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Jun 08

deGrom and My Favorite Pitch: the Change

Sometimes I think that Ron Darling is the better looking, more talented, much smarter version of me. He sits in the SNY booth with Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez, drops a little knowledge on us fools watching the game, and then he leaves in a stretch limousine with tinted windows still seething from the latest Lucas Duda plunking. I don’t know if that’s how it really happens. That’s how I imagine it, though.

At that moment in the first inning when I think, “Hey, Jacob deGrom should probably try not to start every batter with a fastball . . . even if the location looks pretty decent for the most part, hitting corners . . . a guy like Paul Goldschmidt will deposit one of those in the right-centerfield pool, and where will the Mets be then,” Darling mentions how deGrom hasn’t thrown any breaking pitches or changes of pace.1 I’m not saying Darling and I are sympatico, but I’m not saying there’s not a mental connection either. 1986 might have changed us all in some subtle way.

deGrom was starting batters off with fastballs, and seeing how the fourseamer Ender Inciarte laced over Curtis Granderson’s head was up in the zone it was troubling. A lot of fastballs. Location seems a little off. One or two sliders, missing off the plate. I had visions of deGrom’s start against the Yankees flashing through my mind, and really, I wanted this road trip to end on a positive note since the Mets went through the trouble of actually scoring a run and all with Granderson’s leadoff homerun. Then Eric Campbell throws away a perfectly find double-play opportunity (now his start against the Cubs pops into my mind), but deGrom escapes by giving up only two runs, striking out Jake Lamb and Chris Owings to end the inning. Both were on fastballs if you’re wondering.

In the third inning deGrom struck out A.J. Pollock with a particularly nasty changeup that had great movement down and in. It was a lovely pitch. In a larger moment, say in the late innings with the game on the line, it would have been discussed with awe by sports writer and given its own segment on Baseball Tonight. On a lazy afternoon in June it was a nice pitch that struck out a guy who strikes out around 16% of the time anyway. Unfortunately, deGrom only threw 10 changeups to the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon, which is about average for deGrom since he throws his change 9.3% of the time. It’s possible he doesn’t throw it often because batters hit .273 off it, but that seems silly to me. It’s a wonderful pitch. Batters swing and miss about 40% of the time when he throws it.

Logically I understand the need to use the fastball to set up his other pitches, but with a fourseamer sitting 95-96, an 84-mph changeup that dives to a right-hand batter’s ankles seems like an incredibly effective weapon that should probably be used more. Look at this image and tell me it’s not a thing of beauty:

jacob_degrom_changeupdeGrom buries that pitch in the lower half of the zone. There’s a reason why batters’ ISO is .064. Vladimir Guerrero could have done something with a pitch like that, but I don’t think too many others are taking that yard.

Moving on.

On the day, deGrom finished with 10 strikeouts, making it the second time this season he’s reached double-digits. He had eight through four innings, and I thought for a moment he might hit 14 or 15 on the afternoon. It seemed like one of those days.

Opposite deGrom, the Diamondbacks Josh Collmenter allowed five earned runs and the Mets hit four homeruns against hit (tying their season high). No offense to Collmenter, but the Mets should have hit that many homeruns, if not more, since Collmenter was tossing up 85-mph fastballs and slow looping curves. The pitch Campbell drove to deep left was an inside fastball that looked served to order. In the sixth, before Wilmer Flores hit his ninth on the year, he swung at a fastball at his eyebrows. The pitches that Collmenter graciously tossed to the plate looked tantalizing enough that a professional hitter nearly came out of the batter’s box hacking at one located at his helmet’s logo.

Juan Lagares had a great game against Collmenter, getting three hits in each of his at-bats against the righty. Most impressive was that Lagares drove the ball to deep right center for a ground rule double, and then he lined two to left field (one a rather generously awarded double in his second at-bat). Does Lagares look leaner? He did to me. He seemed a little heavy early in the season, but in this game he looks like he’s lost some weight. Is that on purpose? I didn’t hear anything on this, so maybe it’s just my imagination.

3-4 on a road trip isn’t necessarily all that bad, and a third of the way through the season the team is holding their own in the East. Soon, likely by early this week, Dilson Herrera and Travis d’Arnaud will rejoin the team, and if nothing else, it’ll be nice to see a Mets regular take the field again.

  1. Isn’t it great how one time pitchers that are now television broadcasters call them changes of pace and not changeups? It always throws me off just a little when they do that. It takes a few seconds for the brain to process what they said, thinking, “Did he just . . . do people really call them that?” I always enjoy that moment. It’s the same when an announcer calls a curve an Uncle Charlie.

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