There could be a hundred reasons, perhaps more, why a pitcher could deviate from the route. One simple link between Ross, Fedde and Voth is the lack of a reliable switch. Ross dropped his move just 7.6 percent of the time in 2019, his last season, before he signed off from 2020 for health reasons. Similarly, Fedde’s switch to his sinker, curveball, and a cutter that resembles a slider takes a back seat. In order not to be outdone, Voth throws his move to the lowest of the three and in 2020 recorded fewer than 40 on a total of 952 parking spaces.
Each of these statistics is a well-timed cue for Hickey. In his first remarks after becoming her new pitching coach, Hickey emphasized his love for change. He made it the core of reckoning as a mix of modern and old school. And maybe he hinted at his approach of tweaking Ross, Fedde, or Voth, with the Nationals needing one of them to adequately fill the rotation. That may sound all too familiar.
“I firmly believe in the change,” Hickey said in October. “I don’t force anyone to throw change, but when I see something… A lot of people don’t like the change because it’s not a sexy pitch, it’s not a huge swing and miss place for a lot of people, but there are lots of outs , there’s a lot more efficiency and at the end of the year there’s a lot more innings too. “
Hickey half joked that his core philosophy is that pitchers “throw strikes, work fast, and change speeds”. But the change was next on his list, with supporting evidence for the staff he inherits. Stephen Strasburg throws one of the game’s best changes. Max Scherzers is a big part of his Hall of Fame arsenal. Hickey’s main argument is that changes are usually easier to control than sliders or curveballs, which makes them a better secondary option for stealing a punch if they lag behind in the count. He also believes that more changes can lead to greater efficiencies and longer starts.
One problem in advance is that none of Ross, Fedde or Voth are throwing their changes to the right. For Ross this means an effective reduction of his mix to a sinker and a slider. He’s talked many times about refining a third pitch, and that often meant sharpening his change. For Voth, left-handed people can forget their change and key for a fastball or a four-stitch curve. Fedde, on the other hand, has more tools than Ross and Voth, but no clear storage area. And if he makes very few changes to the rights – just 14 total in 2020, a shortened season – he’s much more predictable with two hits.
(A quick note for anyone doing research at home, Fedde is constantly confusing the cameras that track and label pitches, leading to a spike of competing data on the analytics websites FanGraphs, Statcast, and Brooks Baseball. In a text chat last week, Fedde said Statcast gives the most accurate look at its pitch usage – even though, like all analytics sites, it calls its change a “split finger” fastball due to its low spin rate.)
What Ross, Fedde and Voth would gain by moving is more deception. It doesn’t have to develop into their most dominant off-speed pitch. It just has to be good enough to get one more thought into the thugs’ minds that would add to the rest of the arsenal. Ross’ move was hit pretty hard in a limited set of data. Fedde’s and Voth’s were operational in even fewer cases. However, given the numbers and the incidence of career changes for all three, it is clear that confidence is low.
Voth gave the most overt examples of this in 2020. He threw 144 pitches when falling behind in the right-handed count; According to Brooks Baseball, there were no changes. He threw 136 pitch when he was ahead of right-handed; two were bills of exchange.
The total was not much higher than Voth faced leftists. Avoiding his move when he’s ahead could mean Voth isn’t sure whether to trigger a swing-and-miss with that pitch. Avoiding when he is behind shows that he would rather rely even more on his fastball and curve to avoid deception rather than trying to throw his change for a necessary stroke.
“You suddenly get 2-0 in a confined space. [and] It’s pretty hard to believe that you’re going to throw that big breaking pitch into the strike zone for what is called a strike, ”Hickey said. “While switching is a lot easier. And I also like it just because it obviously looks like a fastball, it comes out in the same plane as the fastball, and hopefully has a little less speed and a little more movement. I love it because when you can pick up those quick outs it really gives you confidence. “
Your new pitching trainer says changes are a great way to fight back in the count. An area where Ross, Fedde and Voth can improve. He says the pitch can shorten bats, lengthen trips, and drive starters towards 200 innings. only Ross had ever achieved half of it. Ross, Fedde, and Voth, both of whom are constantly on the lookout for answers, could benefit from tinkering with this logic. It never hurts to try.