On Wednesday driving home from work we were listening to the pre-game show on the radio, and they were talking about McCarthy’s effort in winning on Tuesday night. At one point they played an interview with him where he said he had trouble with his slider and curve, so relied on the fastball and changeup to get through the game. Also, in the game story on the Rangers site, Ron Washington said “But he had good placement with his fastball and put his changeup in good spots and his work load didn’t pile up.”
In the game review on the Rangers site, TR Sullivan said McCarthy “threw 100 pitches over five innings in his last start but was able to cut that down by throwing first-pitch strikes and getting first-pitch outs.” Well, to be precise, he threw 12 first pitch strikes and 13 first pitch balls, and got exactly two first-pitch outs, one in the first inning and one in the second. Was he watching the same game, or just stretching things to make them more interesting? He was at least correct to say that McCarthy got into the seventh inning for the first time all year.
Naturally that all interested me, being both a McCarthy and a Gameday fan, so since they both seem to agree he was throwing a fastball and change, I thought I’d run some numbers.
Back in mid-June, I produced some pretty charts showing some facets of the various rotation members, including McCarthy. At that time I concluded he had three clear pitches (fastball, curve and change), and there was some slop suggesting the possibility of a fourth, which I didn’t say at the time but in hindsight looks like it might be a slider.
Here we see McCarthy’s chart for Tuesday night. I was able to differentiate three pitches, with the horizontal break in the darker color and the vertical in the lighter color of each pair. Note the large chunk of green fastballs at the top, with the changeups in blue and curves in red below. There were no pitches that weren’t distinguishable, or that might vary from one type to another depending on how you looked at it.
Back in the previous charts, his fastballs were breaking horizontally from about -7 to 2 inches, and vertically from 7 to 18. Here we see his horizontal break down to about -3 to 1, and vertical about 10 to 14. Big caveat on this is that the release point on Tuesday was measured at 40 feet, compared to 55 feet in the prior charts, and that difference can have a dramatic effect on the amount of break, as we see here. A similar effect is seen on the curve, but not so much on the change. Anyway, the point is not to match the previous starts, but to show that he was throwing three pitches on Tuesday. He threw 62 fastballs, 13 changes and 15 curves. The two off-speed pitches were thrown throughout the game, with no pattern indicating that one was thrown early and the other later, as you might expect if he thought his curve wasn’t working.
Of his thirteen changes, he threw eight for balls, one was fouled, one was a swinging strike, one was a fly to right, one was a grounder to second, and one was a line drive single to right.
Of his fifteen curves, thirteen were balls and two were fouled off.
Of the 62 fastballs, 19 were balls, 11 were called strikes, 12 were fouled, two were swinging strikes, and 18 were put in play. Of the 18, there were a homer, a single to left and a single to center, fly outs to left (2), center (4) and right (4), a popout to third, three grounders to second and one grounder to first.
Looking at those numbers, you’d probably have to agree with their assessments of his pitching. The curve clearly did not working, 13 out of 15 being balls. The change didn’t work much better, but it still got a couple of outs, and the fastball was clearly the best result pitch, doing most of the damage to the batters (although also allowing the home run). He did as usual end up with a lot of fly balls, a 6 grounder-12 fly ratio in the boxscore. Even with his smaller break in the charts, because of the shortened distance, his vertical break was still averaging about 12, which has been shown elsewhere to be a dangerous area for most pitchers, and especially those at TBIA. McCarthy has to work on keeping the ball down, getting grounders, or he is going to continue to have trouble at home. The higher the vertical break, the more fly balls, the more fly balls, the more balls getting up into the jetstream and taking off. And since his flies ended up favoring center and right, the home run porch might look pretty inviting to opposing batters.
All very interesting, and the fact is that McCarthy has a 3.69 ERA since the beginning of May, encompassing 12 starts and 63 innings. If he’d done that from the start of the year, he’d be a star. If he keeps it up, he’ll be a star. So he should probably ignore any advice I can give him, and just keep doing what he’s doing.