By Ian Walton
An over reliance on a fastball declining in velocity, no viable off-speed pitch and minimal pitching inside add up to a shaky debut for St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Ottavino.
Although allowing four earned runs in five and two-thirds innings wasn’t unreasonable for a pitcher’s first major league start, St. Louis Cardinals fans have plenty to worry about, at least those who are hoping that their team can find an effective number five starter behind P.J. Walters while Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny are on the disabled list.
Ottavino started off strong on Saturday at Wrigley Field, scattering two walks and a triple over his first three innings, relying primarily upon his fastball, which was consistently in the 94-96 MPH range. In fact, 20 of his first 21 pitches were fastballs. Things began to unravel during his second time through the order as he was forced to mix in his secondary pitches and his fastball velocity dropped to 92-94 MPH. A walk, two singles, and a triple combined for three runs scored in the fourth inning. A single, an intentional walk, then an unintentional walk to opposing pitcher Carlos Silva saw Ottavino pulled from the game in the sixth and charged with a fourth earned run as Mitchell Boggs promptly walked Kosuke Fukudome with the bases loaded.
The first plot shows each of Ottavino’s pitches thrown against right-handed batters, presented from the view of the catcher. Other than one stray changeup, he offered them fastballs or sliders, frequently missing high and inside or low and away. Control issues aside, his sliders didn’t seem to fool the opposing Cubs batters, as of his 15 sliders thrown, only two went for called strikes and two were swung upon and missed. Eight went for balls.
When facing left-handers, Ottavino rarely crossed the inside half of the plate and typically missed high and away, as can be seen by the next plot. Other than one slider, he showed only fastballs and changeups. Again, his off-speed pitch was less than stellar, as five of his eight changeups were thrown for balls and only one for a called strike.
While this was only his debut outing and while Adam Ottavino is a fine pitcher, I have concerns over his ability to remain in a major league starting rotation based upon this outing.
Aside from his control issues, I see at least three warning signs.
- Over reliance upon a fastball (76 of 99 pitches thrown) that lost velocity early on.
- Presence of only one questionable off-speed offering to batters from each side of the plate.
- An apparent reluctance to pitch inside, particularly to left-handed batters.
The above might seem to project him as being better suited to the bullpen at this stage of his career. However, at twenty-four years of age and currently working as the Cardinals’ seventh starter, he has a strong fastball and plenty of room to grow.
Brooks Baseball generated the graphs used in this article.
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