Last night, Phil Coke needed 82 pitches to make it through 6 1/3 innings of work. Some debate whether he should have been left in the game longer, but that's for another time and place. Coke allowed no runs during his start and just four hits and no walks. In short, another strong start for a guy who many doubted could make the move from the bullpen to the rotation. His ERA this season is down to 3.69 overall, 3.54 as a starter.
A lot was made during the Fox Sports Detroit telecast that the Coke who pitched last night was throwing harder and more aggressively than the one who started the first 10 games this year. I love an easy to explore theory like that. So I thought I'd look closer.
He threw his four-seam fastball about 66% of the time last night, and at a velocity of about 92.7 miles per hour. It peaked at 95.3 mph. He threw it for a strike 63% of the time, elicited a swing 52% and got a whiff 3.7%. His 16 changeups at an average of 83 mph caused batters to swing a bit less than 20% of the time, and they didn't miss. His curveball at an average of 80 mph came through for a strike 58% of the time, got swings about 42% and was whiffed on twice in 12 pitches.
The other starts?
He did in fact throw his bread-and-butter four seamer slower during them, as it averaged 91 mph. Batters offered at it 45% of the time and missed about 3.3%. So things seem about normal there. There was one other game with similar velocity, though the fast ball didn't peak as high as during Monday's game: May 11 against the Twins.
In the past, batters swung at Coke's changeup a lot more frequently: 52%, and they whiffed 12% of the time. The big key on that may be two-fold: He normally threw it through the strike zone a lot more often, and the pitch came through about 1 mph slower. However, batters did put the changeup in play less often Monday than in his prior appearances.
We'll have to see if this velocity thing sticks or not. Coke told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji fellow lefty Brad Thomas gave him a mechanical pointer that helped him improve.
"He was saying something about a little hop in my mechanics that he didn't see in me," Coke said. "I equated that to being my back foot not turning over so I went out there and had a really terrible side the other day so I went out there today and I'm like, OK, I'm going to approach this like staying mentally locked in and going out there and seeing if I can feel that."