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We are in the midst of an odd stretch, in which many of the game’s top pitchers are going through periods of struggle. Chris Sale, Noah Syndergaard, Jon Lester and even his teammate Jake Arrieta are pitching through some tough times, while big-name pitchers such as Clayton Kershaw, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke and Matt Harvey toil on the disabled list. We’ll tackle one of these struggling aces today in our pitching notes for week 14, but we’ll start and finish on a brighter note with a pair of pitchers who are far exceeding expectations this season.

Drew Pomeranz
Pomeranz has been a revelation for the Padres this season. He pitched well enough for Oakland the past two seasons,compiling a 3.08 ERA and 146:57 K:BB ratio in 155 innings split between the bullpen and the starting rotation, but he has ascended to another level this year with the Friars, with 115 strikeouts and a 2.47 ERA in 102 innings pitched. He still walks too many batters (3.6 BB/9), but with the rest of the San Diego staff struggling terribly, Pomeranz’s performance is looking less like a mirage of the marine layer and more like the real deal.

Date

IP

R

H

HR

BB

K

PC

July 7

7.0

0

2

0

2

6

105

July 2

7.0

1

5

0

0

7

98

June 25

7.0

0

3

0

1

6

98

The hit rate has been low all season, with Pomeranz surrendering just 67 hits in 102 innings (5.9 H/9), the second-best rate in the National League behind Clayton Kershaw. He has also upped the whiffs in conjunction with the drop in hits, a combination that suggests that his stuff is much more effective this season than it was the past two years in Oakland.

The curveball has long been his secondary pitch of choice, but Pomeranz has jacked up the frequency of his hammer this season, jumping from the 27-30 percent pitch of the past few seasons to 39.1 percent this year. In fact, his curves outnumber his fastballs this season (two-seam plus four-seam). Opposing batters have decent results when they put the pitch in play, including a ,326 BABiP on the season, but the pitch has finished nearly half his strikeouts (56 of 115) and been difficult for batters to lift, with just a .062 ISO on the heels of zero home runs allowed.

The big difference, however, has been the addition of a cutter. Pomeranz introduced the cut this season and has gone to the pitch 11 percent of the time, with a 5 mph reduction off his average fastball and a completely different movement pattern. The pitch offers a third velocity for Pomeranz to employ against left-handed batters, and versus righties the pitch carries deception with changeup velocity but with movement in the opposite horizontal direction. Opposing batters are hitting just .136 on at-bats that end on the cutter, including an .068 ISO and .161 BABiP.

The extra curves and the addition of the cutter makes life much tougher on batters from both sides of the plate; Pomeranz’s new repertoire and refined approach have changed the way that batters must approach the southpaw, and now the onus is on the league to adjust.

Jake Arrieta
For most of the first half of the season, Arrieta pitched nearly as well as in his majetic 2015 campaign, with a 1.74 ERA through 15 starts that was a perfect match for his stellar run prevention of last season, but he hit a speed bump a few starts ago that has thrown off his alignment since.

Date

IP

R

H

HR

BB

K

PC

July 8

6.0

6

9

2

1

6

88

July 2

5.3

4

8

1

2

4

108

June 27

5.0

5

4

1

5

4

93

There were some warning signs creeping beneath the surface for Arrieta before the big ones hit. His walk rate nearly doubled when comparing this season to last, and though it has been a persistent issue throughout the season, he went through a particularly brutal stretch at the end of June in which he walked nine batters in 10 innings. The lack of command has manifested inside the strike zone as well as out of it, as many of the hard-hit baseballs that he has been serving up lately were on misplaced offerings.

His velocity has also been down recently, as well; the vast majority of his fastballs are classified as sinkers by Brooks Baseball and the per-game stats indicate that his pitch-speed has dropped two full ticks over the past month, averaging 93.3 mph in his July 2 start after peaking at 95.6 mph in consecutive starts on June 5 and 11, with a consistent tumble that bottomed out (hopefully) on July 2. The velo was back up to 95.0 mph on average in yesterday’s outing, a game in which he walked only one of the 28 Pirates that he faced and still got knocked around the yard, adding another layer to the onion of intrigue surrounding his sudden fall from ace.

Mechanically, the only thing I’ve noticed has been an inconsistency to his momentum, at times invoking a slower delivery (especially from the windup) with a near pause at the top of his delivery. Such inconsistency makes it tougher for a pitcher to repeat his release point as ot throws off all the gears of rotation. He had the same issue with the Orioles and in his first half-season with the Cubs, but ironing out the consistency of his momentum and timing was something that Arrieta specifically worked on with pitching coach Chris Bosio before Arrieta made his 2014 debut, with outstanding results.

The reversion is disappointing given his success with a more fluid pace to the plate, and given that this was a known issue when Arrieta came aboard one would hope that it is addressed quickly. The problem is not as pervasive as in the past, though, and it is unlikely to be a lone gunman in shooting down his value, but there’s no doubting that Arrieta can only reach peak if his pitch command is sharp.

Michael Fulmer
Fulmer might be the least-heralded of the pitching prospects to have made their debuts this season, but while higher-ranked arms such as Jose Berrios, Julio Urias and Lucas Giolito have struggled to contribute much in the way of fantasy value this season, there is one young lad who has become a key cog in his team’s rotation: Michael Fulmer.

Date

IP

R

H

HR

BB

K

PC

July 6

6.0

2

5

0

2

2

95

July 1

7.0

0

2

0

1

10

92

Fulmer has crushed opponents for the past month and a half, with a ridiculous 0.63 ERA over his last nine starts covering 57.3 innings of work. He has compiled 50 strikeouts across this stretch against 19 walks with just 28 hits allowed, and he hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in an outing since mid-May. In terms of run prevention his consistency is has been as good as it gets, with enough inning to qualify for a quality start in seven of his last nine games. However, on a game-by-game basis his strikeouts have been all over the place, cracking eight or more Ks in three of his last nine starts yet checking in with a paltry three whiffs or less in four other turns during that same stretch.

He brings a mid-90s fastball to the table that averages 95.9 mph (weighted average of two-seam and four-seam), offset by a hard slider that he uses against batters from both sides of the plate but throws twice as often against same-side hitters. He chooses the opposite pattern for the change, but he still brings the pitch against right-handed bats nearly nine percent of the time, so all offerings are on the table against all hitters. The only real slight is a lack of differential in the velocity of his pitches, as the average velo of all of his pitches fall within a narrow band of less than 10 mph.

Major-league hitters can get around on any speed fastball, but Fulmer’s secondaries have been truly devastating this season. Opposing batters are just 12-for-114 (.105 average) in at-bats that end on the changeup or slider, including 44 strikeouts and just three extra-base hits – two doubles and a home run.

The slider is especially devastating, with big lateral break that triggers late in the flight path and has the capacity to make major-league hitters look silly. The change has more vertical break than arm-side run, but the bottom falls out of the pitch – once again, this occurs late in the flight path, and the difficult that opposing batters have in reading the pitch out-of-hand allows his fastball to play up further, as batters that are waiting for break are tied up in knots by the time that the heater sneaks by them.

It’s a devastating trio when on, and even when lacking extreme movement Fulmer has thus far been able to fool batters into weak contact.

Thank you for reading

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TGT969
7/10
As a Pirates fan it is good to see Arrieta finally get bombed. While he has been unhitable vs Pittsburgh he has always bitched about the strike zone.
Cub fans may not (or choose not to) see this, I've found this to be annoying
since he does not have to do it

He is quite a talent & the Cubs staff deserve all the credit for fixing him. But seeing him be human is a real treat for Buc fans