mountain to climb that may prove impossible to reach the summit. 

For the time being, try to pay attention to the process rather than the results of starting pitchers. Home runs will be a common issue with those troubleshooting their problems. Instead, pay attention to their intention and execution on the mound. Try not to sweat the small stuff and look to see which pitchers are able to successfully work their way through the tunnel and to the other side.