Opening day is less than 2 weeks away and former Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel is still on the free agent market. We all know how good Keuchel was back in 2015 when he took home the Cy Young. After looking at some of his metrics, everything seemed to stay fairly consistent throughout the past couple years in relation to velocity and movement. So, what changed?
After diving deeper into the numbers, Keuchel’s decline in swing and miss percentage on his slider stood out more than anything else.
Take a look below.
In 2018, his slider decreased nearly in half from his career average. If his usage, velocity, and movement all stayed roughly the same, what could have caused his swing and miss rate to go down this much?
First thing that came to my mind was command. So, let’s compare his Cy Young year (2015) and the 2018 season in regards to command.
As you can see below Keuchel was very consistent at throwing the slider down and to the glove side just below the zone. This is a prime location for both righties and lefties to get swing and misses.
Now let’s take a look at the 2018 season.
During the 2018 season, Keuchel threw the slider in the zone a lot more often. This subtle change can make a huge difference when it comes to the results of a pitch.
Keuchel has proven that his stuff is good enough to get major league hitters out at a high rate. The problem is when you don't command the ball at a high level, especially with lower velocity, you are asking for trouble.
The margin for error is a lot smaller for a guy that throws 90 versus the guy that throws 100. This simple command issue of the slider could have been a big cause in why his swing and miss rate went from 19% to 11%. That’s a significant enough difference to cause your season to be flipped upside down when you are talking about a pitch that has been as useful for him as the slider.
Having things like a Rapsodo and an edgertronic camera are great resources to help a pitcher get back on track. The possible reasons for why Keuchel left the slider up in the zone more this year are endless, but having the right resources can go a long ways in solving that puzzle.
Maybe his front side was leaking more on his slider causing his arm to be late. Maybe he didn’t have the same trust or conviction. Maybe his sequencing wasn’t often. Having a method to fins answers is critical. The use of consistent video is a great place to start looking for solutions when things are going the wrong direction.