The fastball isn’t that much off from his other starts this year except that it’s at 80MPH, pretty much batting practice speed. There is no way that you’ll be able to sneak a fastball by someone at this speed. His slider though was 67MPH, 7MPH slower than his average giving a batter a split second longer to recognize the spin. Last night, he relied much less on his curveball than he did during the year and it wasn’t very effective.
Looking at release points next it’s where it gets interesting.
His pitches all look to be in a different release point with the exception of fastball and changeup. Slider is different and so is the curveball release point. I’ve said it a million times before, you need to have the same arm slot on every pitch in order to be effective long term. Having that large a difference will only lead to disaster, which has been his season. He’s not even consistent from start to start with the different arm slot on each pitch. Look at the chart below:
You can see how horizontally he varies from start to start. He simply cannot find the same arm slot consistency and I’m absolutely positive has been a factor in his ineffectiveness.
So let’s look at his control YTD:
First broken down by start his location is all over the place and you can see that it’s not just one pitch. His sliders and changes are up in the zone, inside and outside, and many of his fastballs are right down the pipe. Like I mentioned before, a 80MPH fastball down the pipe is simply batting practice.
Last night’s wasn’t any better:
Curveballs were left up in the zone, as were fastballs and changeups. The only thing that he kept low in the zone last night was the slider, but it didn’t really matter given how many other pitches he left up.
The movement chart really showed me the main problem.
Every single one of his pitches have significant amount of overlap in terms of vertical break except the curveball. Even with the curveball you're getting some overlap with the slider. The only difference between the fastball, changeup, and slider is the horizontal movement, which MLB hitters can easily adjust for when it's at this speed. The horizontal break (or lack of) is the difference between a single and a HR. When you have the same amount of vertical movement, all the pitches move the same so it doesn’t matter what you throw.
Last night wasn’t any different although the slider was slightly better. The slider started to move like the curveball (or vice versa) depending on how you look at it. The changeup was moving just like the fastball however againFinally, I decided to look at one last thing, total number of pitches. Some people believe that a pitcher has a certain amount of pitches in his shoulder and while I don't believe that, I do firmly believe that there is a limit for an untrained (in terms of number of pitches) MLB pitcher. In other words, I think that if a pitcher has been trained to throw 3000 pitches on the season, asking him to throw 3800 isn't a good thing. This is similar to the IP cap belief except I think it is more precise.
So far this year he has thrown 1620 Pitches, 3431 in 2007, 3851 in 2006, and 3301 in 2005. That is a big jump from 2005 to 2006, equivalent to 5 extra starts. And about an equal drop off from 2006 to 2007 and then paced for the same this year. His Pitches per start were 101 in 2005, 110.1 in 2006, 100.9 in 2007, and down to 95.5 this year (mostly due to ineffectiveness)
So in summary, I see one if two things. First, his arm is still fatigued. Could 2006 still be having its effects. No one knows for sure but anecdotally it looks that way. Remember that 2006 was his best year in Cincy and last year not nearly as good and this year has flat out been horrendous. His release point and control are all over the plate and his movement on all his pitches overlap one another(with curveballs being the exception). Finally, he’s leaving his batting practice fastball in the zone for hitters to launch. Will this turn around? I really don’t see it happening anytime soon.
Second, maybe his skills are just declining rapidly. Hitters have been known to have hit a wall and then really drop off in production so why can't pitchers? He's been pitching in the league consistently for the 5th season now and he's 30 years old, not ancient but certainly not young anymore either.