Last week I dug a bit into Max Scherzers repertoire and turned up some evidence as to why his changeup has been less then stellar this season. One pitch does not make a pitcher though and in 147 innings so far this season, he's managed to strike out more batters so far than he has in any other full season of work. That works out to be an amazing 11.34 K/9. Percentage wise, just under 30% of the outs he has recorded have come via the strikeout. Yeah it's an inefficient way to work, but it sure is exciting.
It's pretty obvious he's doing something right, but what exactly? Some improvement in mechanics? Improving a pitch? Voodoo? The simple answer is that it's rarely simple, but charts can help us find the answers. Let's see what we can find after the jump.
I'll preface this section by saying there is no way for me to get very specific without good video to slow down, time, and pause frequently. It's hard to come by so I don't look too hard any more. With that said, we can still look at PitchF/X for general indicators that can at best, allow me to guess. We'll start with two charts, his 2011 and 2012 release point charts.
It's pretty easy to notice the difference. The 2011 chart is spread out much more than the 2012 one. What does this tell us? Well, it means something big for Max and it's a word I use all the time with him, but he's found some consistency.
Now in almost complete certainty I can say that Scherzer has found better consistency in arm slot and release. Given the nature of how the data is gathered, I can only say "almost complete." However, one does not gain consistency through a single act. Other things have to change before that point is even reached. I've noted before in mechanics breakdowns of Scherzer that he is a timing nightmare when it comes to mechanics. So many extra little things are being done that if mistimed can cause a failure in the result. I can say with some certainty that either he's fixed a couple of the problems or he's just found the consistency in his timing that we've all been hoping for. Either that or he's using more of his blue eye.
Scherzer is a fastball pitcher. Around 60% of the time Max is throwing a fastball, and he throws the ol' fashioned 4-seamer. First off, better location. It's only slight, but a strikezone is a thing of inches and a bats sweet spot is only so big. Plus when you add a couple more mph's on average to your fastball, it makes a slight improvement in location even better. For note takers, Scherzer has improved his average 4-seam fastball velocity from 92 to 94 mph.
Unfortunately, Scherzers fastball is about where it ends when it comes to impressive pitches. His changeup flattens, and since he now throws his slider and change at pretty much the same velocity, there's very little deception with the pitches since the change just stays up.
The above charts are spin movement charts with gravity factored in. There's very little simple explanation for these charts. Ask questions in the comments and I'll answer as best I can, but I will say that these are not location charts. They are charts of how the ball acts. Almost like the catchers view of a pitch virtualization chart.
The charts show one simple thing, Max's changeup is hanging higher. It's also showing that the slider is about the same as last year. So with his secondary pitches, Max has regressed. The changeup has very little change and the slider was never overly awesome to begin with. Might be time to add that cut fastball.
Not much to say here. Voodoo in baseball is a fancy term for luck in my book and it plays a part in everything. Max is striking guys out at a nasty rate, but his BABIP against is .351 which is resulting in a guy with a pretty insane K rate having a pretty blasé LOB% of 75%. It could be a voodoo factor but I'm thinking the scouting reports are starting to say that hitters should start to sit on the changeup, which if you sit on and crank toward some pretty weak corner fielding spots, you have a pretty good chance of sneaking a hit.
All that said, I think Max is has found better consistency and I think his strikeout results are proof of it. However, to get more dominance, he's going to have to add a 4th pitch or improve one he already knows. Adding the 4th may be his best option.
This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bless You Boys writing staff.