Storen's Deep Thoughts and Detwiler's Change-Up

There is still not much going onaround Natstown along the slow crawl to the Spring Training finish line. The two biggest bits of news from this weekend have to do with Drew Storen thinking too much on the mound as Davey Johnson said and Ross Detwiler talking about adding a change-up. The first part about Storen can be addressed quickly and easily. It is Spring Training. Now is the time to be thinking on the mound. This is practice. Now is the time for pitchers to be working on stuff and trying to figure out new grips, new pitches, and new ways to get batters out. When the season rolls around that is the time to throw what the catcher puts down. Here is Storen's quote on the situation as given to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post: 

“When I’m out there, I’m trying to get the most out of an outing, other than results,” Storen said. “I’m trying to go, ‘okay.’ During the year, I know what my go-tos are. I know I’m going to go to in a certain situation. Here, you’re trying to look for things other than that. You’re trying to work on a different pitch to throw in a different situation, right? So if a situation comes up this year where I’ve seen a guy so many times, I’m not going to be fooling him – I’m not going to throw him a slider he hasn’t seen before. Why not work on some other pitches?

“My breaking ball works good and my change-up is good now, so I need to work on my fastball command. It was a step forward from the outing before. If you want to say it’s overthinking it, yeah. But I always think a lot during spring training. That’s what you’re trying to get out of it.”

That simple. It is Spring Training and he is working on game situations. It is leading to bad results, but in 2011 Storen didn't have the best Spring Training and then went on to have his best season to date. When the time comes for Storen to get the job done he will be ready and instead of anticipating he will react.

The other Nats pitcher said to be working on stuff over the weekend is Ross Detwiler who said he is trying to add a change-up. His results were much better as he limited a Tigers line-up with many of their regulars to only one run over four innings of work and said his change-up felt great. Why this is important is that the change-up is a pitch that can neutralize the platoon advantage. Over his career right handed batters have an OPS of .749 compared to .607 for left handers. As a left handed pitcher Detwiler is going to face a lot more right handers and having a change-up will make them less effective. The reason a change-up neutralizes the platoon advantage is that it looks like a fastball coming out of the hand and breaks straight down whereas a curve ball will break in to an opposite hand hitter and is therefore much less effective than it would be to a same handed hitter.  

For his career the change-up is Detwiler's third most used pitch, but he has only thrown it 497 times or 9% of the time, and in 2012 it was his least used pitch as he threw the slider 319 times compared to the change 178 times. Detwiler was primarily a fastball/sinker pitcher in 2012 preferring for batters to beat his sinker into the ground than getting ahead and striking them out with his change-up or slider. The slider was the pitch Detwiler went to to get a strikeout as it had a K rate of 32.7% and the change a K rate of only 10.4%. If Detwiler can make his change-up more effective it will both decrease the platoon advantage batters have against him as well as lead to more strikeouts.  

The issue with the change-up may be command. It was a strike 62% of the time which is close to the 64% and 65% of his fastball and sinker, but a change-up isn't a pitch that pitchers want to be a strike. A good change-up looks like it is going to be in the zone and then drops out at the last minute. It is a deception pitch much more than a control pitch and Detwiler's effective slider was only a strike 56% of the time. Of any of Detwiler's pitches the change-up was the least effective with a .695 OPS and .357 BABIP against. In 2012 Detwiler's change-up was too easy to hit. If he can improve it so that it does have more deception and dives out of the zone more often it will make him a more effective pitcher. Detwiler has shown he can pound the zone with his fastball and sinker to get ahead and with a good change-up once ahead he can lure them into swinging at what they think is another fastball only to find that the pitch is moving slower than they thought and not where they thought it would be. 

Add Detwiler along to Zimmermann and Strasburg as Nats pitchers working on stuff in Spring Training that could help them reach that next level. It is a scary thought that as good as they were last year there is still room for improvement and they all have a plan of how to get there. For Detwiler the plan is much the same as the one for Zimmermann and it involves getting better at throwing a change-up.

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