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Studying Adam Ottavino’s second start

Graphs tell the story of St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Ottavino’s second start of his major league career.

By Ian Walton

Adam Ottavino (AP photo)Following Adam Ottavino’s uneven major league debut last week (analyzed here), he steadied his control for a more encouraging outing this past Saturday.

The Milwaukee Brewers stacked their lineup with left-handed hitting for Ottavino’s second start, starting five such batters including opposing pitcher Chris Narveson.  Ottavino responded quite well, settling down after yielding a home run to Richie Weeks on a slider in the first at bat of the game.  In fact, he only gave up one more hit in the first four innings.  However, as in his debut start, the opposing batters began to catch up to him, with a single, a ground rule double, and a walk fortunately resulting in no runs in the fifth.  Following a single to Ryan Braun in the top of the sixth, Ottavino was yanked in favor of Dennys Reyes who allowed three straight base runners and neutralized the Cardinals’ 4-1 lead.

Ottavino’s most notable improvement this time out was his control, as he threw 53 of 75 pitches for strikes on the afternoon.  While many of his pitches that missed the strike zone missed by rather large margins again, he did limit their occurrence as can be seen below.

Viewing from the perspective of the catcher, we can see that Ottavino primarily worked high and away to right handed batters.  Although primarily utilizing the fastball, he did work in seven sliders and four low changeups in these situations, an improvement in pitch variety over his first outing.

Against lefties, Ottavino did a much better job of utilizing the entire zone, mixing fastballs everywhere but low and inside with changeups on the outer half of the plate.

Still, not everything came up roses during this start.  Ottavino gave up 12 fly balls and four line drives compared to only six ground balls, a fact that likely has pitching coach Dave Duncan somewhat concerned.  In particular, Ryan Ludwick got quite the work out in right field and was probably most responsible for keeping Ottavino’s outing under control with a number of fine defensive plays.  Furthermore, one possible reason for his struggles later in the game may have been tied to a tell tale release point.

Although not overly blatant, one can clearly see where change ups were being thrown against left handed batters, again from the perspective of the catcher.

By contrast, his sliders tended to be thrown noticeably farther away from his shoulder than his other pitches.  While this likely helped prevent his sliders from drifting too far to the outside, there has to be concern that the hitters can easily see them coming.  In fact, I went back and checked each of his seven sliders thrown on the day.  Those four sliders released in the far upper right as shown above match the four sliders that landed in the strike zone, as seen in the first graph in this article.  One of those four was the home run pitch to Weeks.  The three sliders thrown near his changeup release point ended up low and away.

With Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse still likely to be out for some time and P.J. Walters faring no better in his starting role, I would expect to see Adam Ottavino remain in the Cardinals’ rotation for a number of weeks to come.  Following his second start, Cardinal fans can be aware of the following:

Positives

  • Much improved strike rate over his debut
  • Slightly more varied pitch usage
  • Encouraging use of the strike zone against left handers

Negatives

  • Poor slider mechanics this outing
  • Far too many fly balls allowed
  • Short outing

Brooks Baseball generated the graphs used in this article.

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